In brewing, if cleanliness is next to godliness, keeping good records is the most holy of rituals. I can’t stress this enough, keep good records. Without them, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to recreate that “perfect IPA” or on the flip side, waste hours racking your brain on “what went wrong” with your last stout. There are tons of ways to do this.
There are quite a few options here. Some are tied to websites that will store your recipes. Others just save the files locally, so just be sure you back them up on a regular basis in case the ever dreaded “crash” occurs. Some of the big ones are BeerSmith, BeerTools and a nice iPad friendly one I use – iBrewMaster. There are others as well and most are pretty affordable ($30 or less). They’ll do all the calculations for you, and some you can even enter your water profile, brewing process and equipment. The only downside I’ve had, is sometimes they don’t always have some of the more obscure ingredients.
If you don’t want to spend the money on fancy software, you can probably find free spread sheets out there that do roughly the same calculations when it comes to recipes, but prob won’t help as much for things like mash steps, strike temps and really fine tuning a recipe. If you’re familiar, you can always try to build your own as well. These are a smart choice if you just what basic help with calculations without all the bells and whistles.
Old school all the way. I have a few of these now. This was all I knew when I first started, but now I keep up with these types of notes in case anything would happen to my digital copies. Plus it looks pretty cool to see everything you’ve brewed all in a single book. I’ve been brewing for about 10 years now, so looking back at my recipes from college is kind of laughable at times, but every now and then, I’ll dig up something good.
My favorite brew day log is one from Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. It’s great for day of notes. I’ll keep the paper copy after, but also enter it into my computer later. That way if anything spills on the paper while I’m brewing, it’s not a big deal. I spilled on my full notebook once and lost quite a few records.
This is a big one too that I feel a lot of people don’t always do. Taste your beer at various times and record its characteristics. I use a book called 33 beers that I find really helpful, not only for my beers, but any beer I taste. It’s nice to try your beers when they’re fist ready, record, then try again after they’ve aged, record again and compare. Really lets you get a good feeling on when the “optimal” time is to drink your beer.
Make sure to note the brands of the ingredients you use. Different malters can offer the same grain, but it’s not going to be uniform across the board. Same goes for hops. Alpha acids can change from batch to batch, so note what you used. And of course the brand of yeast. Also, keep track of what you have on hand at your house. If you have leftovers you can use, go for it. That’ll save you money and you won’t be wasting ingredients either. Just be sure they’re not too old.