Last night I pulled out a bottle of my 2016 Gingerbread Winter Warmer, and poured a snifter. Although I had kegged that beer way back in the day, I emptied the keg into a few bottles for extended aging. I figure I’ll open one a year, until the bottles are gone.
More than a year after brewing, this is a fairly enjoyable winter beer. It’s got a decent banana note, a rich, malty flavor, and a thin ivory head that disperses a few minutes after pouring. I think there might have been a little secondary fermentation in the bottle, because it seems a bit more carbonated than I remember.
We’ll do this again in a year or two!
I’ll be talking about “The Dinosaur in My Beer” for Nerd Nite Los Angeles this Thursday! The event is hosted at Busby’s East, 5364 Wilshire Ave., from 7 pm to 10 pm, with the action starting at 7:45 pm. Two other speakers are on the docket for that evening–should be a fun time! Each TED-style talk is slotted for around 20 minutes each. Tickets are $10 each, and they can be ordered here.
It’s a new year! Having reflected on the past year of brewing as well as how I hit my resolutions for the previous year, I’m ready to set out some goals for 2018.
- Pitch a new article for a homebrew publication.
- This is a holdover from last year. I had one article published in Zymurgy during 2017; now, I just have to get a pitch together for something else during 2018.
- Perfect my oatmeal stout recipe.
- I entered my Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout in the first-round 2017 NHC, and scored an exceptionally pleasing 40. Unfortunately, comments for improvement were pretty vague (which was a bit disappointing, given the caliber of judging there). I’m going to modify the base malt a bit, perhaps, and see if I can’t kick up the score and make it into the second round.
- Brew some more sour beer recipes.
- I had great success during the past two years with a Berliner Weisse and am working towards a respectable raspberry Belgian sour. I’m hoping to hone the raspberry Belgian, and brew at least one other kettle soured beer. A gose or another Berliner Weisse will hopefully be in the mix.
- Brew a perfect IPA.
- I feel like my IPAs are good right now, but could be better. A lot of this might be in dry-hop handling; I usually keg-hop the things, but end up with a result that can be a bit harsh. The upside of this is that loss of hop flavor from oxidation is less of an issue. It’s time to find a happy medium. For 2018, I want to experiment with different ways of hopping and transferring IPAs, to finally hit peak IPA! I’ll probably start with a return to dry-hopping in the primary…I need to first see if drop-off in hop aroma is even that big of a deal anymore given my kegging and cold storage setup. I had preliminary attempts for my Thanksgiving IPA, but it didn’t stick around long enough to verify hop longevity!
- Hit my calculated starting gravities more consistently.
- I’ve found that I am often 0.02 or 0.03 off my starting gravity, usually a touch on the low side. This is almost entirely a boil-off rate issue, so I want to dial that in a bit better this year.
This should be plenty to keep me busy–I’ll check in at the end of the year to see how well I did!
Nearly a year ago, I drafted a set of Brew Year’s Resolutions for 2017. Let’s check in and see how I did!
- Do more science communication with homebrew as a vehicle.
- This goal was a solid win! I gave my “The Dinosaur in My Beer” lecture in various forms for five different venues, including Homebrew Con, and have more on the way. It has inspired me to do yet more with homebrew scicomm–something to look forward to in 2018!
- Pitch another article for a homebrew publication.
- I didn’t get this one. Move it forward to 2018!
- Explore lagers and pilsners in more depth.
- Use water chemistry more effectively.
- I’m feeling really good about this one! I’ve done a lot more building water from scratch where appropriate, and feel like my beers are improved as a result. I’ve definitely fixed the formerly “flabby” character of my blonde and wheat beers, which is a major win.
- Dial in my brewing system parameters more tightly.
- This one was a partial win. Thanks to modifications in my mash-in procedure, I’m hitting that temperature pretty consistently. I’m less happy with how closely I’m hitting starting gravities; I need to up the boil-off rates for my calculations. Once that’s done, I should be in good shape.
- Enter at least three homebrew competitions.
- I got two out of three on this one. I entered Romancing the Brew and the NHC, but never quite got around to doing a third competition. I think I’m okay with that. At this stage in brewing, I’ve earned enough medals to feel confident in my product, but the overall feedback is becoming progressively less valuable. My strategy moving forward will be to enter competitions opportunistically, aiming for at least two in 2018.
In the end, I racked up three total wins, two partial wins, and two misses in the 2017 Brew Year’s Resolutions. I’m pretty happy with this–now time to start drafting my 2018 resolutions!
2017 was a fun and productive year for my brewing. Here’s are some of the highlights:
- Favorite Batch
- My first Munich dunkel brought together several techniques I had been practicing–water adjustments, late addition of dark grains, and lagering. It came out nearly perfectly, creating an intensely enjoyable and very drinkable beer.
- Least Favorite Batch
- Czech-ed Out Pilsner
- My first dumped batch. When the hops have a funny aroma in the bag, they’re not going to have a better aroma in the brew. This ended up as a grassy-smelling mess (even though it looked beautiful). Lesson learned!
- Experimental Recipe with Most Potential
- Raspberry Belgian (version 1 and version 2)
- I did two iterations of this batch; one with frozen raspberries and acid malt to provide fruit and tartness, respectively, and one with canned raspberry puree and kettle souring. The first batch hit the fruit flavor much better, although it wasn’t terribly tart. The second batch didn’t have nearly as nice of flavor or as pretty of a color, and was almost too sour. So, I’ll probably try another kettle-soured version that hits less acid (maybe a pH around 3.8?) and uses frozen fruit. With a bit of tweaking, this recipe should be a solid one.
- Most Fun New Style/Recipe to Try
- Red Rye Lager
- I haven’t tasted the results yet, but this batch was just plain fun to plan and brew. I enjoyed experimenting more with rye, as well as applying my developing skills for lagers. It was probably the most creative brew I’ve done in awhile, in terms of going off-script for recipes.
- Best Technique Added to Repertoire
- Kettle souring with yogurt
- I tried this with the second iteration of the Raspberry Belgian, and loved the concept. It’s way cheaper and easier than buying a fancy bacterial culture, and produces a nice, clean sourness. I want to try this with a few other styles, such as Berliner Weisse.
- Best Ingredient Added to Repertoire
- I discovered the Amoretti Craft Puree series at Homebrew Con this year (we got a bottle in our “swag bag”), and have really been enjoying playing with it. It seems to fill a nice niche in between fruit extracts and straight fruit purees; the blood orange variety went nicely with my American wheat beer, and I also crafted a tasty peach IPA with the stuff. 2018 will bring more brews with this series of purees!
- Favorite Book
- As we close out the year, I just finished Pete Brown‘s Miracle Brew. I’ve enjoyed Brown’s writing, since I discovered Hops and Glory, and this book is a worthy successor. Brown excels at combining travelogue with beer history, while being pretty entertaining in the process. Miracle Brew is no exception–he surveys the history and cultural influence of major beer ingredients, while introducing us to many of the folks behind the scenes. His books tilt towards the British (I got a bit lost in the otherwise enjoyable Man Walks Into a Pub, because I’m not immersed in British pub culture), but this one is cosmopolitan enough to be engaging even for us Americans. Highly recommended!
- Other Milestones
- It was a good year for blending beer and science communication; I had an article in Zymurgy on the evolution of hops, which presented a ton of new information on hops that hadn’t made it into the brewing literature yet. Additionally, I put together a slide presentation on the intersections between beer and paleontology, which I gave at several venues (including HomebrewCon).
- Overall Stats
- I brewed around 30 batches this past year–that’s a new record!