One Year

IMG_0261Today is the one year anniversary of this blog. I think I did enough looking back when I ended my daily posts to last a good long while, but I did want to acknowledge the anniversary for my own records.

I am behind. I brewed a couple weeks ago and have yet to post about it. The good thing about not posting every day is that I have time to edit my posts and get them to a point that I actually like them. The downside is that without a deadline, I am probably overthinking things. I will get that recipe post up this week, though.

Tasting notes are still coming as a weekly feature, but I want to bank several of them beforehand to make sure that once I start, I can actually stick to the schedule. That will probably take another couple weeks. I have plenty of beers to cover.

There are some other posts I’ve been thinking about, not directly tied to any of my batches. I haven’t started writing of them, but I’m hoping to get some of these ideas down soon. I feel like I’ve spent the last few months posting “stay tuned, more content coming soon!” But really, stay tuned, more content coming soon!

2015 Brewing Plans

20140415-192907.jpgIt’s already February, I should be done announcing my plans for the year by now, but this is it, I promise. I have a few broad ideas as well as some more specific ones for my brew schedule this year and now that I’ve shared how I plan to write them up, I’ll let you in on what I’ll be making.

My first brew of the year was a new batch of Elkland Amber Ale. I plan to bring back several more recipes, most of which have become annual staples at this point. Next up on this list is Elkland Lager. The first batch of this beer from two years ago was Elkland Adjunct Lager, last year I called it Elkland Golden Lager, with the amber version converting to ale, I’m planning to simplify to just Elkland Lager this year.

Next up will be Table Cat. The first version of this beer, Bier De Table Cat from 2013, was too bitter among other problems. Last year’s was one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. It was gone way too quickly. As I’ve mentioned before, I recently bought a new fifteen gallon kettle, so the batch size of this quaffer is going to be as large as I can fit in there. Otherwise, I’m keeping the recipe as close to last year’s as possible.
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Old SMaSHy barley wine and Jade Otter, made from its second runnings will also be three-peating. I think I’ll be sticking with the yeast I used last year for Old SMaSHy and continue trying new Belgian strains for Jade Otter. I may up the hops even more, as well because they still seemed pretty mild last year.

My latest batch of Mount Hoodie is still lagering, but I plan to continue that tradition for a fourth year, as well. There are other beers and styles that I plan to repeat, though they don’t fit the seasonal nature of the ones I’ve already listed. I would normally already be drinking this year’s Amy Ni-Kölsch, but scheduling hasn’t worked out so far, it will be making a return later in the year. I’m going to be doing more Berlin(er Weisse) and a version with ginger.

Those will not be my only wheat beers, either. I’m planning to experiment with several wheat beer styles that I haven’t tried yet this Spring. I’m going to brew an American Wheat Beer, a Belgian Wit and a Gose. I did ‘Merican Wit, a hoppy wit beer, a couple years ago, but I’m going traditional this year. Gose is somewhat similar to Berliner Weisse, so I have that experience to help but I still need to do more research to get as traditional as I can. As for the American Wheat, that is a newer style that is still evolving. My plan is to use a neutral ale yeast with a lot of Red Wheat in a moderately hoppy beer.

The American Wheat will be ready for Memorial Day, the others will be around that time period as well. Hopefully before that, I will be starting my first full on sour beer. I’ve experimented with several lacto fermented beers and more recently some Brett beers, in the coming months I’ll be using the full range of yeast and bacteria to ferment a Flemish Red Ale. My plan is to do two sour beers this year, starting with the Red in the Spring, followed by something else in the Fall. I don’t know what that beer will be, but I want to get a couple things going so I can keep a solid flow of sour beer once I get the first taste.

Speaking of that Brett, though, I have more plans for long aging beers. I’m hoping to do another Old Ale. This time, I will get more traditional, though. A strong, dark, English Ale which I will ferment traditionally and then age on oak with Brett. I hope to do one or two more generations with the Brett that is sitting under Green Painted Gold before then, but I don’t have specific plans yet.
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A lot of these plans are sure to change and a lot more will be added. In the immediate future, I’m planning a Pre-Prohibition American Pilsner and a double batch of Porter (half normal and half with bourbon, oak and vanilla). I’d like to fit in one more lager while it’s still cold. I want to do another, more traditional Saison this Summer. I also want to do a lot more session beer. We’ll all just have to wait and see how much of this I manage to get to.

2015 Blog Plan

20140527-181402-65642435.jpg Last year, this blog was probably the biggest change in my homebrewing. Posting about every batch and keeping the blog going every day meant I had to put a lot more effort into not only keeping track of what I was doing, but also planning what I was going to do in upcoming batches.

That helped my brewing a lot, but the daily posts also ate up a lot of the time I had to commit to the hobby. The new format I’m going to be adopting for future brews will be broken up differently to hold me even more accountable, take less time and hopefully, make the blog easier to follow.

