The Homebrew Challenge

Why I’m brewing 99 beers in 99 weeks

Your corny kegs are getting lighter. You’ve got a free afternoon coming up this weekend. Clearly, it’s time to think about the next brew day. Only one problem.

What to brew next?

With all the hundreds of potential beer styles out in the world, what on earth should you pick? Perhaps stick to an old favorite like a treasured pale ale recipe? Go big and bold with an Imperial Russian Stout?

Or try something completely new, finally taking a crack at a Brut IPA?

As an avid home brewer this became my dilemma every couple of weeks. And then I hit upon an idea. What if I didn’t have to choose, but instead something chose for me?

That something was the Beer Judge Certification Program Beer Style Guidelines.

99 beer styles, all wonderfully defined, categorized, and sequenced. Beer styles from across the spectrum, from light German lagers and malty British bitters all the way through to hoppy American IPAs and strong Belgian ales.

Now somebody else could decide what I should brew. I’d start at the top of the list, and work my way through until I’d made everything. And heck, why not make this a bit more interesting and challenge myself to brew one style per week. 99 beers in 99 weeks.

So that’s what I did.

Introducing The Homebrew Challenge

The moment I started, reality hit hard. The first beer style was American Light Lager. This wonderful journey had begun with brewing, of all things, a Bud Light. And because I’m brewing in sequence many beers drew a remarkable similarity to the style I’d brewed the week before.

Czech Pale Lager was followed by Czech Premium Pale Lager. I brewed four German light lagers in a row – a month of pilsner beers.

There were other issues too. I brewed a German smoke beer (a rauchbier) with far too much smoked cherrywood malt and effectively made a bonfire beer that I can still taste in the back of my throat to this day.

And one issue eclipsed all others. An issue that has, and continues to, haunt me every week. Something there’s just no getting around.

What to do with all this beer?

A 5 gallon batch of beer equates to about 40 pints of beer. And I’m making that every week. To get through it all I need to find a home for 5-6 pints of beer per day. Every day. For nearly two years. I find myself handing out beers at every occasion – to friends, family, neighbors, any random person I can find.

As I write this, I’ve brewed 35 of the beers. 64 more beer styles to go – well over a year of weekly brewing ahead of me. And the obvious question, dear reader, is why continue?

With all the dodgy styles, the similarity of beers, the gallons and gallons of beer that needs a home, the fact that my favorite beer styles are strong Belgian ales that are the very last thing in the BJCP guidelines. Why keep doing it?

Why? Because taking on this challenge has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. 

First and foremost, I’ve learned so very much about different beer styles. I’ve brewed beers I’ve never heard of. Helles Bock, Altbier, and Maibock are styles completely new to me, but are now among my very favorites.

And brewing similar beers over and over has been a great way to dial in what I like, learn how a different specialty malt can influence a beer, and appreciate subtle differences in flavor and aroma.

And most of all, I’m building a community of followers who are taking this journey along with me. I film each brew day and publish it on my The Homebrew Challenge YouTube channel.

As the challenge has expanded, so has the feedback. One of the highlights of my week is publishing a new video and reading the tips, recommendations, and words of encouragement from fellow homebrewers in the YouTube comments.

So, What to Brew Next?

I hope you’ll join me as I continue along on my journey, one beer style at a time, discovering the incredibly varied beer styles from around the world.

If you’re passing through Raleigh North Carolina, stop by, come taste my latest brew. And, if you wouldn’t mind, fill up a growler or two of beer while you’re here.

Martin Keen

Find all the homebrewing beer recipes here.

Here is the full list in order with the BJCP Guidelines [2015].

