December 19, 2015

2015 Brewing In Review/2016 Brewing Goals

Another year of brewing concludes this month and like each year I have blogged I am looking both backwards at the prior year of homebrewing and the next year of homebrewing. For those who haven't read prior years' reviews I count my brewing year ending with the rebrew for my lambic solera as the conclusion of the brewing year and pick back up in early January with the new year. When the lambic solera comes to a conclusion I'll probably stay on this schedule. It's already so close to the calendar year but it also coincides with all the great holiday season deals that I typically hit to stock ingredients for the next year's recipes. For now I'm still running by the lambic solera rebrews, recently posted, so let's get into the 2015 review.

My goals for 2015 centered largely around three goals:

1. Maintain the lambic solera;

2. Design and start an ambitious sour blending program; and

3. Brew (and drink) an ambitious amount of homebrew.

The first goal was easily met although I had some early reservations about the continuing quality of the lambic solera. Year Four was the first year to enjoy a full turbid mash and it took that vintage some additional time in the bottle to mature. For the first several months of 2015 I was uncertain I would want to go beyond Year Five.

The second goal was mostly accomplished. I designed the sour blending program and brewed the two core beers (a rye pale ale and a Belgian brown ale). These beers are awaiting bottling and seeking out their companions in the blending program.

The third goal was partially accomplished as usual. I always seem to plan out more beer than I can brew and consume. Much of this has to do with my enjoyment of designing recipes and wanting to explore new ideas. I still have a few recipes from 2014 carrying over that I am going to diligently try to get brewed in 2016.

Aside from these goals I spent a lot of time having good conversation and learning among the AHA forum and the Milk The Funk facebook group. Milk the Funk is probably the most interesting and advanced brewing forum on the intertubes and well tended by the admins who devote undoubtedly enormous amounts of time culling the facebook discussions and maintaining the expansive wiki. If you have any interest in the more bizarre end of fermentation and you aren't a member of Milk the Funk then you are surely missing out.

As a whole I'm happy with how the year turned out. Most of the beers were good to great which is a solid result for what were mostly brand new recipes.

Turning to 2016...

2016 will be just as ambitious as 2015 in terms of brewing although I am trying to restrain myself from getting out of control with brewing projects. Right now the goal for my wife and I is to pick up and move to Denver in 2018. Although this is still years away I have to account for that in my long term sour brewing and blending planning. I can only afford to devote so much space for hauling bottled beer to Denver so I need to start balancing what I can drink in the next couple years against what I really want to brew and how much of that will come to Denver.

The December 2015 lambic brewday is the last for this iteration of the lambic solera. It will be bottled as Year Six in December 2016. At that time I will have reserves from Year Four and Year Five to create a second gueuze out of the final three years as I did with the first three years. That will give me seven gallons of lambic. So that will be the final blending act of 2016.

The sour blending project begun in 2015 will be ready for its first bottling in 2016. Initially I had planned to get through three years of this project before moving but I think that's too ambitious and I won't get through that much beer if I am counting each year brewing five gallons each of the two base beers plus at least a gallon of the other two beers. The current plan is to blend and reserve parts of the 2015 base beers and see how those beers develop and adjust the recipes and blends and possibly brew the tweaked recipes late 2016 on a small batch level to see if I like those recipes better. I'll probably hold off on fully developing this project until the move to Denver where I will have more space and more brewing companions who enjoy sour beer.

I'm also really become interested in the mixed fermentation farmhouse beers hanging around these days and want to explore that in 2016. The plan is to use the Oregon Special culture I put together from dregs on my last trip to Oregon and see how that culture works around hops. Right now that culture is powering the brown ale in the blending project and it is a really interesting beer. It's got some De Garde and Ale Apothecary dregs in it and they are definitely driving the fermentation profile. I'm interested to see how hops restrain some of the assertive sourness and bring forward some of the funky yeast character.

Among all this sour beer I also have a few lagers and hoppy beers to brew just to keep something light and clean available. I have an excess of hops in the freezer to use up and it makes sense to put these to work both in saisons and some clean hoppy beers. These won't be terribly exciting but I'll stuff them in my party pigs-turned casks and let them break up the ocean of BBA stouts and sour beer that currently occupies most of my beer cellar.

So that's pretty much 2016. Lots of sour beer. Maybe a little not sour beer. The thirstier I get the more I can brew so I'll hope to be especially thirsty this year.

I do want to take this time to thank everybody who has read my blog through the year(s) and tolerated my lazy writing style and occasional bouts of garbage posting. I am posting less but trying to post in a manner more useful to myself and other readers. I hope to be able to post some interesting ideas in 2016 around experiences blending and pitting mixed cultures against hops so that might entice you to hang around for another year of posts.


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