Friday, January 14, 2011

Nine is Not Ten - 2010 in Review

In the beginning of 2010, I made the resoulution to brew more in 2010 than I did in 2009.  You can read about it here.  I brewed nine times in 2009, and you guessed it, I brewed 9 times and posted 77 times in 2010.  Self loathing was a challenging year for the family brewery, we tried a number of new things, added equipment, and changed a lot of process.  Let's take a look at the beers:

January: American Pale Ale
There really wasn't any complaint about this beer.  It was a fine example of the style, but it is a style that is both well represented and one that is not one that I crave.  It is a simple beer, but one that is difficult to pull off correctly.  With the availability of Sierra Nevada, Dale's, Upslope's and others....the big question is, Why bother?

January: Oktoberfest.
I had the last of these at Christmas, 11 months after brewday.  It is part of our Window Well Series.  Each year, we do only one lager, and we ferment it in the window well of my brother's basement in January or February, and truth be told, I like lagers less than ales (so why bother).  Until last year, that was the closest thing to temperature control we had outside of our 62-68 degree basements.  We picked a cold snap last year to start our ferment and it took about a month to complete, but it was well worth the time. The beer itself was well received by novice and professional alike.  We were considering doing a different style for 2011 (like a Bock), but we loved the Oktoberfest so much, it may become a regular seasonal in the family brewery.

March: Scottish Wee Heavy
We had a lot of debate about this much or if any peat smoked malt to add.  I wanted less, my brother wanted more.  Style expert, Jamil Zainasheff in his book Brewing Classic Styles advocates none.  We wanted to use some as it is an ingredient we never used before.  We compromised between what I wanted and what my brother wanted.  The flavor profile of the smoked malt was too strong at the start, tapered off in the middle, and by the end of the batch it seemed to reassert itself (perhaps as other flavor components degraded and subsided).  Now I am in the same camp with JZ.  Next time, I would use none.  Other people liked this beer (some hated it, though) and more than one offered to pay to have this made for them.  I liked it, but would like it more without the smoked malt.  I figure we will get around to this beer again.

April: Belgian Wit
Our first foray into the Belgians.  It was excellent, until the last bottles that were kept past their freshness date.    I would do it again.  I also owe this beer shipped to friends, so I guess I better plan on it.

June: Blonde Ale.  
A traditional summer seasonal, last year's version was an all malt version.  We had been experimenting with corn and other adjuncts, but I like the all malt version we made in 2010 better.  I am not crazy about the style as it is so much easier just to buy a good version of a Blonde or a cheap American Lager for a hot summer's day, but it is really appreciated when you want one.  This one probably stays in the rotation for 2011, but I would probably opt to go with a Belgian Golden or Strong Ale given the option.

June: Watermelon Wheat. My nephew really got into brewing with us this year.  Prior to this year, he was only a little interested (all kids like bottling).  It is nice to think that my brother and I still do something that is cool enough to teach kids....but I think it has more to do with either the fact that he is now in college (that's what college kids do, drink beer) at Colorado State, or he has realized that we are old and we could die at any moment.  I will continue to delude myself that what I am doing is cool.  As for the beer, I think that this was a big fail, but it happened to be my nephew's favorite beer (edit: as my brother reminded me, some people liked it enough to offer to pay for it...but some people pay for Miller High doesn't make it good) I said, he is still learning, but he got a fair amount of it as a result.  I had to choke it down.  So, if I have my preference, we will skip the fruit beer this year, but we may not.  

August: Brown Ale  It is hard for me to believe that we didn't brew between June and late August.  The Brown Ale is a favorite of mine.  We have been working on this recipe for about 4 or 5 years, and I think we finally got it very close to its final.  We started with an American Brown Ale and over the years, have scaled it back and re-Anglosized it.  We still use American hops, a little toned down, and switched back to an English yeast.  Although, sometimes I crave the meaty-earthy East Kent hops.  This year, I will be itching to brew something in the brown family and keep it on tap (literally).  I have interests in trying a Mild Ale from the 1800's (which is more London Brown).

November: West Coast Red  The WCR or West Coast Red is our interpretation of the style.  It will never win any awards as an American Amber if I call it a WCR, but it started life as a Irish/American Red Ale and when I had a bounty of fresh cascade hops they got packed into this beer.  The beer is not as strong or bitter as a real Westie, which is more of an amber IPA, but it has plenty of hop flavor and aroma that burns bright and fades quickly as the beer ages.  Last year, I grew my own hops for this endeavor.  This year, I should have a bigger crop (1st year crops are notoriously low yielding).  Last year, the beer got a wicked haze and finished with an unusually high finish gravity.  Yeast problems and cleanliness is my diagnosis.  I hope I am right.

November: Porter  The porter got racked onto the WCR's yeast cake.  It is still improving with age now, even though it is nearly gone.  The porter was less smooth and a little more acrid than last year.  I would have had the same yeast, process, and cleanliness issues as the WCR to blame, but I also used a different yeast than last year.  We will have to make that switch back to see if both the WCR and Porter are improved.

Well, that is the year in review.  I have been tinkering with our equipment, but really won't start to see results until this year.  I need to take pictures of everything and get them up.

As always, thank you for sharing my experiences with me.  If you are new to the blog this year, welcome.  If you are in Denver, come over for a beer sometimes.

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