Where Do We Go from Here: Collaborative Iterations

Where Do We Go from Here?

This all began as a way for me to keep myself accountable to finish what I started. I needed something to motivate me to keep brewing red IPA for when I inevitably got tired of drinking red IPA. That time has come and this platform has certainly served its purpose. For those of you that have been reading and expressing your interest in this project, thank you. It has truly been helpful in keeping me on track and, ultimately, improving this recipe.

And it’s been more helpful to me than I thought it would be initially. Not only have I had a means and an avenue to write about what I was doing, but that writing has truly forced me to consider the reasons for my decisions more than I think I would have otherwise. Having to answer the “why” of my ingredient selection, deletion, and replacement has been one of the more beneficial pieces of this endeavor. I believe that it has truly made me a better brewer. Probably the most beneficial part of this whole thing, though, has been the recommendations I’ve received on how to get where I wanted to go. Truthfully, this has become, to some extent, a collaborative project—more on this later.

Another element of this quest to perfect my red IPA recipe was the reason my first post was titled “From Concept to Competition.” I have always planned on submitting this to the local homebrew competition that happens in December where I live. As I stated at the very beginning, I’ll share my results from that competition. I mostly mention that to say that I always planned for this to be a year-long project.

The response I’ve received, though, has made me want to shift that course. This iterative brewing has improved how I think about recipe formulation, forcing me to be very deliberate in my choices, and has taught me much about exactly what a single ingredient brings to the table. It is my hope that I’m not the only beneficiary of that.

However, there are a few things standing in my way of continuing this in the same way—a big one is that my second child is expected in January. I know my brewing time will be limited for a little while after this, and it might be some time before our family can find the rhythm needed for me to brew again with two little ones. I hope it will be sooner rather than later, but I’m sure the consistency with which I’m currently brewing will also be interrupted for a bit. (And all of this is totally worth it, by the way.) So I’m left with the question of how to continue this in a meaningful way.

 

Collaborative Iterations

As I mentioned above, part of what has made this project interesting to me is all the input I’ve received. If I mentioned I was going for one particular flavor, I might receive five different suggestions for how to achieve that. Each brewer has their own approach to achieving the same goal, and I think there’s much to be learned from one another in that respect. So, it is in this spirit that I want to continue following this idea of iterative brewing: as a community of brewers.

My vision for this collaborative effort is to have a different brewer for each iteration. To make this truly iterative and not just another brewer’s version of whatever style is being brewed, there would be a few guidelines in place:

  • Each brewer receives the recipe and a few bottles of the previous iteration.
  • Each brewer makes only a single change to the recipe—the one thing they believe would most improve that beer.

In this way, the collaboration becomes like a game of Telephone. The recipe is passed along and changed slightly between each person—only instead of the message getting mixed up as it’s passed along, it is being improved. At least that’s the goal. As evinced in Iteration 3, not every step is a step forward, and that’s okay.

Limiting each brewer to changing only one piece of the recipe not only keeps one brewer from simply contributing a recipe they already have and calling it the next iteration, but it also puts a beneficial constraint on the brewer to focus on what would most improve that recipe. Creativity is interesting in that it often functions opposite of how we’d think. Rather than producing the most creative work when you have no bounds, the most novel ideas often come out of having limitations put on what you do. When jazz musicians improvise, they do so under a strict set of musical constraints (the pre-determined chords that are being playing by the rest of the group). The idea here is similar: how can you do the most with only one change, with everything else predetermined for you?

 

Moving Forward

I have a few other ideas for the future, such as sending out the first iteration of a new recipe to two or three different brewers and then watching the path of each as they pass through the hands of different brewers; I imagine one beer recipe taken along three separate paths would yield three very different beers—and hopefully three very delicious beers. But that would be somewhere down the line. To move forward, I need to test this idea—and I’d like some feedback before I start.

I’ve created a survey to get opinions on things like if this is this even a good idea and what style to tackle first. It’s short, I promise. I hope to get plenty of responses, because I genuinely want to know if this is worth doing. The survey can be found here.

Another thing that I need to gauge interest in is the number of people wanting to participate. I want to open this up as much as possible and not limit it to those in my immediate brewing circle. That said, at least initially, I’ll have to have some constraints. If you’re interested in being a collaborator, please indicate so on the survey, but please only do so if you are willing and able to do the following:

  • Ship 2-3 bottles of beer to the next collaborator (continental United States).
  • Take detailed notes on your process, thoroughly consider and outline your reasoning for changing what you changed, and be honest in your opinion on the results.
  • Be willing to complete a write up (I’ll provide an outline/form to complete if you want—I know not everyone’s a writer, but I don’t want to miss out on good brewing insight because of that).
  • Be willing to brew, submit your write-up, and ship your beer to the next collaborator in a set timeframe (I’ll let you know well ahead of time what dates you will be expected to brew).
  • Adjust the recipe for your system to be within a few points of the target OG (all write-ups will be adjusted to reflect a predetermined system efficiency for ease of reading and comparison).
  • Adjust hop additions to reflect target IBUs if unable to acquire the same AA% hops used in the previous recipe (all write-ups will reflect each hop addition’s IBU contribution).
  • Acquire and use the specific brands of malt and yeast used (assuming that isn’t the one thing you choose to change).

 

I am looking forward to seeing the results of this survey and knowing whether this idea interests anyone but me. Thanks in advance for your input, and thanks for having read any of this at all.

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