Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Part 2

How was that beer? We now continue with Part 2 of Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation.

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Hops

Hops provide beer with two main characteristics. Hops add bitterness to a beer and also aroma. There are hundreds of hops to choose from. Some hops are bred for bittering, some are for aroma whilst others can be used for both and are called dual purpose hops.

As with malt, hop additions require more math. Again, this is where brewing software comes in handy. Hops contain alpha acids, which are a bittering compound.

When you boil hops in wort, these alpha acids become isomerized into iso-alpha acids. Iso-alpha acids are more soluble in wort and more easily impart their bitterness during the boil.

When it comes to brewing, most smaller breweries only have a best “guestimate” about overall IBU (international bitterness units) in the final beer. IBU’s can only be measured accurately in a lab.

There are many factors which can influence overall bitterness and your perception of it:

  • Length of boil
  • pH of the wort
  • Gravity of the wort
  • Size of boil and system (smaller systems tend to have lower utilization)
  • The hop used – there are pellets, hop cones/flowers and hop extracts

If you are unsure about hop utilization on your system a good percentage to aim for is 24% when brewing on a commercial system. If it’s above 1,000 liters in volume you might be able to bump that up to 27.5%. It’s not an exact science and might require some tweaking to get right.

The later you add hops to the boil the less they impart bitterness. Additionally, when hops are added later in the boil, the hop oils which impart aroma have less chance of being boiled off.

Most brewers prefer to add hops 5 minutes before the end of the boil or after flameout. Furthermore, some brewers also like to cool their wort to between 75 to 80°C (167 to 176°F) when adding their whirlpool additions. It leads to more aroma being carried through to the final beer.

Brewers these days are moving away from big whirlpool additions and instead concentrating on dry-hopping. A rule of thumb seems to be 10g per litre for IPA’s and 15g per litre for DIPA’s (double IPA’s).

Dry Hopping

Again, this a subject I could write a book about. Scott Janish has written some great stuff on the subject and about hops in general. Dry-hopping refers to any hop addition after the beer has been cooled and mostly done in the primary fermentation vessel.

Dry-hopping is done to get as much as the hop aroma in the final beer as possible. In general, it doesn’t add bitterness to a beer. Although Scott Janish in trials found if a beer was below 30 IBU’s, dry-hopping could add more bitterness to the beer.

There are several techniques to dry-hopping. Every brewer over time refines their own process. It’s also dependent on the equipment you are brewing on too. I’m not going to suggest one technique over another.

Although, personally I’m a fan of hop cannons and written about them here and here. One downside to dry-hopping is it can sometimes make the beer “grassy”. Especially if the hops are in the beer for too long, giving it a vegetative or grassy aroma, which isn’t pleasant.

Many brewers like to dry hop for around 4 days and then dump the hops from the beer as much as they can. As I say all brewers are different when it comes to dry-hopping.

Dry-Hop Volcano!

Please be aware, when dry-hopping the pellets can be a nucleating point for the CO2 in the beer. If you’re going traditional, adding the hops through a manway into the beer, please be careful.

Some brewers like to add a few pellets, close the FV back up, wait a while then add more. It’s another reason I like using hop cannons, I don’t have to worry about hop volcanos.

Good Hop Combos – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Chris asked me to add some suggestions about good hop combinations. I’ve been brewing since the 90’s and an old classic is Willamette and Cascade. I use this combo for my lager now and really enjoy it.

It does depend on the beer you’re brewing, but here are some suggestions:

Altbier – Hallertau, Spalt and Tettnang

Wheat Beers – Hallertau, Liberty, Tettnang and Willamette (U.S. wheats)

Lagers (light and dark) – Hallertau, Tettnang, Saaz, Liberty, Mt. Hood, Ultra, Hersbrucker, Lublin.

Please note: Any combination of the above for each style would work well.

For IPA’s and Pale Ales

When it comes to combos for hoppy beers, you’ll get different suggestions from every brewer you ask. Here some combos I like.

Citra and Chinook – Those second wave US hops can make some killer combos                                                                                                                                      .

