Last year I thought it would be cool to look back on my year in brewing, and it was kind of a fun piece to write so I thought I’d do it again. This year didn’t have the sweeping life changes like buying a house that last year did, and all the changes to my brewing hobby that went along with it. This was a year of dialing in recipes, and deciding what type of beers I really wanted to make. I’ve finally got a handle on my hoppy beers, and I’m pretty happy with most of the other beers I brew. The biggest change for me this year, and the biggest cause for my beer getting better, was switching from bottling to kegging. I really can’t overstate how this improved my hoppy beers. The aroma, shelf life, flavor, and even appearance of the beer have all dramatically improved after switching to kegs. The ability to minimize O2 exposure in a keg setup is so, so important.
Beyond that, its been a year of dialing in my processes and recipes. I’ve worked on my DIPA White Death a few times this year, and I’m VERY close to having that beer 100% dialed in to what I want it to be. I’ve decided that I’m in love with the type of beers coming from the Northeast of this country, especially hoppy beers from places like Trillium, Tree House, Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist and so on. The juicy, opaque, and smooth beers these guys are putting out is just ridiculous. I’ve decided I want my hoppy beers to emulate this. I really can’t be bothered with West Coast style IPAs at this point. This is of course a blanket statement, but any time I see a clear, copper colored IPA brewed with “C” hops, I just get bored.
My Goals From 2015: Lets take a look at my goals from the beginning of the year and see how I did!
- Brew a big ass complex Imperial Stout. Goal number one was a success! My ISO: Whalez Bro! Imperial Stout turned out really nicely. It’s aged pretty well, and has become very chocolate forward. I’d never brewed a beer quite that big at 10.6% ABV, and I’d never used wood, bourbon, or any of the other flavor additions prior to that batch. Its certainly not a perfect balance of these flavors, but it was a hell of a good starting point.
- Step up my Lager game. Well, this one didn’t go so well. I didn’t brew any lagers this year. I had intended on brewing my Oktoberfest again, but I waited too long, and the last opportunity I had to brew it, my LHBS was out of the yeast I needed.
- Continue to perfect my IPA’s and Pale Ales. I achieved this one. 2015 was the year where my hoppy brews really started coming together. Kegging was the obvious improvement here, but recipe formulation and technique improvements helped too. I also discovered the wonders of Wyeast 1318 London Ale III yeast in hoppy beers!
- Use fruit in a beer. Done! My Brett Saison Farmhouse Disco utilized apples from my very own apple tree in my backyard! The beer was pretty solid, not great but not bad.
- Brew a Brown Ale. I didn’t get around to this one yet. I got wrapped up in my DIPA perfection quest so brewing a Brown got put on the back burner.
- Continue perfecting the recipe for any other of the beers from 2014 that I rebrew, or maintain consistency in reproducing them. Mostly a success! Every batch of beer that I re-brewed was an improvement with the exception of Hoppy Grinchmas. I detailed the reasons for that on the entry for that beer, and I’ll cover it a bit more below.
- Get a Kegging System: Done!
My 2016 Goals:
- Use Maple in a beer. I’ve got two beers planned where I intend to use maple syrup and/or maple extract. One beer is a new recipe that I intend on trying soon, and the other will be my 2016 version of ISO: Whalez Bro! Imperial Stout.
- Finally finalize my White Death Recipe! This will happen this year. Its sooooo close to being exactly where I want it. This will probably have to wait a little bit since I’ve got another DIPA recipe with some different malts and hops that I want to try first, but this will be on my radar soon.
- Brew another Lager. Either my Oktoberfest again, a Munich Helles, or both! I think a Helles would be great in the summer so I’m hopping I get on this one.
- Brew a Brown Ale. Same goal as last year, and hopefully I’m able to take a crack at it this time.
- Brew a Belgian Quad. Belgian beers are pretty hit and miss with me, but I always seem to enjoy Quads when I have them.
My Favorite Batches of 2015:
Serrated Summer Ale 2.0. I loved the way this beer turned out. It was based on the idea of a beer like Treehouse Eureka. I say based on the idea of that beer because its like a hopped up, hazy blonde ale that drinks like juice, but I wasn’t aiming for a clone, only a similar beer. This beer turned out just how I imagined it would. It was so refreshing in the summer months. This was also my first experience with 1318 yeast. I’ll rebrew this for sure with only some minor tweaks to the recipe.
White Death 5.0. The last attempt of the year at perfecting my main DIPA recipe. Its almost exactly how I want it, and this batch was fantastic. I need to get it a bit lighter in color and just a bit juicier, but its almost there. Using plain 2 Row instead of the pale malt, focusing more on the Citra and Mosaic, and subbing the Simcoe out for Amarillo should hopefully get me there.
ISO: Whalez Bro! My big Imperial Stout with oak chips, bourbon, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans. This beer turned out pretty great considering the number of variables at play. The balance of all the flavors isn’t perfect, but the base beer is great. I plan on doing yearly variants of this base beer with different flavors so that should be fun!
Beers That Need Improvement:
My Imperial Red, Hoppy Grinchmas, is the first that comes to mind. Its not bad, but I feel like it was better the first year. The dark fruit flavors and toastiness overpowered the other flavors. Its not a bad beer, I just know I can do a better hoppy red.
I guess I’ll had Tree Tipper here. That was my dry cider brewed from the apples from my tree that we had to cut down in the backyard. There’s no improvements to be made here since it was a one time deal, but it just wasn’t that good. Oh well. I enjoy a cider every now and then, but not enough that I need gallons of it. There’s a good chance this will be my only cider, at least for a while.
My Brett Saison, Farmhouse Disco. Saisons are a very hit and miss style for me, and I don’t have a much experience with Brett. This beer was pretty solid considering my lack of experience with the style, and it was fun to use my homegrown apples in it. I feel like I can do a better Saison though. I plan on doing another one at some point this year, and I’ve got a few new things I’d like to try.
All in all, it was a really fun and productive year of brewing and blogging. It’s been fun to see the amount of readers grow over the past year, it makes doing this feel more worthwhile. My yeast experiment between 1318 and Conan had my biggest number of readers by far, and I hope you guys found it interesting and useful. I want to thank everyone who reads this thing, I hope my recipes can give you ideas for your own brews. Thanks again for reading, and cheers to 2016!