Designing A Beer Recipe To Test Hop Flavours

Single hop beers are a great way to test and explore the flavours of different hop varieties.

Here are some ideas for developing a base recipe.

designing a beer recipe

As you may know, I recently challenged myself to find out how to make better beer.

My idea’s to explore each aspect of brewing in isolated detail, before recombining everything in the future to brew beer with more confidence.

I’ve started with a series of simple brews each showcasing a single hop type. I want to compare the hops side by side in beers which are otherwise the same.

Rather than just presenting the outcome, I thought it would be useful to explain how I’ve come up with a base recipe for testing hop flavour.

The same process applies to all recipe design because I’ve planned it as I would any other brew.

Although I’m mainly testing hop flavours, I still want to create tasty, drinkable beer.

Choosing A Target Beer

Because I’m eventually going to develop a solid bitter recipe as a regular brew, I’m basing this experiment on a bitter.

Hops are the focus so the grain bill is straightforward: one single malt. For a bitter, pale ale malt is the obvious choice.

I’m not worried about lack of flavour. The pale ale single malt strong mild I brewed as part of the International Homebrew Project was very flavoursome.

This time I’m aiming for a light, easier drinking bitter. A commercial beer that immediately springs to mind is Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, a great mid-strength beer.

Using that as a starting point for my recipe, I found this information about Landlord on The Mad Fermentationist’s blog:


  • O.G. 1.042
  • F.G. 1.009


  • 30 IBUS


  • 6 SRM

I also found out from Timothy Taylor’s own information that the abv is 4.3%.

This gave me plenty to work with.

Developing The Recipe

I’m not trying to clone Landlord, just produce a beer that’s similarly drinkable.


As I said, I’m using 100% pale ale malt. Ideally a British malt, such as Golden Promise.

Using Brew Target I adjusted the quantities to get into the gravity and alcohol ranges for my target beer.

designing a beer recipe: malt

Adding the malt as a fermentable, I tweaked the weight until the gravities were on target. By chance exactly 1 kg gives me what I need.

For the gravity calculations to work, you need to set your batch size and water volumes. In Brew Target this is done in the Mash tab:

designing a beer recipe volumes

I don’t want to end up with hundreds of pints of single hop beer so I’m making 5 litre batches. You just tweak the starting volume until it gives the target batch size.

As you can see, I’m starting with 9.2 litres.


This is the interesting part.

Taking an idea from Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong, I’m going to push the hops right to the front. The strategy uses first wort hopping and late aroma additions.

First wort hopping is a technique that adds hops to the wort as it’s draining from the mash. This early steeping is said to give a big flavour boost and a smoother bitterness.

I’ve also got an addition twenty minutes from the end to enhance the flavour even more, as well as aroma hops at flame out.

Each time I brew I’ll adjust the hop quantities to achieve 30 IBUs, with the three additions each representing a third of the total hop amount.

For the first batch, the Nugget hops come out like this:

designing a beer recipe hops


I don’t want strong yeast flavours.

With that in mind I’ve chosen Nottingham, a neutral tasting ale yeast that I’ve used a lot before.


I need the beer to ferment fairly dry, but not bone dry, so I’ve chosen a medium mash temperature of 66°C.

Single Malt and Single Hop Recipe

Recipe Volume
5 litres

Pale ale malt: 1 kg (100%)

Mash Time
90 mins

Mash Target Temperature

Hops (X%): 1/3 FWH
Hops (X%): 1/3 for 20 mins
Hops (X%): 1/3 at flame out
(30 IBUs)

Danstar Nottingham

Original Gravity

Assumes 70% efficiency

After brewing several of these, I’ll better understand hop flavours.

There’s plenty of potential for exploration by varying the base malt or looking at hop blends, amongst other things. The possibilities are endless.

I’m really looking forward to tasting these beers. I’m hoping to have a variety of flavourful, easy drinking pale ales to get through.

If you’ve tried single hop brews like this, do you have any tips?

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  1. Tobes

    Hi Dude.

