The possibilities are virtually limitless when you brew beer. There are just so many approaches, styles, and types to choose from that it can be bewildering. Actually, it can be simultaneously freeing as well. You don’t have to make a beer in a vacuum, and there is a lot of room for movement within a style. One consequence of the variety is the resulting subtle range of unique beers, which is why I can’t understand a craft brew who simply makes unimaginative beers. But that’s another issue all together.
What got me thinking about this? Well, I’m just now brewing my first lambic. Already this an interesting style, but there are various roads I had to choose in order to make the lambic mine. For instance, what was my grain bill going to include? What percentage wheat should I use? Was I going to add a small portion of one more grains to put a slight spin on the whole? These were questions I had to ask myself before I even got into the brewing process.
Hops. What about those? How do I get stale hops, which are important for the style? Is there an artificial way to do this? What type of hops? Of course, I had to do some whole leaf hops for this one. Should I put a slight spin on the style by adding aroma hops? Already the questions were stacking up.
What method best works for souring the lambic? Sour mash? Bacterial strain additions? Both? I think you get the picture, and there is a lot more that I could add. For instance, I could have varied my mash temps to get a different beer. Here is the point. A lager isn’t just a lager any more than a lambic is just a lambic. It all depends in whose hands the recipe falls. So, the admonition is twofold. One, if you brew, just have a blast with experimentation because there are many variables that can make the “same” beer vastly different. Two, don’t just pass by a beer based on style. Find a brewer who puts unique signatures on beers and enjoy them for all their worth.