Simcoe and Mosaic – Mosaic is a brewer’s favourite but getting more expensive now and often hard to find on the spot market.

Nelson & Motueka – A nice New Zealand hops combo for sure

Amarillo, Centennial and Cascade – Another classic US combo

Sorachi Ace – a hop people shy away from, but I’ve used it before in small quantities with other hops and it gives a nice lemon aroma (cold side) and worth considering. Works really well with Kevik Voss (more on this yeast later).

People are starting to look at European varieties from Germany and France for dry-hop additions. They are cheaper than some of the new world varietals. So, worth considering when price per liter is being calculated.

I’ve recently gone down this route and currently have some IPA’s in the tank with Mistral, Polaris and Comet. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you have your own personal hop combo favorites, please feel free to share them by commenting below.

Step-Mashing – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

When it comes to commercial brewing recipe formulation, mash profile needs to considered too. Granted if you’ve no jacket on your mash tun you can’t step mash. Furthermore, people will tell you with modern modified malts there’s no need to step mash but I still like to.

I will not go into too much details here as there are plenty of articles on the subject across the web. However, it’s good to note moving between specific temps through the mash influences the enzymatic activity creating a wort profile more suited to the beer style you’re producing.

Water Treatment

Knowing the profile of your water and calculating your salt additions can really elevate a beer. Again, I will not go into too much detail here, it’s a subject covered elsewhere. Brewing software can be your friend again here too.

You can add you water profile to the software, then input what beer you’re brewing, how much water you’re adding and it’ll tell you what additions you need. In NEIPA’s, water profile is crucial.

Brewing Process

You need to be on the higher side for chlorides as they provide the “soft pillow” taste and mouthfeel of the style plus helping with the haze. You will want to be around 175-200ppm chloride and 75 – 100 ppm for sulfates.

Depending on you water, adding magnesium sulfate for those sulfate additions can be beneficial. So, you’re not too high in calcium and effect yeast health. I just wanted to add a short section here to drive home the point how water treatment is important.

Boil Length

As craft beer evolved, higher abv beers have become more popular and widely brewed. Boil time has become a major consideration as part of recipe formulation. Those pastry stouts, imperial stouts and barley wines all need extended boil times.

It’s taken to extreme by some breweries in the US, who are doing 36-hour boils for a pastry stout. It’s worth noting lagers and beers with major percentage of pilsner malt often needs a 90-minute boil. This helps drive off as much DMS as possible.

Pilsner malt contains more SMS than ale malt, the precursor to DMS. Boiling the wort for longer will avoid the dreaded corn off-flavor which presents, when DMS is in a beer.

Yeast – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Yeast is the final ingredient in brewing and a key component in recipe formulation. Most styles have recommended yeasts to use. Yeast is where brewers have a chance to create something unique.

We spoke about yeast being the next hop craze in my last article on this site. I don’t usually use more than one yeast in a beer in my core range, because it’s hard to be consistent. One yeast might become dominant over another one brew-to-brew plus, it’s hard to predict.

However, for one-offs or specials; yeast blending or sequential pitching can make a beer unique and excite customers. Furthermore, even when using just one yeast, the chosen fermentation profile can influence the final beer, and what we’ll cover next.

Fermentation Profile

I believe cellaring to be as, if not more important than your brew day. Cellaring can be used to cover mistakes of a brew day. However, you mess up in the cellar and it can lead to beer being dumped.

Every recipe I make, I’ll spend some time working up the fermentation profile. It really effects the final beer. Here are some examples to prove the point:


This isn’t a true wheat beer yeast, but used when brewing a Hefeweizen by many. At its lower temps (18 – 20°C or 64.4 – 68VF) it can provide more clove like aroma’s and at higher temps (22 – 24°C or 71.6 – 75.2°F) more banana notes come through.

Pro-tip: I’ve recently been experimenting with adding glucose to my Hefeweizens in the kettle. I found the following below and tried it out, it works well.

