Time to get real and brew great beer!
2016 is only a few weeks old, New Year’s resolutions have come and gone and everyone is back to eating/drinking too much, smoking, staying out late, not exercising, or whatever they promised themselves they would change as they went to bed in the wee small hours of the new year…it’s time to get real.
For me, I really didn’t make any real resolutions, other than my NBR’s which you have obviously read about and laughed along with (humour me, will ya!). What I would like to do this year is achieve two things:
Get this blog really up and running
It’s been 8 months now since I started this and I can start to feel the tide changing as I attract more readers and branch out into more content. It’s not really an easy task to grow something such as this without heaps of resources behind you…I know how the smaller independent craft brewers feel when they have a small voice in a large market.
Once you get outside of your family, friends and a few like-minded individuals, it’s pretty hard to grow to that next step and get your 1,000 Twitter followers, let alone consistent website hits and subscribers to your videos or newsletters. I am determined to get here, so maybe by the end of the year you will see me with something like 500 Twitter followers…yeah that would be cool.
Take my brewing to the next level!
The more substantial thing I would like to achieve this year is to take my home brewing to the next level. I have been loving this hobby for about 12 months now and have produced 20 beers so far. Some have failed, some have been ok, some have been good, and after drinking one of them you could not wipe the smile from my face. There is something magical about producing your own beer from scratch that tastes great!
I kind of know where I went wrong on some of them – incorrect hop alpha’s in my calculator, temperature issues in the mash or dry hopping too long. But then some of the others got infected and I can’t work out why, or I followed the recipe and I just didn’t like the finished product. I haven’t lost enthusiasm for it and I want to make 2016 a good year at Green Shed Brewing Co. With that in mind, I am going to set myself some brewing goals for this year to give me a red hot crack at producing great tasting, consistent beer.
So here are the top 10 things I would like to achieve with my home brew this year:
1. Get around to brewing
First up, I actually need to brew a beer. The last time I actually brewed was December last year! I brewed a Citra IPA, which I really enjoyed, but I wish I had gone a little heaver on the IBU’s. As I write this, that’s almost 3 month since I last brewed…where is the nearest mirror so that I can take a long hard look at myself!
I do have a great excuse for not getting around to brewing…check out the view at the shack!
Once I get around to doing my first brew (maybe next week), I need to be brewing more regularly, maybe even fortnightly, so that I can really start to immerse myself in the process and learn more. This is going to take a bit of organisation on my part and some support from the wifey, but having said that, I have now got my weeknight brew down to about 4 hours (better chilling), so I can now do after work brews and still get my beauty sleep!
When I first started this brewing caper, I wanted to brew every beer under the sun…APA, IPA, Brown Ale, Porter, Stout, Kolsch, Golden Ale, Red Ale, and a good old Summer Session beer. And I did, I have brewed every one of the styles mentioned here, except for Stout and Kolsch. Each time I went to brew, I went off to Beersmith and searched for a beer similar to some of my favourites and then had a crack.
What I should have been doing was trying to perfect one style of beer by re-brewing it with tweaks each time, until I was really happy with it. I got excited and tried everything I could, all at once, which probably helped with my engagement short term but when I wasn’t 100% happy with those beers, it probably deflated me a little.
Next up, I tweak my Citra IPA and have another go…
4. Really tasting my beer, as well as others
I was having a chat with a mate of mine who is starting up a new brewery (Spotty Dog) and he suggested that with my beer reviews on Beerhealer I should look at rating them with the BJCP scoring method. It was a great idea, something I might look at doing later, but it actually got me thinking about doing it just for myself when I try new beers (including my own). It would be a good way for me to hone my tasting skills…my mate said that it actually made him a better brewer by concentrating on the various BJCP scoring elements.
I have downloaded this scoresheet and will have a crack next time I have a beer
5. Read more
I don’t get a lot of time to read these days, but when I do I like to read beer blogs and real books, even! I have a bunch of beer books in the Green Shed that I refer to in the brewing process but I probably should read them cover to cover. I have had Mastering Homebrew beside my bed for the last few months, it was recommended to me as a good next step after Palmers How To Brew…perhaps I will start there!