Style #Beer StyleIBUsSRMOriginal GravityFinal GravityABV
1AAmerican Light Lager8–122–31.028–1.0400.998–1.0082.8–4.2%
1BAmerican Lager8–182–41.040–1.0501.004–1.0104.2–5.3%
1CCream Ale8–202.5–51.042–1.0551.006–1.0124.2–5.6%
1DAmerican Wheat Beer15–303–61.040–1.0551.008–1.0134.0–5.5%
2AInternational Pale Lager18–252–61.042–1.0501.008–1.0124.6–6.0%
2BInternational Amber Lager8–257–141.042–1.0551.008–1.0144.6–6.0%
2CInternational Dark Lager8–2014–221.044–1.0561.008–1.0124.2–6.0%
3ACzech Pale Lager20–353–61.028–1.0441.008–1.0143.0–4.1%
3BCzech Premium Pale Lager30–453.5–61.044–1.0601.013–1.0174.2–5.8%
3CCzech Amber Lager20–3510–161.044–1.0601.013–1.0174.4–5.8%
3DCzech Dark Lager18–3414–351.044–1.0601.013–1.0174.4–5.8%
4AMunich Helles16–223–51.044–1.0481.006–1.0124.7–5.4%
4CHelles Bock23–356–111.064–1.0721.011–1.0186.3–7.4%
5AGerman Leichtbier15–282–51.026–1.0341.006–1.0102.4–3.6%
5CGerman Helles Exportbier20–304–71.048–1.0561.010–1.0154.8–6.0%
5DGerman Pils22–402–51.044–1.0501.008–1.0134.4–5.2%
6CDunkles Bock20–2714–221.064–1.0721.013–1.0196.3–7.2%
7AVienna Lager18–309–151.048–1.0551.010–1.0144.7–5.5%
7CPale Kellerbier20–353–71.045–1.0511.008–1.0124.7–5.4%
7DAmber Kellerbier25–407–171.048–1.0541.012–1.0164.8–5.4%
8AMunich Dunkel18–2814–281.048–1.0561.010–1.0164.5–5.6%
9CBaltic Porter20–4017–301.060–1.0901.016–1.0246.5–9.5%
10BDunkles Weissbier10–1814–231.044–1.0561.010–1.0144.3–5.6%
11AOrdinary Bitter25–358–141.030–1.0391.007–1.0113.2–3.8%
11BBest Bitter25–408–161.040–1.0481.008–1.0123.8–4.6%
11CExtra Special Bitter30–508–181.048–1.0601.010–1.0164.6–6.2%
12ABritish Golden Ale20–452–61.038–1.0531.006–1.0123.8–5.0%
12BAustralian Sparkling Ale20–354–71.038–1.0501.004–1.0064.5–6.0%
12CEnglish IPA40–606–141.050–1.0751.010–1.0185.0–7.5%
13ADark Mild10–2512–251.030–1.0381.008–1.0133.0–3.8%
13BBritish Brown Ale20–3012–221.040–1.0521.008–1.0134.2–5.4%
13CEnglish Porter18–3520–301.040–1.0521.008–1.0144.0–5.4%
14AScottish Light10–2017–221.030–1.0351.010–1.0132.5–3.2%
14BScottish Heavy10–2013–221.035–1.0401.010–1.0153.2–3.9%
14CScottish Export15–3013–221.040–1.0601.010–1.0163.9–6.0%
15AIrish Red Ale18–289–141.036–1.0461.010–1.0143.8–5.0%
15BIrish Stout25–4525–401.036–1.0441.007–1.0114.0–4.5%
15CIrish Extra Stout35–5025–401.052–1.0621.010–1.0145.5–6.5%
16ASweet Stout20–4030–401.044–1.0601.012–1.0244.0–6.0%
16BOatmeal Stout25–4022–401.045–1.0651.010–1.0184.2–5.9%
16CTropical Stout30–5030–401.056–1.0751.010–1.0185.5–8.0%
16DForeign Extra Stout50–7030–401.056–1.0751.010–1.0186.3–8.0%
17ABritish Strong Ale30–608–221.055–1.0801.015–1.0225.5–8.0%
17BOld Ale30–6010–221.055–1.0881.015–1.0225.5–9.0%
17CWee Heavy17–3514–251.070–1.1301.018–1.0406.5–10.0%
17DEnglish Barleywine35–708–221.080–1.1201.018–1.0308.0–12.0%
18AAmerican Blonde Ale15–283–61.038–1.0541.008–1.0133.8–5.5%
18BAmerican Pale Ale30–505–101.045–1.0601.010–1.0154.5–6.2%
19AAmerican Amber Ale25–4010–171.045–1.0601.010–1.0154.5–6.2%
19BCalifornia Common30–4510–141.048–1.0541.011–1.0144.5–5.5%
19CAmerican Brown Ale20–3018–351.045–1.0601.010–1.0164.3–6.2%