“The wort concentration of isoamyl acetate can be increased by increasing the glucose concentration of the wort.  This may be done by adding Dextrose (corn sugar) to the wort on an average of 1 ounce per gallon. ” Quote

More isoamyl acetate in the wort can lead to more banana esters in the final beer.


This is my go-to dry lager yeast of choice. It can produce a really clean lager; I like to ferment the first part at 12.5°C (54.5°F) to around 55% attenuation.

I then let it free rise to 18°C (64.4°F), to clear up the beer quicker and lower those VDK numbers. A good resource is the Fermentis app. In the app Fermentis cover a lot of information on W-34/70. It’s a hardy yeast and fermentation temperature doesn’t affect the final beer too much.

Kveik Yeast

This is a brewer’s favourite. It has quick turnaround times, as it can be fermented at high temperatures but still produce a clean beer. When brewing with the Voss strain, fermenting at a 25°C (77°F) produces clean beer with a neutral yeast flavour.

However, crank this bad boy yeast up so, you’re fermenting at 38°C (100.4°F) to 40°C (104°F) and you’ll get a real citrus/orange kick from the yeast.

The point is study you’re yeast and see what flavours it can impart. What’s the optimal temperature for the fermentation and if a change in temperature can positively affect the final beer?

Spunding a Beer

When a beer is fermenting it makes CO2. You can “shut off” the CO2 outlet using a spunding valve and more of the CO2 will be absorbed by the beer. I covered spunding in my article here, so if you are looking for the methodology, please read it.

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

The idea is spunding makes finer bubbles, helps with head retention and even makes a beer cleaner (although that’s up for debate). I like it, as it also saves in CO2 needed for the brewery too. Anywhere you can save money in brewing is a bonus.

It’s not good for all styles of beer; you don’t want to spund a beer you plan to dry hop (hop volcano!) for instance.

Beers which depend on the yeast for a lot of their characteristics are better when you don’t spund them. For instance, I’d never spund a saison during fermentation; same if I’m using wine yeast too.


You need to consider carbonation level of the final beer. Carbonation levels for different beer styles are also set down in beer guidelines. I’ve also covered carbonation in another article which you can read here.

Some accepted norms include, Belgian beers having higher carbonation levels whilst British ales have lower CO2 volumes. A good tripel is elevated by cranking up the CO2, it makes some of those funkier flavor’s pop.

Conclusions to Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – We’re Over 4,000 Words…Sorry People!

We all approach recipe formulation differently, there aren’t many right or wrongs when it comes to this subject. As craft beer evolves, old “rules” have been broken and the canvas from which to create is wide open.

Some of my main considerations are when putting a recipe together are:

Costs – We need to pay the bills

How the beer fits into the current range – Color and ABV is a big factor for me here

Current season I’m in – I’m not going to make a 12% imperial in the hot summer months.

Yes, I like to base most of my recipes starting off a particular beer style. As it’s a good way to end up with a balanced final beer. You don’t need to, it’s my personal preference.

A recipe is more than just ingredients, it’s all parts of the process. Everything from mash profile to carbonation level needs to be agreed and set out before brewing.

Creating a new beer recipe is one of the fun parts of the job. The first time you create a commercial beer recipe is a rite of passage. I hope you enjoyed our article and learnt something new. I’d love to hear you’re feedback and observations.

So please feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading and happy brewing.


Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Part 1

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Time to tackle a big one today and cover commercial brewing recipe formulation. It’s a subject Chris brought up and one I needed to work on, to do justice to.

It’s a deep subject to write about and why it’s been a while since my last article as I’ve been tackling this beast. So, instead of writing a book, this article covers some of the “key concepts”.

Putting a new beer together is one of my favourite roles as a brewer. The brewing life isn’t as glamourous as most people believe, being mostly cleaning. So, when I’m given scope to put a new beer together, I relish it.

When brewing on a commercial scale, creating a new beer doesn’t mean you’ve carte blanche on recipe design. There’s generally caveats involved, such as:

  1. Needs to complement other beers already on tap
  2. What season of the year you’re in
  3. Target market for the beer
  4. What has done well before
  5. Is there a “hot” style right now people are looking to drink
  6. Costs, how much will the beer cost per litre?

