Because this is an incredibly busy time of year in the non-beer part of my life, April slid past and now we’re a good chunk of the way into May. So, I’ve got a combined post this time around.
Beer Batch Updates
I have kegged my Belgian pale ale, and it won both the brew club competition as well as the Southern California Homebrew Festival bragging rights competition! My personal assessment was that it was a decent beer, but not fantastic. But, I guess I was wrong.
I brewed and kegged a version of my orange wheat ale, to go to the SoCal Homebrew Festival. It’s not my best iteration, but it will do. Because my Anvil Foundry was down for a month or so (see below), I went back to a standard mash with batch sparge. Something went sideways–mismeasure of grain mass, maybe?–and I only got 50% mash efficiency.
I brewed and kegged an American IPA, focusing on a more traditional piney/citrusy profile. I used Centennial, Cascade, and Amarillo hops to reach this goal.
I brewed the 2022 iteration of Alta California Lager on 24 April, and it is now in the final stages of fermentation before cold crashing.
I brewed a Scottish 70/- Heavy on 7 May, in order to have a flavorful but lower alcohol beer on-hand. I’m letting it ferment out at ambient temperature (around 66 to 68° in the garage), which is perhaps taking a small chance but I also think it’s a recipe that will benefit from a fruitier yeast character. I used US-05, so any fruitiness will probably be fairly restrained.
What’s On Tap?
My Pre-Prohibition Lager is on tap, and wow is it delicious. It’s exactly the beer I wanted to bridge into the warm days of spring! I’m going to be sad when it’s finished.
My American IPA is on tap, and it’s a bit young yet but will come into its own as it settles out. The flavor is awesome (a classic late 1990s West Coast IPA), but the yeast haven’t dropped completely clear yet, so it’s a bit on the hazy side. It’s got a great flavor of citrus and resin and pine.
I am moving my orange wheat ale on-tap soon, to fill the vacancy left after my altbier keg kicked.
What’s Coming Up?
I’m thinking about another IPA, something to highlight the tropical-type hops that I’ve been getting in my HOPBOXes. The draft version I’ve got uses Azacca, HBC 586, and Idaho Gem…I’m not sure if I’ll stay in that space, but it seems like a start.
I’m also looking at a German pils, using 100% Barke Pilsner malt, and Saphir+Hallertauer Mittelfrueh for the hops.
It feels like another beer should happen before some big events this summer (fieldwork, travel, and a house move), but I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe a dark or amber lager?
Back in March, I had some issues with my (otherwise beloved) Anvil Foundry. It turned out to be a bum power switch…after a bit of back-and-forth with their tech support and a new switch+wire, I am back in business! Even though I am past warranty, I really appreciate that they covered this replacement.
After about five months of fermentation, my beer vinegar (made from my weissbier) was ready to go. It had some amazing vinegar mother action (see image below). The flavor is exceptional, just like malt vinegar that you would put on fish and chips. I used it to spritz a pork shoulder during an extended smoke, and the flavors blended really nicely. I can’t wait to try another batch!
Once again, it’s time to look ahead to the new year of brewing. What would I like to achieve in 2022?
I’ve always had session-strength beers as a regular part of my brewing rotation, and have had some really great successes. I’ve done well with IPAs and stouts, and would now like to branch out a bit. I recently made a session strength dark mild, which I just put on tap and am really enjoying. A Scottish 70-/Heavy is on the schedule, and I might even aim for a patersbier soon.
I recently had the 1903 Lager from Craftsman Brewing Company (Pasadena), and this beer was amazing as a pre-Prohibition style lager that clocks in at 5.2% abv. The malt character was fantastic, against some really nice hop qualities. It’s hard to find much information on this beer, so I’m going to need to look around a bit in the world of pre-Prohibition lagers to figure out a comparable recipe. In any case, this is a beer style I want to make!
I’ve made some good IPAs, and even some great ones, but I’ve not yet settled on a “house” recipe. I need to change that. I have found that “traditional” West Coast IPAs with a heft measure of Centennial and Cascade are most to my taste, so I want to revisit previoussuccesses and see if I can’t replicate those. I might even return to a session rye IPA, to hit the session beer goal again.
