As homebrewers, we are often called upon to brew something special to celebrate a milestone: a wedding, a graduation, or just surviving another year in the cubicle. When the audience is entirely beer-maniacal, anything goes. But the real test of a brewer is to please those used to cold, chilly and canned, while upholding your homebrew oath to always brew something interesting. It’s a balancing act that requires the brewer to deconstruct the beer preferences of his or her audience and assemble a subtle, but compelling, recipe.
Think about your audience, then select the malts, hop profile and yeast character to make this the perfect beer to tickle the taste buds of your partygoers.
It’s obvious why you don’t want to brew a double imperial pale ale or bourbon doppelbock for the uninitiated. The intensity of these beers is a visceral shock to people unfamiliar with their charms, and won’t win you any converts. A lighter touch is needed. The trick is to hook people, ever so gently; then with a tug, set the hook. Who says you can’t change people? I’ve seen it happen over and over. And so the movement grows.
It’s no big secret that bitterness is an acquired taste. In fact, the bitter taste receptors on your tongue have evolved to warn us against eating plants containing toxins that have evolved to be bitter to give us just that warning. Western culture, with few exceptions, has little use for bitter foods, although many Asian cuisines employ it with relish. And, as you know if you travel in good beer circles, the quest for bitter beers can be a bit of an obsession. But for our party beer, we’re going to want stay away from high bitterness levels.
We do want a nice hop presence. This can be accomplished by the use of high-quality, low-alpha varieties like Saaz or Goldings, and employing them so as to get maximum aroma with minimum bitterness. This means late kettle additions are critical.
As a brewer, it’s a great trick to make a lighter beer that is satisfying quaff after quaff. Great malts, top-grade hops and careful attention to the details of brewing are all critical to getting it right. In our recipe, the low hop rate and the use of some darker malts should make it work with almost any good drinking water. If you know your water is very hard, it might be best to take steps to remove the hardness or simply dilute it, to avoid any harsh bitterness in the finish. Likewise, a good liquid yeast is always recommended. Choose one that fits the style or your artistic fancy.