Other Factors

There are more factors involved when it comes to recipe creation; these a just some of the main ones. Where I live, China I see many breweries with 60% of the beers on tap being IPA’s, this can lead to customer confusion.

Yes, IPA’s are popular however, many Chinese drinkers don’t like bitter beer. Additionally, IPA’s are expensive to make, due to their high hop loads.

I see tap houses with IPA heavy line-ups and believe they are missing out on sales. IPA’s are usually higher in alcohol and more flavourful compared to say a crisp pilsner so, people tend to drink less. Even if the beer is higher in price, the spending per customer may be smaller.

I see it as breweries in China going off worldwide trends. Not considering their own customer base, what they might like to drink and/or using more local flavours their clientele know and understand.

I talked about “commercial styles” on the BMAB Facebook group and one person spoke about how using local fruits in Korea was key in his thinking. Some feedback provided by the BMAB group to assist in the writing of this article topics below:

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Where to Start

One of the keys to recipe design, is being aware of the big picture. But also, being on top of the small details. Recipe formulation starts with the beer style you’re planning to brew.

When brewing you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yes, new styles pop up over time such as pastry stouts, however, there are many beers you can brew which people know, want and are balanced.

When designing a recipe, understanding the beer style you’ve chosen to brew and the history behind it, is a good start. Yes, brewers can add their own twist or tweak a recipe. But basing the heart of the recipe on a proven style is where most commercial brews start.

A “beer style” is where a beer has found widespread popularity, at a given time and location, becoming a local standard. To be brewed with the same general parameters. Basing your recipe on a particular beer style doesn’t have to limit you.

BJCP Guidelines

You only look have to look at the BJCP beer style guidelines to know there’s a wide range of beer styles, all with their own unique qualities, open to you as a brewer.

There’s a skill involved in understanding the origins of a beer, the original ingredients used and the requirement to brew it successfully.

Yes, you can create a beer from scratch, I have and know many brewers who work this way. Brew what you think people want. However, 95 times out of a 100, I’ll base a recipe off a style.

The Evolution of the IPA

Let’s take a look at IPA’s which we discussed before, the original IPA’s (India Pale Ale) were brewed in the UK and sent to India for British troops to drink from the 1760’s onward. The beer was fortified with hops to act as a preservative ensuring the beer was drinkable when it reached its destination.

Now, we have many different iterations of IPA. We have Black IPA’s (Cascadian Dark Ale) and NEIPA’s (New England IPA’s) for instance. IPA’s have evolved over time with new variations accepted and their parameters standardized. So now we have:

  • English IPA
  • Rye IPA
  • West Coast IPA
  • New England IPA
  • Double, Triple and Imperial IPA
  • Session IPA
  • Black IPA
  • Sour IPA
  • White IPA

And there are a few I’ve probably missed too!

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – The Steps

Let’s look at a breakdown of how a beer can be put together:

  1. Choose your beer style
  2. Look at the style guidelines
  3. Set your parameters for OG (original gravity), FG (final gravity), IBU’s (bitterness) and SRM (color of the final beer)
  4. Grain bill selection
  5. Put together a mash profile with salt additions, pH adjustment and temperature steps
  6. Choose hop varieties with addition times and quantities used
  7. Decide the length of the boil
  8. Select yeast strain
  9. Choose your fermentation profile; fermentation technique, yeast needs, oxygen (O2) requirements, pitching rates and fermentation temperature schedule
  10. Actually brew your beer

Choose Your Beer Style

When you choose your beer style, you’ll have general guidelines to follow. This includes; OG and FG giving you the alcohol content plus, bitterness, color, mouthfeel, appearance, presence of esters, characteristic ingredients and even a list of other commercial examples.

These are the building blocks from which you can build a recipe from. This doesn’t mean you’re beholden to the guidelines. The choice of grains, hops, fermentation options and maturation techniques are still open to you, allowing you to put your own stamp on a recipe.