I set a goal to brew more with kveik, and did get two batches in with this family of yeast cultures, both IPAs. They turned out OK, but not great. I’ll probably play around more with kveik in the future, but I feel that the trend has perhaps run its course for my brewing tastes and needs.
Final Score: 5/10
I set out to perfect a German pils, and came close. I’ve figured out my general grain bill and bitterness regimes, and now it’s just a matter of continued iteration. The Pilsnerpeton batch is perhaps the best from 2020/2021, and Farke’s Best Pils also came out pretty great. I just need a little more practice, and I’ll get there.
Final Score: 7/10
Big Beers in Small Batches.
I’m feeling really great about this one. I ended up with three small-batch beers higher than 7% abv, including the excellent Winter Dream Ale. Although I could have brewed more of these, I am actually pretty satisfied with where I landed on this goal. Each of the beers turned out fairly well, and it was about the perfect quantity for what I had energy to drink (or share).
Final Score: 8/10
I didn’t do great on this one, probably because I got distracted by other brewing projects. Alongside the aforementioned Winter Dream Ale, I fermented three other beers with Belgian yeast. Two of these were old favorites (Raspberry Belgian and Pannotia White IPA), and another was a big quad for a homebrew club barrel project. So…I really have work to do here next year. Maybe a patersbier for Lent?
Final Score: 4/10
Overall Assessment of 2021: 6/10 for brewing goals — not great, but not awful. I still had fun, though!
Winter Dream Ale. High-alcohol beers are not the sort of thing I do all the time, but this particular recipe was really enjoyable in the Christmas to New Year’s stretch. It had a nice mix of flavor and body, making an interesting beer without addition of spices or strange adjuncts.
Most Fun New Style/Recipe to Try
I had fun putting together an amber kellerbier, in Dimorphos Kellerbier. I really freestyled it in the recipe, and achieved a tasty result.
Upcoming Beer With Most Potential
I have another Pliny the Elder clone fermenting right now, and I’m crossing my fingers that it turns out well!
Best Technique Added to Repertoire
I’ve been using a Hochkurz mash semi-regularly, and like the results in terms of extract yield as well as fermentability and flavor.
Best Ingredient Added to Repertoire
The HOPBOX was a lot of fun to play with, and gave me a nice IPA as a result. I’ll be enjoying the next iterations as they arrive this year.
For Christmas, I received a copy of Dark Lagers: History, Mystery, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (by Thomas Kraus-Weyermann and Horst Dornbusch)…it has been a fun one to browse! The historical information is interesting, the recipes seem solid, and the food recipes are also something I’ll look forward to trying.
I had some fun with other fermentables this year, including creation of miso paste as well as injera bread. I’ve continued with sauerkraut and homemade mustard, all of which are fantastic accompaniments for beer and sausage.
I brewed 31 batches of beer this past year, totalling around 150 gallons of beer produced.
No particular beer style dominated 2021, although I had three batches of German pils and two batches of American IPA as the most frequently brewed styles. Expanding into IPAs as a general category, I brewed seven recipes in the IPA world (including American, English, white, and double IPAs).
New Year, New Beer! I did fairly well in hitting most of my 2020 brewing resolutions, and I pushed my homebrew experience in some enjoyable new directions. This year is primarily about refinement–taking things I’ve done already, and working to perfect them or explore them in more detail.
I want to brew more with kveik. I had lots of fun exploring Hornindal from Omega, and will try out a few others this year, especially as the summer months hit. I’m particularly intrigued by Lutra and the concept of pseudo-lagers.
I want to perfect my German pils recipes, especially with the local water. I’m feeling pretty good about the basics, but need to dial things down a bit in terms of bitterness and amp up the aroma and flavor aspects of hop character.
Big Beers in Small Batches.
I sometimes like sampling bigger beers, but I almost never want five gallons of them. As a result, I’ve done little brewing of many higher gravity styles, or more unusual styles. I aim to change this in 2021, with more 2.5 gallon batches. I’ve started a bit of this already (as mentioned in the December 2020 brew update)
I like many Belgian beer styles, but I don’t love most of them enough to brew five gallons. As a corollary to the above resolution, I’m going to do some smaller batches of Belgian styles to explore that universe.