In the past, I’ve done huge brew day posts covering everything leading up to and including the day that the beer is brewed. Then I did periodic batch updates, covering any beers that were in process. Some beers were covered in multiple batch update posts, some were never mentioned. Then, finally I did tasting notes.

My plan going forward is to write a post prior to brew day, the bulk of which will be the recipe. I will explain how I got to this recipe, cover any unique processes I’m going to use and if I want to, I can write more about the style, history or my plan for the beer.

Then, I’ll post again covering everything that happens from brew day to packaging. Any changes to the plan that became necessary (or happened anyway) and any notes about how the brew day or fermentation went. Some overly complex beers, PROOF for example, may require a couple of these posts, but in general it will be one update per batch. I will also try to include the label artwork in these posts.

Again, I’ll follow up with tasting notes. I’m going to expand my tasting notes a little bit, though. Not the way I write them, just how often. I’m not going back to daily posts, but I do plan to start weekly tasting notes. I’m way behind on tasting notes right now, but after I get caught up, I will be able to start doing multiple rounds of tasting notes for age-able beers, or just things that I think are worth taking another look at.

My tasting notes are very tied to the time that they are done, they are not meant to be definitive. I want to do more comparative tasting notes, either pairing related homebrews or homebrew to commercial beer that inspired it or even food pairings. I may even start doing tasting notes on commercial beers on their own. Not just random beers, though, only if they are inspiring future homebrews or tied to homebrewing in some way.

Beyond these posts about my brewing process and the results of that process, I hope to expand the blog out of the homebrewery. I want to try to attend and cover more beer related events. Whether that means beerfests, homebrew club meetings, classes or just tap takeovers at local bars, I will include more commercial beer related topics but I will always tie them back in to homebrewing.

Beyond the new three post set up for all brews, I just want to get more involved in local events and reflect that here. I feel like I’ve gotten very insular with my homebrewing in the last couple years and I think that has gotten me pretty far with the quality of my beer, but I think I’m ready to start sharing and I know that I’m ready to dive back in to brewfests and the more social aspects of the hobby in general. It seems only appropriate to reflect that here.

Joining the Lancaster Brewers homebrew club has been a huge influence on this direction, but other smaller influences are also related. The Lancaster Community Supported Beer program has gotten me to make more trips to local breweries, and I plan to write more about that soon. Untappd, especially in conjunction with the other two things I’ve already mentioned, has helped me get more social and given something to talk about.

Stay tuned to see how well I keep to this plan. Last year, I shared my ideas with the Internet via this blog. This year I want to share them with my local peers and report on my experiences here. Thank you to anyone who has given this any attention.

Status Update

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Hello everybody, if you’re still there. Sorry, I’m a bit behind. I have a few posts in the works, but as I feared when I ended my daily posting routine, I’m having a bit of trouble committing to finishing them. I have too many ideas and not enough attention to follow through. That is going to change, though.

I have two more batches from 2014 to post about as well as one from January second of this year. After that, I have a 2014 wrap up/look back post and after that I will finally get into the new stuff I’ve been planning since I started my blogging break.

The first of those brew day posts will be up tomorrow. Hopefully I can get the rest of that stuff up over the next week or so and launch into the new direction before the end of the month.

My point is, stay tuned. I’m very excited about where I’m going and I can’t wait to dive in.

Week Forty Two?

IMG_5321This is it. I’ve been threatening (promising?) that my daily posts were coming to an end for the last several weeks, and now we’re here. This is my two hundred eighty eighth post in as many days and my last for a little bit.

I have covered every batch of beer that I’ve brewed in the last four years and done tasting notes on as many of them as I still have around. That was my goal in starting this blog and now that I’ve accomplished it, it is time for the blog to change course.

I’m going to take a few weeks off and come back with a new format in the new year. I have some time off work over the holidays, so, of course I plan to brew a few batches. I don’t want to get behind, so I’ll still make brew day posts for them, but that will be it until I work out the kinks in the new format.

I’ll return in January, first to outline what the new format will be and then to update on all my current and upcoming batches, then launch into the new blog. When I started this blog, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was going to become and it has evolved through necessity as I forced myself to post seven days a week. In phase two, I’ll take what I’ve learned and put in a lot more planning to make the blog more consistent and hopefully all around better. I’m hoping to post two or three times a week in the new year, but the main goal will just be to raise the quality of the content here.

I’ve written over one hundred seventy one thousand words on this blog this year and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve stuck with it, but I definitely think it is time to try to take more pride in the individual posts.

Before I get to the new format, I’ll be brewing my second Brett beer and starting this Winter’s series of lagers… and maybe one or two more batches, so check back for write ups on those brew days over the holidays and come back in the new year to see what I have planned for phase two. For now, I’m signing off to catch my breath. Thanks to everyone who has been following along since I started this blog on February 24, whether you’ve read all 288 posts, skimmed them or just picked the ones that interested you, I appreciate it.