In all seriousness, books such as this are absolutely fantastic for getting inspired and hopefully teaching you something new about the art of craft beer. I read a blog the other day that suggested Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher for some inspiration and Brewing Better Beer by Gordon Strong if you really want to advance your brewing. I think I might also check out IPA by Mitch Steele, as I am pretty keen to pump out a couple of decent IPA’s from my brewery.
6. Understand water quality
A bit of chemistry to start the year…I need to find out more about the water that I use in my brewing. After all, water is the largest component of beers, so if the water is crap, I guess the beer will be crap? Some water types work better than others with beer styles and perhaps I should harness that…kind of like the Czechs, their waters makes the best Pilsener and the UK water suits stouts or dark beers.
This is the data that I found on my local water supply…I have no idea how to interpret it…shoot me an email if you know something about this?
Apparently this water is very soft with low alkalinity and will allow me to modify it with some extra additives.
Let’s just say that I have a LOT to learn in this area!
7. Enter a homebrew competition
This scares the s##t out of me! Putting myself, and my brews, out there to be judged by people that have far more knowledge and experience on producing beer. What if they hate it? What if it’s not quite on style? What if I come last? What if they laugh at me?
Beerhealer, get over yourself! Home brew clubs are generally very welcoming of newcomers and full of people who want to share their thoughts, experiences and suggestions on how to improve brews. I actually participated in a judging at my local club last year and of the 6 beers we tried, I think one might have been infected, one was not very tasty, one was okay and three of them were pretty good, but not mind blowing outstanding. What have I got to be scared of? If my beer sux, I just tweak it and try again…I’m gonna do it!
Now to find the right recipe!
8. Attention to detail – slow down
One of my favourite Aussie bands one sang “And you can’t relax in a scheduled life”…this is true. With a job, kids, friends and family commitments…my life is kinda scheduled beyond belief and I still need to try and work a brew day/night in there somewhere. The resulting patch of spare time is usually squeezed in, just, and so I have to try and “just get it done” and don’t always get to actually enjoy the experience.
I need to slow it down, plan for a certain amount of time to do a brew and then add 10% so that I can take my time and not rush. I remember something my wife told me back when my son was 12 months old and we used to give him a bottle before bed. I used to get frustrated after 5 minutes if he hadn’t rocked off to sleep (yeah, I know, no patience) because there was something else I had to do, or a TV show about to start etc. She used to say…”just expect it’s going to take 20 minutes, put that in your mind, and if it finishes earlier then good luck to you”.
If I don’t get to bed before 11pm when doing a weeknight brew, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I am a bit tired at my day job the next day, or I need an extra cup of coffee to get going? First world problems, and it’s all for the love of the brew!
9. Share my recipes
See that recipes menu item at the top of the page…I am going to regularly update that with my recipes that I think are good enough to share. Any comments on them, or feedback on how to improve them are welcome…another great way to learn.
10. Get a real opinion
So I have a few mates out in the craft brew industry that are very good at what they do and brew some great beers. I remember back in my days at BigBeer, there was one brewer that used to absolutely detest judging home brew competitions. I am not sure if it was the number of competitions that he had to judge, or the quality of the beer that he was tasting, but he used to avoid them wherever possible.
With this memory firmly burned into my brain I have been very hesitant to ask for my brewing mates opinions on my beers. I have shared them with my ex-brewery mates and have received both positive and “constructive” feedback on them, so it’s time to take the next step.
Wow…so there you have it, that’s quite a list for me to work on. This was meant to be something short and sweet to inspire me to brew better, but it turned out to be a quite a long list of things I need to do in order to brew better quality beer…time to get started I guess!
If you have any tips you want to share with me on the topic of better home brew, shoot me an email, or leave me a comment here.
Did you see my interview with Owen Johnston from Hop Trial Brewing Company last week? Coming up in the next week is my review of Ballast Point Big Eye IPA on Wednesday and, as usual, Beer O’Clock on Friday!
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