My 2014 Homebrewing Year in Review

I saw a beer year in review post on Meek Brewing, one of my favorite homebrew blogs, so I thought it would be a cool idea to do something similar.  I’ve been brewing for three years now as I write this post, but this blog business is pretty new to me.  I’ll do one of these posts each year I keep this thing running, so It’ll be fun to look back and see how I’ve come along with my brewing.

This year’s beers were by far the best I’ve brewed, and that boiled down to a couple different factors.  First, I’ve moved on to all grain.  I did a couple small all grain batches last year, but in most of my 5 gallon batches I had to at least use some extract to hit my OG.  This year, I’ve built my equipment up to where I do my brewing outside with a ten gallon kettle, and a propane burner.  I still do stove top all grain batches when the mood strikes, but this is the year when I really feel like I’ve got my process down and efficiency generally figured out.

I also moved into my own house, which meant I didn’t have to inconvenience my brother any longer leaving my stuff at his house and making him swap out water bottles in a swamp cooler.  I also got a spare refrigerator and a temperature controller, so I’m finally able to really keep my temps where I want them and keep them consistent, and can do lagers.

Speaking of which, I did my first lager this year, and was pretty happy with the results.  I brewed an Oktoberfest that was just a bit more robust than a typical Helles, and while there’s room to improve, I think it was definitely a successful first lager.  It’s still the only lager I’ve done, and I don’t drink a ton of them, but I’d still like to expand my lager range.

My Favorite Batches of 2014:

White Death (ver. 2.0)- DIPA.  I based this recipe off of a recipe for Heady Topper from homebrewtalk.com, but made some changes to personalize it a bit.  It was probably my favorite beer I’ve ever brewed, and I’ve made some further improvements in a batch that is currently fermenting as I write this!  The only downside to this beer is the short shelf life it seems to have at its peak flavor since minimizing oxidation is difficult when bottling compared to kegging.

Black December a Black Rye IPA.  Homebrewtalk.com has a recipe for Firestone Walker Wookie Jack, the beer this one is based on.  I modified it some to fit my tastes, but its still really close to Wookie Jack, and that’s fine by me since Wookey is one of my favorite beers.  I still have a decent amount of this left since its my winter seasonal, and it’s held up really well with a bit of time.  The combination of tropical hops and rye spice mixed with some roasted grain really gives a unique flavor.

Doodle Face (ver. 2.0) an APA featuring Citra hops.  It came out as one of my favorite beers I’ve done, an easy drinking pale ale dripping with tropical hop goodness.  This thing looked like a glass of carbonated OJ, and there’s not a thing I’d change with the recipe.  I’m sure this beer will make another appearance this year.

I had a couple others I really liked that I’m sure will make a return, though I’ll probably modify them a bit such as my Serrated Summer Ale, Flood Waters Amber, and Hoppy Grinchmas, and Voodo Rookin, my coffee milk stout.

Improvements and goals for 2015:

I will say that while not every batch I made in 2014 knocked it out of the park, there wasn’t a batch that was bad, or didn’t accomplish roughly what I wanted it to.  That being said, I’d like to improve some of my beers when or if I’d make them again.  My Irish Red, O’Sharkahan’s, comes to mind as a beer that, while in the ballpark of what I wanted flavor wise, had room for improvement.  I’ve got a new batch of that with an updated recipe fermenting now, and I think I’ll be happy with it.  I also need to settle on a easy drinking lighter style of beer that will appeal to beer drinkers that don’t dig hops as much as I do.  I’ve made a Blonde Ale, Shark Piss, that was decent as far as this goes, but I can do better.  I’m thinking a Munich Helles might fill this need.  There are several beers from 2014 that I’m sure I’ll make again in 2015, and I hope to continue to improve upon them, or if I’m truly 100% satisfied with my recipe, then I hope to maintain a level of consistency in reproducing the beer.  I also hope to try to brew some styles I’ve never made before.  So with all that in mind, Here’s my goals for brewing in 2015:

  • Brew a big ass complex Imperial Stout.  I need to convince a friend to go half on this one since 5 gallons of this would be too much for me.  I’d love to include ingredients like chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and some bourbon soaked oak cubes.
  • Step up my Lager game.  Brew a nice clean easy drinking lager such as a Munich Helles, something that will appeal to people that aren’t the usual craft beer drinker, but will still appeal to me as well.  a good crisp Helles should fit that bill.  Also in the Lager department, I’d like to improve my Oktoberfest.  I think I might Americanize it a bit more with some specialty malts this year since I don’t typically drink it in 1 liter increments!  I need to keep it drinkable, but some more toasty and caramel flavor could make it more interesting.  I’d also like to try a Pilsner, but I’d like to try some new age hops with it, something like Mandarina Bavaria hops.
  • Continue to perfect my IPA’s and Pale Ales.  These are what I feel I brew best, and it’s what I drink the most.  I’ll continue brewing my DIPAs White Death, my APA Doodleface, and I need to try a new American IPA recipe that I’ve been planning.
  • Use fruit in a beer.  I’m not a big fan of fruit beers normally, so I’d try incorporating fruit into a hoppy beer to enhance the fruitiness provided by the hops.  I’m thinking a Mango DIPA sounds about right, and I might incorporate that into my 527 Celebration DIPA I do for my anniversary with the wife every year.
  • Brew a Brown Ale.  I’m thinking I’ll do this in the fall.  I’d like something with some toasty nutty flavor, but a good hop presence as well.
  • Continue perfecting the recipe for any other of the beers from 2014 that I rebrew, or maintain consistency in reproducing them.
  • GET A KEGGING SYSTEM!!!!!!!  I can’t imagine how much this will help my hoppy beers.

I’ll be interested to see if this blog catches on a bit in 2015, but I know there are a lot of homebrew blogs out there to choose from.  To any friends or family reading this, thanks for being supportive of my hobby and sharing my brew days and beer with me.  To everyone else, thanks for reading this.  I hope I can give back some of the information I’ve learned from others, and I hope anyone reading this can take something away that can help them make their own beer better.  Here’s to a great year of brewing in 2015!

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