Hop Holiday IPA Tasting Notes

Original Post: Hop Holiday 2013 Christmas IPA
Style: Belgian IPA
Brew Date: November, 2013
Tasting Date: December 4, 2014
ABV: 7.8%
IBUs: 70

IMG_5231A year old IPA is never a good look, but a year old Belgian IPA at least has something going on beyond the hops. I drank one of these recently and was surprised by how much I still enjoyed it. Let’s see if that holds true today.

The color is orange, bordering on amber and there is a big, pillowy white head. The beer is very clear, though I can’t seem to illustrate that with these pictures.

In the aroma I get hints of lemon, a little bit of ginger and the big highlight is pine sap. Yes, pine sap. It is piney, but in a totally different way than American IPA hop bombs. I don’t know how else to describe it other than sap. It smells like freshly cut pine trees. Or, as you may think of them, Christmas trees.

The sappy goodness comes out even more in the first sip. There is some serious bitterness behind it and the ginger comes through more now. I remember being disappointed by how little ginger came out when the beer was fresh but I guess the hops have faded more than it initially seems because it is more obvious now.

I am surprised how little this beer seems to have changed overall, though. I was sort of torn on this beer initially. My goal was a ginger spiked piney IPA with some Belgian fermentation character. How I ended up with a fresh-cut-Christmas-tree-sap bomb, I’m not sure but it ultimately proved to be pretty appropriate for a Christmas beer.

This is definitely not for everyone, as I said, I wasn’t even sure it was for me at first. It really grew on my, though. It is so immediately identifiably unique, too which is making me feel nostalgic for the holidays last year.

I could definitely see “cleaning product” being the complaint on this one. Pine Sol is not an invalid comparison here. It almost seems like it is artificially flavored because the fresh pine character is just too perfect and distinct.

The alcohol content shows itself a bit in the finish, but the sap sticks around and keeps it from being a problem. At 7.8% ABV, this is definitely pushing the limits of a single IPA, but it is so strongly flavored that I think another couple percent could be tacked on without changing the character too much. Not that I think that would be a good idea.

IMG_5233I really like this as a once a year specialty beer. I could see myself getting excited to get my pint of it every December if it was an annual offering at a local brew pub. I kind of want to revisit it for this reason, but at the same time… I’m not sure if that translates to wanting two cases of it at the house.

This beer is unique and interesting but it is definitely not endlessly drinkable. And as a hoppy beer, it shouldn’t be a good candidate for extended aging, which makes it maybe not the best choice for a homebrewer like myself. Most of my homebrew fits into one of those two categories. I either want an easy drinking, low alcohol beer that I can mow through quickly, or a big complex beer that I can age for a couple years and just drink one of every now and then (often preceded or followed by several beers from earlier category).

I’m still not completely sure what to think of this beer. I may need to brew up another batch next year just to figure it out.

Night Work Belgian Brown Ale Tasting Notes

Original Post: Night Work Brew Day
Style: American Belgian Brown Ale with Raspberries and Cherry Juice
Brew Date: October 28, 2014
Tasting Date: December 4, 2014
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 20
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This beer definitely fits the “brown ale” tag, but there are hints of red both in the highlights and also in the foam. There is definitely some fruit influence immediately obvious.

Getting past vision and on to smell, the fruit becomes more clear. There is definitely some raspberry. The cherry isn’t identifiable at first, but there is something more going on than just the raspberry. It smells sweet. It smells great, really. Some of the fruit on the nose seems like it could be fermentation character. I haven’t used this yeast before so I’m not sure what the aroma might have been without the fruit. I would definitely like to try this White Labs’ Belgian Ale, aka Chouffe yeast again, though.

Taking a sip, the cherry comes out a lot more. The raspberry is still there, and they are somewhat neck and neck at this point, but I think the cherry asserts itself a bit more early in the sip. The fruits almost compete, but it is definitely in a good way. They don’t get muddled, but they do keep things from being one dimensional.

The slightly roasty, somewhat chocolatey and very fruity Caramel malt keeps things from being two dimensional. The low gravity is fairly obvious and the mouth feel is a bit thin, but there is a lot going on here. The malts definitely play second fiddle to the fruit, but they do make it obvious that this is, in fact, a beer.
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The cherry really takes over at the end and lingers in the aftertaste when everything else is gone. The finish is my only problem here. It is very thin and ends with cherry and carbonation. The flavor is great but the mouthfeel is a bit lacking.

That keeps this from being upper echelon, but I’m still very happy with this beer. It is interesting and complex, but also light and easy to drink. I think it could actually work better over the Summer, but on this cold post-night-shift December morning, I still finished the bottle already.