Base Malts

All recipes start with your base malt. This is usually a simple choice. The standard base malts are:

Ale malt – For the aforementioned IPA’s, English styles ales and more

Pilsner malt – For lagers and many European beer styles including Belgian ales.

Wheat malt – Used in quantities (usually 50% and above) for Hefeweizens and Belgian wit beers.

Munich/Vienna malt – For some more unique beers such as Festbiers and bocks.

How much malt you need depends on the malt extract potential. The data needed can be provided by the malt supplier. The actual yield you’ll get depends on the efficiency of the brewhouse. In most commercial breweries you’ll get 72% efficiency and upwards.

Every brewhouse is unique and losses in efficiency will make a large difference to the final gravity. If you’re working on a new brewhouse, where efficiency is unknown.

It’s always worth playing safe so, working to a lower efficiency percentage. More liquor can be added during a brew day to reach target gravity if it’s too high. Keep an eye on your gravity of your running’s to the brew kettle, if it gets too low you will pull tannins and make your final beer bitter.

Brewing Software – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

There are many different software’s available to brewers today, to figure out malt (plus hop and water treatment) needed for a brew. Some of the most popular are:

Brewers Friends – for a link to the free recipe calculator click here

Beersmith – For the site please click here

Brew30 – A paid and popular brewing software

Brewd – I’ve not used it but seems popular amongst brewers, click here for more info

Ekos – More than just a recipe formulator, it’s a fully-fledged brewing software through to beer stock and more. The recent price hike is making this one less attractive…I’m not a fan.

There are a many more, some free, others expensive and do more than just calculate recipes. I’d rather not suggest one over another. There are various brewing forums on the net where brewers talk about their preferences.

Please note: It’s always good to know how to calculate malt needs by hand. There are various guides on the internet and a quick Google search will give you access to a lot of good info. Yes, most brewers use software but being able to do it the old school way is always handy.

Specialty Malts

Once you’ve decided on your base malt next comes the specialties. Your specialty malts typically take up 5 to 25% of the total grain bill but can be even higher in some modern styles.

These malts provide flavor and colour contributions which allow you to brew a beer to style. There are literally hundreds of malts to choose from for the modern brewer. Here are some my personal favourites:

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Please note: Some suppliers provide similar malt under different names. Malt substitution charts for malts made by different companies are readily available online. Google is your friend here too.

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Adjuncts

Adjuncts often have a bad reputation in craft brewing circles due to their association with macro-brewing. Where the big boys derive 30-50% of the carbohydrates from rice and corn when brewing lager.

I use adjuncts in brewing several beer styles, as they allow me to brew the beer with the characteristics desired. I’ve written a dedicated article on brewing with adjuncts, which you can read here.

However, I’ll go into a bit of details here too. Adjuncts play a role in many classic beers. They can provide a brewer the ability to create much more fermentable wort than all-grain brewing alone.

Using adjuncts to provide 10-30% of your carbohydrates when putting a recipe together can lead to a lighter beer and balance than with solely malt alone.  I love using oats in several beers such as stouts or some IPA’s variants if I want a “smoothness or silkiness” in the final beer.

Depending on how the adjunct has been processed, it might require some steps before being adding to a mash. Raw grains need to be cooked in a cereal cooker before they can be used. As I say for more information, please see my dedicated article on brewing with adjuncts.


Color is important when it comes to producing a recipe. Again, this is where brewing software can help. When you input your malt bill, the software can calculate the color. Color comes from the different specialty malts you use.

It’s the role of the brewer to think about what flavor a malt imparts as well as how it effects color. When it comes to craft brewing, sometimes you might be a little off in color when brewing a new beer. It happens, especially the darker you go. Sometimes tweaking is needed to dial in a recipe.

In one of my previous articles on brewery boiling tips, we also speak about how boiling wort leads to a color change. The beer will darken as it boils due to Maillard reaction. To learn more please read the article. If brewing to style it’s important to be in the color range listed.