In the holiday season we are constantly bombarded with new gadgets and expensive toys to “improve” our brewing process. Though some of these may be fun and actually can help, the most important tool of all is your imagination.
All of our wonderful brews and new ideas for brews need a place to stay safe. By having the recipes in a central place with a standard format can help increase our brewing efficiency more than any new shiny brewing toy.
From a pure safety perspective nothing beats the pen and paper method. No risk of the system crashing and losing all of your coveted award-winning recipes. Though a hard copy has stood the test of time we are unable to use this method to build new recipes, calculate efficiencies or even calculate something as basic as a starting gravity. Thankfully there is a vast amount of brewing programs out there. Computer based software programs and even smart phone apps exist that can do most of the functions you will require.
The program that you choose should have a few features that will help with the brewing process. At a bare minimum they should be able to calculate starting gravity and alcohol content. This also means that the program will most likely have a database of ingredients to allow you to build the recipe. This gives you the first step toward storing all of your recipes in a central place. The interface of course is also very important. It shouldn’t be so complicated that you can’t figure it out fairly quickly, but it also needs to be semi complex to allow for a wide range of options. Don’t go with something because it is super simple to use. Instead, pick something that is going to do everything you want in a brewing program.
Unfortunately, the best programs available are those you have to pay for. So making sure that you are getting everything you want is especially important so you don’t waste your money. These systems are going to have ingredient databases that can be modified as well as the ability to store all of the recipes and ingredients that you can think of. They will also have a database of all of the beer style guidelines out there. This helps with recipe building by setting parameters for our beers thus giving us an opportunity to craft a tasty brew in a specific format. It also can help us put our freezer clean-out-ale neatly into a style category that it should be in. Skimping on price may decrease features but making sure to balance what you are getting for the cost is all part of the homebrewing experience.
Choosing what software you want to use is almost as important as picking a mash tun.
Here are a few programs out there I’m suggesting as a starting point for your research: Promash, Brewtroller, Beer Smith, Brew Toad, Brewtarget.