Homebrew Highlights of the 2010’s

As we turn over not just one but two digits in the calendar year, from 2019 to 2020, it makes me reflect on how I’ve grown as a brewer. So, what happened in the ten years of 2010 through 2019?

Beer bottles
An early batch, all bottled up and ready to condition in my closet.
  • Process
    • At the start of 2010, I was doing extract-only, partial volume boils in a 5 gallon pot on my stove. I had no fermentation temperature control, so was limited to brewing during the cooler months of the year, and bottled exclusively. Some of this was due to space (I was living in a one-bedroom apartment), some of it was money (I hadn’t yet bought the full assortment of equipment), and some of it was skill–I hadn’t yet practiced that much!
    • As we close out 2019, I’m doing all-grain, batch-sparge, full volume brew days. I’m using two temperature-controlled fermentation chambers, and then kegging my beers to serve via a three-faucet keezer. 2014 was the biggest year for this, as we moved into a new place that had much more space to set up a brewery.
  • Ingredients
    • In 2010, I was brewing with a limited supply of ingredients from a very small brew shop supplemented by mail order. The world of ingredients was quite a bit narrower then, and things like Citra and Mosaic and craft malting weren’t even in my vocabulary. Because I was only brewing with extract, I was heavily reliant upon a narrow selection of extract products.
    • In 2019, the world of ingredients is scarcely recognizable. Some of this is due to my process changes, as I get to know new malts. Much of this is due to a new array of suppliers and products. We have a truly excellent, well-stocked local homebrew shop very close by (Pacific Brewing Supplies of San Dimas), so I can easily get 95% of what I might ever need via them. There are so many new hops and yeasts and yeast suppliers and malting companies that I can’t even pretend to keep up. It’s awesome!
Wild hops — part of an experimental saison I brewed a few times.
  • Style
    • In 2010, I was brewing a variety of fairly “traditional” ales–brown ales, pale ales, wheat beers, etc. I was severely limited by space and temperature control!
    • In 2019, I’ve tried brewing everything from kettle sours to obscure European wheat ales to light lagers. The world feels wide open, and I’ve embraced lagers in a way I never imagined possible.
  • Community
    • In 2010, I was brewing totally solo, perhaps having friends over from time to time. I didn’t have much to challenge me (beyond myself), and it was hard to get honest feedback from trained palates.
    • In 2019, I am active in a local homebrew club, and know a fair number of brewers outside that circle. This has added considerably to my enjoyment of the hobby, helped me meet new people, and has also opened up new ways to challenge myself and get helpful feedback. I love club contests that push me to try new styles, and I like getting comments from a friendly yet critical crew of tasters. In the bigger sense of community, I’ve had opportunities to contribute to Zymurgy magazine and present at HomebrewCon. I never would have imagined this being a possibility back in 2010!
  • Commercial
    • In 2010, homebrew comprised only a small percentage of my beer consumption. I made four or five batches annually, and as a result had to make up the rest with commercial purchases. The commercial landscape for local craft beers was quite narrow at the time–we only had two or three breweries within a reasonable drive, and the reasonable drive didn’t exactly encourage sampling much (unless I had a driver!).
    • In 2019, there are so many local breweries that I can’t possibly sample them all. Access to Lyft helps a lot, but between money (it’s expensive to go to breweries constantly), liver (I drink less than I used to, and breweries just ain’t doing much less than 5% abv), and time (we’ve got two kids now), I don’t get out as much as I might. I would say 95% of my beer consumption now is my own homebrew. I brew enough that I can usually keep plenty on tap, and I can also brew lower alcohol beers and styles that don’t get as much attention in local craft breweries. It’s virtually impossible to find a quality German-style lager locally (and imports are incredibly hit or miss), so I gotta make ’em myself!
Getting ready for my presentation at the 2017 HomebrewCon
  • Recipe Highlights
    • If I had to pick one recipe to represent each year, what would it be?
      • 2010
        • Premium Oatmeal Stout — the brew session was a bit of a scramble, but it was (in my recollection) a pretty nice beer.
      • 2011
        • Vanilla Voay Porter — another one of my early dark beers. These styles tended to be more enjoyable, because they tended to cover up the sins of the learning process more than a lighter beer could.
      • 2012
      • 2013
        • Citation Porter — I didn’t brew much this year (new kid and all), so Citation Porter gets mentioned more by default than anything.
      • 2014
      • 2015
        • Pannotia White IPA — you just don’t see this style on the market, which is unfortunate. I find it far more interesting and drinkable than your average haze-bomb. It’s got plenty of fruit and citrus character, but also still tastes like a beer.
      • 2016
      • 2017
        • Raspberry Belgian — a sour beer, and one that is really hard to keep on hand because it goes so quickly. I need to play with this recipe more in the future…
      • 2018
        • Jamaica Wit — another Belgian, bringing together a Californian twist with hibiscus flowers.
      • 2019
Cheers to the 2010s, and on to the 2020s!