Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year

Well, another year of homebrewing has come to an end and here I am trying to make sense of it all. As for me, it was a good year. All in all, I made just over 42 batches of beer and cider during these twelve months - a personal best - and I can honestly say most of them turned out pretty good. There were, of course, some batches that failed and others that exceeded my expectations. Besides brewing beer, it was also a good year for drinking beer (non-homebrew) and I was able to make some much needed upgrades to my kegerator and brewing setup. With that in mind, here is the "good, the bad, and the beautiful" of 2011... and hopefully, things to come for the new year.

The Good: Kegging and Water Chemistry

The two biggest improvements in my homebrewery this year was the complete transition from bottling to kegging - no more having to bottle my session beers! - and I finally got around to figuring out my water chemistry. As for changing my brewing water, I did minimal water adjustments for the longest time, basically using my non adjusted tap water for pretty much everything I brewed. This was generally ok, as my water source wasn't that bad for most amber and dark beer styles but I really had problems brewing very pale beers. The water was pretty similar to that of the London profile. After changing my water source in the beginning of the spring, a change had to be made. My new water was so hard and alkaline that brewing anything but stouts/porters would have been impossible. After getting a water report from Ward Labs (the best brewing investment I have ever made) and a few weeks of reading about water chemistry, I have improved the overall flavor and character of my beers quite substantially.

As for kegging, finally being able to put all my session beers into kegs has really made things a whole lot easier. I can go from grain to glass in less than two weeks - if I really wanted - and I have much more control over how I serve my beer. Now all I got to do is finish my kegerator...

The Bad: Uncooperative yeast, dumped batches, competitions

Along with brewing some of the best beer I've ever brewed this year, I also had some batches that turned out pretty bad. I had fermentation issues with two consecutive batches (dark mild, oatmeal stout) and I ended up having to dump both batches. I suspect the problem with those batches were due to insufficient aeration and/or starting fermentation too cold. Adding to injury, my fermentation chest kicked the bucket on me during the course of those fermentations. I also dropped my 20lb C02 tank down the stairs and busted the regulator which I had to replace. However, the overall worst beer of the year was my batch of Aussie cream ale. The yeast must have been very stressed, or it got an infection somewhere in the process, as the beer ended up tasting like burning tires. Sounds delicious, no? That batch got dumped right away. Three bad batches out of forty-two, I guess I can't complain too much. Lastly, it was not a great year for competitions. I only entered three this year and took home three medals. The NHC (Saratoga judging) was a complete failure. I still want my $50 bucks back...

The Beautiful: Bitter, Mild, Porter, Pale Ale                                                                                                      It was another good year for my favorite beer style. I brewed a whole bunch of bitters this year (some with new yeasts) and I am generally very happy with how they came out. Brewing is always a learning experience and it is nice to see each new batch make some type of improvement. Also, I started making my own 'brewers invert syrup' this year (in earnest) and the results have been above and beyond my expectations. Again, if you haven't made a bitter with homemade invert, do yourself the favor and give it a try! Best yeasts for bitters this year was Wyeast 1318, 1968, 1882, and the biggest surprise of all - WLP006 Bedford bitter. Standout brews for the year are my recent Amalgamated ESB, Levi's Pale Ale, Scottish Oatmeal Porter, Ploughman Brown and Mild, and American IPA w/ Invert. Lastly, I've started to get back into brewing more American and Belgian styles and I made a few historical beers too.

New for 2012:                                                                                                                                              
Keep an eye out  for a new blog design and hopefully more posts on stuff besides what I brew and how I think it tastes. I would like to get back to open fermentation and do some experiments with top cropping and fermentation geometry. I might even do a few commercial beer tastings of some rare beers I've been collecting; Courage RIS', Westys, and old Trappist stuff. I would like to continue making more sours and dammit, I will finally get around to brewing an American Barleywine and another Belgian Dark Strong. Also, expect to see more historical British beers and home malting.

That's it for this year! Thanks to all you readers.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Cheers on a very prolific year. Can't wait to see what you do in 2012.


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