    Just started my first batch using a real ale style recipe, which has 3 types of malts including a dark malt. Just a 5L brew.

    Everything is fermenting nicely after a week in the DemiJohn and I am looking to dry hop very soon. I’m not sure when to add these, I’m thinking tomorrow (after 8 days). Then looking to leave in the demijohn for another 7 days before racking.

    Am I doing the right thing? Basically the place I bought the pack from I didn’t realise until further reading, was a real ale, but the lady had kindly done a little research and adapted my recipe kit a little. Anyway, not wholly confident but lets see how it goes.

    Anyway – Very interested in the SMaSH method and inspired by this page. I am going to buy some pale malt and one of the big C’s (if I can. I live in Nottingham, which should be good for Nottingham yeast).

    I’m going to stick to your exact recipe, if I can. Will let you know how it goes. Keen for any tips or guidance. I want to nail a good beer and very determined. Hope to hear from you, man.

    Cheers. Tobes

    • John


      Yes, it sounds like you’re roughly doing the right thing. This article has a bit more information on dry hopping.

      One thing to say is that while the recipe above shows off the flavour of the individual hop, it is not particularly “hoppy”. If you want something along the line of an IPA, you may want to increase the amount of hops.

      Good luck.

      p.s. in case you haven’t seen it, a write up of some of these single hop beers is here.

  2. Tobes

    Can I ask – and its probably an obvious answer. What is your boil time and what is your temp before adding yeast?

    • John

      The boil time was 60 minutes and I would aim for a temperature of 18 to 20 C.

  3. Tobes

    Amazing. Thanks John.

    I dry hopped last night (day 9 of primary) and did a quick gravity reading which came out at 1.008 – is it Ok now for another 5 days of dry hop?

    Unfortunately I didn’t do an OG reading and still getting my head round the science and still not quite there.

    Am I worrying too much about detail at this stage or is there an easier way of understanding the process of OG / FG? For my SMaSH I’ve purchased pale malt and have gone for cascade pellet hops to do brew this eve (not sure how much to use).

    Obviously not buying kits so trying do do all this myself. I’m just doing 5ltr so trying to work out amounts. Not 100% sure on water amounts and amount (in g’s) of dry Notts yeast to use at this stage. Sorry there are a lot of questions.

    I have done a fast amount of reading but do not have a mentor. Really appreciate your advice. Your website has been extremely useful for me so far.

    Cheers. Tobes

    • John


      The gravity reading sounds low enough so you should be alright to dry hop. The main thing is that the gravity has been stable for a few days, rather than what it actually is.

      At this stage I’d just get used to the process and worry about the fine details later.

      In terms of amounts, you won’t need that many hops for for 5 litres. I think Cascade has around 7% alpha acids, so if you want to follow the recipe above you’d need around 6-7g per hop addition, more if you want the beer to be noticeably hoppy.

      I would start with around 9 litres of water, although this really depends as you loose water at several stages (when you remove the grain, during the boil, transferring to the fermenter etc.).

      Hope that helps. Once you’ve brewed a few batches all will make sense.

      • Tobes

        Brilliant. Thank you John. I think I am getting bogged down with some of the minor detail at this early stage, but I am keen to make a good go at this and gain some early success. Tonight I am priming and racking my first batch into bottles. Exciting times. Going to use your guide for priming assuming I need to pro rata the amount of water I need to use to make the priming solution. Ie 28 g’s of sugar? Thanks

        • John

          Yes, just scale down to suit. Hope it went well.

  4. Tobes

    Hi John. Tried first bottle after a week and turns out to be fairly decent beer. Good carbonation . Happy with results. Surely it will get better?

    Did a SMaSh next with pal malt and cascade hops. Trying to understand my ingredients based on your suggested method. Already have another brew going with Amarillo hops and 5% crystal malt to the bill, along with 95% pale malts. Keen to see how both turn out. Jumping straight into this thing the right way, I hope..,

    I bought some chinook pellets the other day. Can you suggest how I can use it with the Cascade and Amarillo I have?

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