2014 – Beer in Review

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.

Better Red Than Dead Irish Red Ale

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.

Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale Clone

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.

Victor’s Spoils IPA

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.

Bums IPA

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.

Belgian Saison

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.

CTDR IPA

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%

Elf Drinking Game

elf movie poster

Elf is the gift that keeps on giving. The prospect of re-watching this film every Christmas gives me pause, because I tell myself I know exactly how the movie goes and why should I bother? Well, sometimes it’s good to bother. Hilarious lines emerged from nowhere and Elf emphatically made its mark to be included in the re-watched x-mas movies in this family. And what would make it even better? Getting jacked up on White House Egg Nog with the following drinking game rules!

Drink every time:

  • Anyone says “Buddy” or “Christmas”
  • A size difference becomes a problem
  • Buddy displays elf-like behavior
  • Someone sings
  • Favreau shoots an homage to another work of film

Death Rule

Drink every time someone says “Santa”.

1492: Conquest of Paradise Drinking Game

The latest version of Columbus Day is upon us, the celebration of the man who risked it all to sail for weeks into the unknown, searching for riches beyond reality. The results of discovering the new world were disastrous for the natives, beneficial for Europeans, and mostly met with apathy for history and gratitude to the federal government for granting a longer weekend for our precious schoolchildren by today’s population.

Before there was Gladiator and G.I. Jane, Ridley Scott tried his hand at an epic called 1492: Conquest of Paradise, released by Paramount to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery”. This movie lost nearly 40 million dollars, more than double the highest estimates of the original population of Natives living in North America. Karma’s a bitch, eh?

Nothing can get you excited for indigenous imperialism (and Portuguese Socialism) like the score for 1492 can. Echoing themes of the Hunt for Red October, the songs match with the epic scenes perfectly, setting the stage for even better work on subsequent Scott films.

Unfortunately, sitting through this slog of an epic is difficult. Chris Columbus is almost as difficult to understand as the drunken Irish chauffeur in The Quiet Man, and Queen Isabella’s personality is laughable in its lack of elitism. But there is a lesson to be learned. Did you know that Columbus didn’t originally instigate any violence, it was Count de Rochefort of Musketeers fame? That evil bastard couldn’t help himself, he just demanded respect and some indigenous action.

No-one needs an excuse to imbibe, so this Columbus Day, enhance your high and celebrate by shedding some light on history and watching this film with some ales.

Drink every time:

  • Anyone makes a reference to the earth being round
  • Inquisitional behavior occurs
  • Ridley Scott shoots an epic scene
  • Someone says “señor”
  • A horse spins around or rears

Death Rule

Drink any time a non-Spanish accent is spoken by a new character.

CTDR IIPA

I went off the reservation with batch number 6, beginning to craft my own recipes instead of trying to follow those posted by others, and also switching recipe detail records from digital to analog. CTDR is my first attempt at a true high gravity, super hoppy Imperial IPA. The “Vermont” IPA and double IPA styles currently exploding in the area was something that I wanted to avoid (go figure).

Instead of a golden, slightly hazy and citrus-y hop bomb inspired by Sip of Sunshine, Heady Topper, or a Foley Brothers Fair Maiden, I wanted to make a beer that was dark and violent, using Crystal 60L malt and light DME and LME with lots of CTZ and Chinook hops for an SRM of 11.65 and an IBU of 95.5.

I finished the 3.5 gallon boil with Cascade and used two Wyeast #1056 American Ale smack packs which resulted in near immediate development of krausen and subsequent fermenter overflow. I gave the beast a full 10 days to ferment and transferred it to glass, where it will stay until a scheduled bottling day on 9/10.

With an anticipated ABV of over 8%, I wanted to give CTDR some aggressive aging for a more complex taste. I’ll christen this beer in late September/early October with some friends for an aggressive new movie drinking game, preferably one about imperial conquest.

 

Belgian Saison

Recipe based off of David Ackley’s at blog.eckraus.com

Ingredients:

  • 6.5 lb Extra Light LME
  • 1 lb Caramel 10L
  • 4 oz Flaked oats
  • 1 oz Kent Goldings hops (6.3 AAU @ 60 min)
  • 0.5 oz Kent Goldings hops (6.3 AAU @ 30 min)
  • 0.25 oz fresh crushed coriander seed (20 min)
  • 0.5 oz Kent Goldings hops (6.3 AAU @ 10 min)
  • 0.25 oz fresh crushed coriander seed (10 min)
  • Coagulant tablet (10 min)
  • 1 oz Kent Goldings hops (dry hopped, 1 week)
  • Wyeast #3724 Belgian Saison

Specs

  • Batch Size: 5.5 gal
  • Boil size: 3.5 gal
  • Est OG: 1.059
  • Calculated OG: 1.046
  • Est FG: 1.013
  • Calculated FG: 1.010
  • Est ABV: 6.1%
  • Calculated ABV: 4.7%
  • Bitterness: 23.22

Treated brew water with three teaspoons of gypsum. Steeped specialty grains for 30 min in 1.5 gal water at around 150 ˚F. After boil, added water to bring volume to 5.5 gal.

Brewed 6/28, bottled 7/13.

First impressions 7/27: Poured out nicely, good golden color without intense haze. Very pleased with carbonation and the slight head retention. Tastes spicy and medium to full bodied with a somewhat raw finish that gets better by the sip. Overall, tastes better than I was expecting. Next time I’ll challenge the yeast with a higher starting gravity and kick up the alcohol.