|A bit of non-beer time in northern Italy|
|One of my favorites from 2013-14: Geuzestekerij De Cam|
Year in review
|One boil split into 4 different petite saisons.|
When I wasn't brewing a variation of a recipe (and even when I was) I spent more time planning the brew day and what processes I was going to use. Full disclosure - I spend a lot of time planning and taking notes. Some of my friends give me a good-natured hard time because of it. And I know that some people don't enjoy those parts of brewing and would rather brew a bit more spontaneously. That doesn't work as well for me but if that's what you find enjoyable about the hobby and you are happy with that, then I think you are fine to keep with it. Anyway, this planning helped things run smoother on brew day, but more importantly the brews were easier to learn from since I knew and thought about what I was going to do before I did it. Therefore I was able to test out more stuff, and when not directly testing something I still had a good record of what I did and what my reasoning was for doing it.
|Racking from the open primary into barrels and secondary.|
3) Connecting with others thinking about similar things -Starting up this blog has connected me with other brewers outside of my local homebrewing community. There are plenty of great brewers locally and I definitely learn from the things that they are doing, but discussions with others in different areas thinking about the same sorts of questions and brewing the same sorts of beers as me has helped me learn more about brewing the styles I am interested in (from both the discussions and the research I do to help feed the discussions) and has given me some new ideas. This is something that has happened much more than I expected it would.
4) Milk the Funk - In the later part of 2014 I started contributing to the Wiki for Milk the Funk, a new facebook group, forum and wiki for info about brewing sour and funky beers. I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of the name, but perhaps there is a good story about why they chose it that will make me like it (I felt the same way about The Rare Barrel until I heard their story). Anyway, that doesn't change the fact that it is a great resource for and community of brewers who love brewing the sour and funky beers. If that's the sort of thing you are interested in and haven't checked it out yet, you should. I'm happy to be contributing to the wiki to help bring together one site for info about brewing these types of beers and resources for learning more. It's a work in progress (as wikis will forever be) but some great stuff has been put up in a relatively short amount of time so far.
Plans for 2015
1) Work on blending - The 'magic' of many of the beers I am most inspired by comes in how the beer develops in the barrel and how the brewer/blender uses the unique character of each to create a final product or final products that they are looking for. There are a few non-blended sour beers that I've had that I thought were really excellent, but the vast majority are blended. I've done a small amount of blending so far, but this has mostly been at bottling or in the glass with different homebrews
|By 2016 my barrel capacity won't be this awesome, but there is room to dream. At 3F.|
I expect a long learning curve for this. I imagine I'll try a couple of processes for the blending before I come up with the best one. And I would like to practice on shorter time scale brews like saisons before venturing into lambic-oriented blending of long-term complex mixed-microbe fermentation brews. I may also extend this blending to some clean beers, but for now the focus will be on soured saisons. It will be almost all carboy sours at this point as well, but hopefully I can put the two oak barrels that I share with friends to use with blending (and also hopefully expand my barrel aging).
2) Continue targeted brewing with style focuses - I think many of the advances I have made this year in brewing are due to pretty directed brewing. I'd like to continue with the yeast blending work I've been doing and solidify some blend selections. I also plan to work toward a blend of different bretts that I am happy with. I like some of the brett stuff I've done so far but I haven't found the right combination to get what I am looking for. So I'll probably transition a bit more toward working on adding single strains and blends to saisons to find the brett blend I'm looking for.
If I decide to step away from brewing funky and saison-oriented beers I'd like to do some focused work on hoppy pale ales. Over the last year I have been shifting toward lower abv more drinkable beers. I generally like having larger volumes of good low ABV beers (that are still flavorful) than A DIPA/barleywine/imperial whatever. Not that I don't also like those in moderation, but that's the way my brewing and beer consumption has been shifting. I like drinking beer, what can I say... So anyway, the goal with the hoppy pale ales is to try different processes for trying to get the hop character in some of my favorite commercial hoppy beers. I've brewed some alright IPAs before and I've been happy with them, but some breweries just really stand out in excellent hop use (and it's not always more is better) and I want to work on that. We'll see if I can be torn away from saisons and funky/sour beers long enough to work on this.