Tuesday, January 1, 2013

End of the Year...

Another year of homebrewing has come to an end and while this has been my most prolific twelve months of brewing, I brewed forty-seven batches of beer and cider, it doesn't feel like I've done anything that important. If 2011 was the year of progress and change - of trying new things and making big improvements - in comparison, 2012 seems to have been the year of "more of the same." I didn't make any major changes to my brewing process and really didn't experiment beyond what I am already familiar with. It was a year of bitters, pale ales, porters, and dialing in water profiles, mash PH, and fermentation schedules.

Instead of doing a summary of last year, I thought I would share a few beer-y thoughts and some things to come for 2013.

Sour Beers, Bottling

I love drinking sour beers. I do not like brewing them. They take too long to ferment/condition and their brewing requires a measure of creativity that I am not entirely comfortable trying to mimic. Sour beers can be wonderful and they can also be gimmicky and lacking refinement. Like IPA's, it seems as if many commercial sour beers are judged not on their overall quality, but rather how intensely flavored they are. When will the consumer learn that big flavors does not necessarily mean a well made beer.

I loath bottling homebrew. Given the choice of bottling a beer or letting it sit in a primary or secondary for an eternity, I will choose the latter. The batch of pseudo-Albany Ale I brewed in the spring is still in the secondary. When it came time to bottle the beer, I decided I would rather let it sit around with a melange of Brett yeasts than have to endure an afternoon of bottle washing and de-labeling. On that same note, the Berliner Kriek I brewed back in late March is still in the primary. It is very tart and the expensive cherries I added to it have made it quite tasty. It is also infected with something other than Lactobacillus that is slowly producing something other than lactic acid. It will probably sit around until next March before I get finally decide to dump it.

The Pub, Session Beers

As much as I like spending a lazy afternoon in a quiet pub, nestled up to the bar with a flavorful drink, finding such a thing is getting near impossible these days. Around where I live, most of the "pubs" have been replaced by "bars." You know the ones... those sleek, yet characterless boozers that have twelve craft beers on tap and plenty of space for big-screen TV's and a blaring jukebox. Where once was wood and worn leather, is now cold metal and industrial flair. No comfy chairs here. And even the barkeep, once a friendly face, is replaced with a know-nothing hipster whom constantly talks/texts on their phone. Can an American craft beer culture exist in a traditional pub?

Session beers. Everyone is talking about them, some breweries are trying to brew them, but who is actually drinking them? I'm still waiting for the day when I can walk into my local and order a real bitter or mild on tap. I'd even take a flavorful, 4.5% brown ale. In the meantime, I'll keep brewing and enjoying them at home.

Brew goals for 2013:

- More historical beers. I really enjoyed kilning my own brown malts and using them in historical beer recipes. Continuing with this, expect more posts on brown malt and I would like to brew a historical Imperial Stout with the 19th century style brown malt. Moreover, I would also like make a few historical Albany Ales with my heirloom hop varieties.

- Lagers. So long as the weather is cold enough to allow garage lagering, I have plans for a Bohemian Pilsner, Munich Helles, and a dark lager or two. I hear there is a tmave called Morana that is mighty tasty.

- I never got around to making a Barleywine or a Belgian Quad. Got to get that done.

- Session beers. I would like to get back to making a handful of easily repeatable, low gravity beers. More mild, bitter, and Scottish ales. And sessionable American pale ales with Australian and New Zealand hops, as I won't be using much Amarillo, Simcoe, or Citra this year.

- I would like to start slanting yeast for long term storage and build a yeast library.

- Homebrew competitions. I only entered one big competition this year (won two medals) and I would like to get back into the competitive brewing scene. I need to get around to buying or building a proper beer gun, as to eliminate some oxidation issues I've had with keg-filled bottles.

- Lastly, this year I will brew the beer I want to drink. I know the vast majority of homebrewers and beer enthusiasts aren't going to get excited over an English bitter or mild, but that shouldn't stop me from brewing them. I've noticed my beers have become more hoppy this past year, partly due to my friends constant complaints that I don't brew IPA's. Not anymore.

Here's to another good year of beer drinking and brewing!


  1. Can I throw one in for you? Keep blogging. I just recently found your blog, but it's excellent. Well done, sir.

    -Randy B.

    1. I concur. Your blog is an excellent reference for bitters/milds/porters. I look forward to seeing your progression in 2013.

      Yay session beers!

  2. I share the comments of the others. Your blog is the only one I've found that deals with English-style session beers, porters and historical beers on the homebrew level. If 2012 was "more of the same", don't you have that favorite brew you've made? or have you come closer to that "perfect pint"? I'd be curious to see what you've made that you'd want on tap in your pub.

  3. Happy brew year indeed. Looking forward to 2013 in which English bitters and milds will do just nicely. All the best.

  4. Fantastic resource for those expats seeking a little bit of home, am drinking a lovely mild from your recipe and whilst I didn't grow up in the more mild focussed areas of england its always a beer I have enjoyed especially on trips to the west midlands.

  5. I'm late to this thread, but I too want to encourage you to keep blogging! I've learned tons and tons from your various posts over the past year or so.

  6. This and Ron's are my 2 favourite beer blogs. Must reading for homebrewers interested in english styles. I really enjoy the yeast reviews and I've forwarded the post about UK base malts to at least a dozen people when ever the subject has come up. Great stuff!


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