I scored some birthday cash back in October and spent part of it on Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew, a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while. It’s worth the price of admission. John Palmer provides some excellent insight about grain varieties in the introductory section, and throughout the recipes Jamil Zainasheff includes awesome nuggets of wisdom such as this:
Many new brewers mistakenly think it is necessary to increase the level of specialty malts when making a higher-alcohol beer. That is incorrect, and doing so will make an over-the-top version of the beer. The increased base malt will add the additional body, alcohol, and some malty flavors and aromas, so there is no need to change the specialty grain amounts, unless you are making a larger or smaller volume of beer. (125)
This is great to know…not something that I realized. I see this working really well with styles like Dubbel, Porter, Stout, Belgian Strong Ale and of course Scottish Ale, the section where this quote comes from. Basically any style that has a natural range of strengths built into it and that has a defining set of specialty grains that darken the wort.
Pick up this book ASAP. I think reading this alongside Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers might be the ideal way to learn how to make your own recipes.