The next time you are stuck at coming up with ideas for your next homebrew consider thinking about these following points to get those brain juices flowing:
1. Learn from experts - beer authors & brewers
My new ideas used to come from the most recent issues of beer magazines such as All About Beer and Draft. Now, I explore brewery owners like Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. What beer is Sam producing now? Do I want to try making one of his? A lot of the breweries advertise their current beers on the web and you can see what they have on tap.
2. Do what you love
German beers fascinated me. Wiesns. Wheat beer yeasts with non-wheat grains. Now I'm testing various yeasts. Always try to play around with your priority beers first. If crossword puzzles aren't the highlight of your life, why the hell do some of you kill time with that?
3. What other interests do I have?
Can I combine my interests? I like cold brewed coffee so I cold brewed some bitter beer grains. It worked and I had some smooth Schwartzbier. I like to cook, collect cooking books and watch TV cooking shows. How about a corn ale with flavoring ideas from Bobby Flay's grilled corn cobs? Can I sauté grains instead of decoction? Can I flambé grains on the grill? America's Test Kitchen has me wondering these ideas right now.
4. Read two books on the subject to become an expert
There was a saying you could be an expert by reading 2 books on the subject. I might review sour beers info online and get a couple books so I can make a sour batch. If you can't afford new books think about buying used or perhaps you can find it at your local library. I've got to do some reading to make my own Gose or Berliner Weisse.
5. Inventors take risks and are persistent
Where would we be if Edison hadn't kept trying various filaments for the light bulb? Or what if the steam engine hadn't been invented? Or the Telephone? How about those old breweries in Europe? What if they never worked to tweak a recipe till it was perfect? If you haven't created your greatest beer keep trying. No one accomplished anything by doing nothing. If I wasn't testing various yeasts I wouldn't have found Duvel's yeast for their golden ale.
6. Speculate on whether the opposite is true
Others in social media told me I couldn't brew a corn ale - that it was just an adjunct. A historical document by a Connecticut governor showed they had brewed corn ale once. Farmers were brewing corn wine and the family recipes were on the web. The late C.J.J. Berry had some recipes for Corn Wine in his book, First Steps in Winemaking. I knew I had to try making corn ale. I tried growing corn, malted it and made my first batch. Now, I know I can make it out of corn tortillas, corn grits or maybe even Corn Flakes.
7. Be curious - ask yourself questions
My occupation is security work. Just like in my line of work, I ask the same questions in homebrewing: What should I make next? Why? When should I make it? (maybe you are busy and need to work it into your schedule) Who is my inspiration for my next batch? How will I make it? Try making it different next time. Boredom can come from doing the same thing everyday.
8. Value hater's negative feedback in social media
Sometimes a stern comment or negative response in social media can give you a new path to work on. Prove them wrong with a picture and article in your blog to show you finally did it!
9. Brainstorm to generate ideas
Take time to generate a new idea everyday and write it down. As you try to get one each day you'll find your brain will get more. Try it. I know this works because I keep writing down my ideas everyday. Can you list your favorite beers under the categories of sweet, bitter, sour or salty?
10. Keep a journal to track your ideas
I keep track of my batches, their ingredients so I can change it next time for the better.
Do you? Do you know how to reproduce one of your great beer recipes? The greatest thing about this beer blog was that it organized my beer experiments so I could look them up again later.
11. Find time when creativity happens or dwell on it
In my security work, I have time to just let my mind wander. I'm not always chasing the "bad guys". I get ideas and write them down on a piece of paper. Most of my creativity comes before 9 AM in the morning. Sometimes, I dwell on a problem before I go to sleep and wake up to a solution.
12. Experiment, find out new things and change something
Without experimentation, I wouldn't have come close to making any beer clones. I wouldn't have found my favorite yeasts. I try to do each beer batch experiment differently so I can find out something new.
I've got beer-wine hybrids planned for the future. Also, sauteed grains for German-style beers. And even corn ales with salsa flavorings on the drawing board. What's next for you? If Baskin-Robbins hadn't kept trying new ice cream flavors or if today's celebrity chefs didn't try to create new things in the kitchen what kind of world would we be in? Among all your beer experiments, you will probably fail a number of times. Keep trying and you are bound to generate a few real great winners. Start today to make your next creation.