Looking Back on the News and Brews of 2014

2014 has seen more changes to my brewery and brewing practice than just about any year since I started brewing. In part, this happened because I feel comfortable enough with the hobby–and that I’ll be brewing for the long-term–to invest in more equipment. This in turn was enabled by a move into a new place that had a garage with utility sink, so I was able to get the operation out of the kitchen (with its various space, sanitation, and process limitations) and into a dedicated brewing area. More space meant more equipment…which meant more options for brewing! As a result, I feel like I have really grown and improved as a brewer. This has been challenging at times–the switch to all-grain was like learning to brew all over again! But, the challenges have been mostly fun and solvable; the best kinds of challenges to have.

A handy inscription on my mash tun

Major Changes in Technique / Equipment

  • Changing from partial volume to full volume boils. This was a relatively minor change in the grand scheme of things, but it did pave the way for all-grain brewing.
  • Transitioning into all-grain brewing. This is perhaps the largest and most enjoyable change. As mentioned above, in many ways it was like learning to brew all over again. New equipment, new things to worry about (or relax about). 
  • Improved temperature control. This change has allowed me to extend my brewing season, as well as ensure happier yeast during my previous “usual” brewing season (late fall through early spring).
  • Yeast starters. Where I had been relying largely on dry yeast, I am excited to expand into some new strains in the world of liquid yeast packaging.
  • Beginning the transition into kegging. As I finish out the year, I’ve been building a keezer setup, with anticipated “first draft” in the first week or two of the New Year.
Favorite Brews of 2014
  • Bonedigger Brown Ale. This may be the first recipe I’ve ever designed that turned out perfect on first try. I chalk it up to dumb luck, and will definitely put this into regular rotation!
  • Gondwana Pale Ale. This one took two iterations, but ended up as a nice showcase for Citra hops (my new favorite hop variety–it will be tough to hold back on overusing this one!).
  • Summer Blonde Ale. This ale was my first temperature-controlled brew, and ended up as a quite drinkable warm-weather concoction. This too is going into regular rotation!
Goals for 2015
  • Experiment with new ingredients–yeast, hops, and malts. I have worked a lot with “classics” such as crystal malt, basic American and British yeasts (e.g., Nottingham, various Chico strains, etc.), and Cascade hops. In the upcoming year, I would like to expand into some untouched territory.
  • Perfect kegging and in-keg carbonation of my homebrew, along with small-scale bottling from the keg. I’m thinking about building a bottling gun, just for fun.
  • Develop an in-house white IPA recipe. While I was traveling recently, I got a chance to try an amazing Italian white IPA (Lariano Vergött), and since then have been dreaming about devising one of my own.
  • Brew and/or develop more session beer recipes. Pretty much what it says.
  • Brew a lager. Now that I have good temperature control, I can start to think about lagers and pilsners. This opens up a whole new world of styles and techniques, of course. 
Summer Blonde Ale
Homebrew Roll Call (everything I brewed in 2014)