20AAmerican Porter25–5022–401.050–1.0701.012–1.0184.8–6.5%
20BAmerican Stout35–7530–401.050–1.0751.010–1.0225.0–7.0%
20CImperial Stout50–9030–401.075–1.1151.018–1.0308.0–12.0%
21AAmerican IPA40–706–141.056–1.0701.008–1.0145.5–7.5%
21BBelgian IPA50–1005–151.058–1.0801.008–1.0166.2–9.5%
21BBlack IPA50–9025–401.050–1.0851.010–1.0185.5–9.0%
21BBrown IPA40–7011–191.056–1.0701.008–1.0165.5–7.5%
21BRed IPA40–7011–191.056–1.0701.008–1.0165.5–7.5%
21BRye IPA50–756–141.056–1.0751.008–1.0145.5–8.0%
21BWhite IPA40–705–81.056–1.0651.010–1.0165.5–7.0%
22ADouble IPA60–1206–141.065–1.0851.008–1.0187.5–10.0%
22BAmerican Strong Ale50–1007–191.062–1.0901.014–1.0246.3–10.0%
22CAmerican Barleywine50–10010–191.080–1.1201.016–1.0308.0–12.0%
23ABerliner Weisse3–82–31.028–1.0321.003–1.0062.8–3.8%
23BFlanders Red Ale10–2510–161.048–1.0571.002–1.0124.6–6.5%
23COud Bruin20–2515–221.040–1.0741.008–1.0124.0–8.0%
23FFruit Lambic0–103–71.040–1.0601.000–1.0105.0–7.0%
24BBelgian Pale Ale20–308–141.048–1.0541.010–1.0144.8–5.5%
24CBière de Garde18–286–191.060–1.0801.008–1.0166.0–8.5%
25ABelgian Blond Ale15–304–71.062–1.0751.008–1.0186.0–7.5%
25BSaison (pale) (standard)20–355–141.048–1.0651.002–1.0085.0–7.0%
25CSaison (dark) (standard)20–3515–221.048–1.0651.002–1.0085.0–7.0%
25CSaison (pale) (table)20–355–141.048–1.0651.002–1.0083.5–5.0%
25CSaison (pale) (super)20–355–141.048–1.0651.002–1.0087.0–9.5%
25CBelgian Golden Strong Ale22–353–61.070–1.0951.005–1.0167.5–10.5%
26ATrappist Single25–453–51.044–1.0541.004–1.0104.8–6.0%
26BBelgian Dubbel15–2510–171.062–1.0751.008–1.0186.0–7.6%
26CBelgian Tripel20–404.5–71.075–1.0851.008–1.0147.5–9.5%
26DBelgian Dark Strong Ale20–3512–221.075–1.1101.010–1.0248.0–12.0%
27AHistorical Beer: Gose5–123–41.036–1.0561.006–1.0104.2–4.8%
27AHistorical Beer: Kentucky Common15–3011–201.044–1.0551.010–1.0184.0–5.5%
27AHistorical Beer: Lichtenhainer5–123–61.032–1.0401.004–1.0083.5–4.7%
27AHistorical Beer: London Brown Ale15–2022–351.033–1.0381.012–1.0152.8–3.6%
27AHistorical Beer: Piwo Grodziskie20–353–61.028–1.0321.006–1.0122.5–3.3%
27AHistorical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Lager25–403–61.044–1.0601.010–1.0154.5–6.0%
27AHistorical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Porter20–3018–301.046–1.0601.010–1.0164.5–6.0%
27AHistorical Beer: Roggenbier10–2014–191.046–1.0561.010–1.0144.5–6.0%
27AHistorical Beer: Sahti7–154–221.076–1.1201.016–1.0207.0–11.0%
28BMixed-Fermentation Sour BeerNSNSNSNSNS
28CWild Specialty BeerNSNSNSNSNS
29BFruit and Spice BeerNSNSNSNSNS
29CSpecialty Fruit BeerNSNSNSNSNS
30ASpice, Herb, or Vegetable BeerNSNSNSNSNS
30BAutumn Seasonal BeerNSNSNSNSNS
30CWinter Seasonal BeerNSNSNSNSNS
31AAlternative Grain BeerNSNSNSNSNS
31BAlternative Sugar BeerNSNSNSNSNS
32AClassic Style Smoked BeerNSNSNSNSNS
32BSpecialty Smoked BeerNSNSNSNSNS
33BSpecialty Wood-Aged BeerNSNSNSNSNS
34BMixed-Style BeerNSNSNSNSNS
34CExperimental BeerNSNSNSNSNS
Style #Beer StyleIBUsSRMOriginal GravityFinal GravityABV

Outside of the BJCP Beers; find the full Beer Alcohol Content List here.