Starting in February, I ventured on a journey of discovery to learn how to brew beer at home. While the production of quality drinking games suffered during this time, valuable knowledge was gained and moderate success was achieved in a few concoctions. Here are my takeaways of the year to learn from and improve on for 2015.
This first beer didn’t taste terrible, which was a grand success for how inexperienced I was. Freaking out about cleanliness probably was a good paranoia to have, as there was no indication of flavor problems. However, pitching the yeast too warm (74 degrees) and hesitancy to aerate probably stunted its development, and the first try at carbonation didn’t work. I also bit off more than I could chew by trying specialty grains and a secondary fermentation a bit prematurely. No matter! The seal has been broken, and some lessons were learned.
This was more like it. Just half a pound of grain used to ease back on the variability of the brew. Cooling outside in snow went faster, and proper aeration while using a volatile yeast really worked in this case. The only beer I got a photo of (this will happen more when the phone is upgraded), it turned out a little hazy but the carbonation was solid and the final result was quite tasty.
I would have liked to give this one a bit more effort as the ABV was quite low and the taste was pretty boring. However since the basis of this recipe was using up leftover hop pellets, next year provides high opportunity to get creative with a repeated effort.
This beer garnered the most acclaim from tasters, and was arguably the best beer of the year. Keeping things super simple with one pound of specialty malt while increasing the malt extract pushed the ABV up to 7.2%, and the CTZ pellet hops gave a wonderful bitter bite. The carbonation was balanced, the color was warm but not too brown, and the clarity was the best yet. It didn’t last long, but fresh IPA’s aren’t supposed to.
With the heat of the VT summer ever present and a lack of proper temperature control, I wanted to try a high temperature tolerant yeast and leaped at the chance to try a different variety of beer. This was also the first time I used a spice, non-malt adjunct, and gypsum to treat the liquor. Came out fantastic tasting, but lower in alcohol than I expected. Next year may call for an attempt at a Dubbel or Trippel.
As I sip you right now, you are the brew that I had the highest hopes for, and the one that disappointed me most. I tried my own recipe for CTDR this time, and learned a lot from this attempt. I think the key errors in the process was inconsistent temperature management, with primary and secondary fermentation and the carbonation process. The flavor was close, but the non-existent carbonation in the final product really hurt. A true work in progress, my idea for the recipe is there, now I just need to figure out how to execute it.
Malty Pirate Porter
Arghhh this be the beer that I didn’t blog about but took brewing notes on. This one was a slight recovery! Low in alcohol and carbonation but high in roasty flavoring, this one I could share with a disclaimer. I’ve really gotten into the dark beers as I’m learning, and want to make quite a few this upcoming year.
Maple Pumpkin Ale
Yumtown, I made this beer especially for All Hallows’ Eve to share with good friends and I really got what I was looking for. Most pumpkin ales are sweet and syrupy, not my favorite flavors (and not the favorites of the fine folks who sampled this one), so this beer has a hint of maple flavoring but was decidedly not sweet, but emitted strong vegetable/earthy flavor from the pumpkin.
Barkshack Ginger Mead
We’ll see what happens with this one! I got the recipe from Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing and snuck it in before the end of the year. I used a ton of damn good honey, freshly grated gingerroot, and 3 pounds of raspberries to flavor the mead. This thing will be bottled with some strong lemongrass tea in February and left to sit until the end of 2015.
Goals for 2015
- Solve the temperature control problem
- Craft a gluten free beer
- Build an all-grain brewing setup and craft a lager
- Increase output by 33%