Welp, 2019 is upon us! The one Brew Year's Resolution I failed miserably with from 2018 was to write more. Writing was so much easier when I was in a cubicle and needed something to occupy myself with between phone calls. Working from home it is easier to just watch TV than to write. When I travel it's easier to listen to podcasts, or wade into the cesspool that social media can be.
Before thinking about what I want to do for 2019, let's take a look at the rest of my 2018 resolutions:
Hands on training for our new Midwest rep Sven! He is based in Lombard and will be spending a lot of time visiting breweries in the Chicago area. . . . #BrewDay #ImperialStout #MarisOtter #MarisOtterPale #PlanetPale #RoastedBarley #MunichMalt #WheatMalt #ChocolateMalt #BlackMalt #CrystalMalt #EmployeeTraining #employeeorientation #MadeWithMuntons
I resolved to brew more big beers and sour beers. In 2018 I brewed one, an imperial stout. At Muntons we hired a new sales rep based outside of Chicago named Sven. Sven had previously worked as a beer buyer and bartender, but had never brewed before. When Sven came to Boston to train with me, the first thing we did was brew a batch. Initially Sven wanted to brew a Tripel, but I wanted to brew something that used more of our products than just Pilsner Malt and sugar. I took one of Gordon Strong's recipes from his book Modern Homebrew Recipes, and tweaked it to utilize ten different Muntons malts.
I had a fresh sack of Muntons Maris Otter Pale Malt. The first thing I did with Sven was to show him how to properly open the grain sack by cutting and pulling the threads that stitch the bag together, and had him do it. Then we chewed on each different malt before throwing them into the hopper. We milled our grist so Sven could see what milled grain should look like with the inside of the grain crushed, and the husk intact.
When our gravity was off by a few points after our mash and fly sparge, we weighed out and topped off our wort with Muntons Light Spraymalt (Dry Malt Extract) as a way to show Sven how most craft brewers use our extracts
|Too many of the pros get this wrong|
The brew day was great. We had enough fermentable sugars in the mash to do a parti-gyle and make a small beer. I made a huge yeast starter for the Imperial Stout, which took off right away after being pitched. Within a week the beer was within a couple points of it's final gravity. That beer is in a secondary fermenter right now and I look forward to bottling it in a couple of months.
As great as that brew was, it was the only big beer or sour beer I brewed in 2018. Overall I have to say this resolution was a miss. As was my resolution to make other fermented beverages and food; that was a total miss.
The one resolution that was a success was my hop garden and making a beer with my home-grown hops. In the spring I planted five different hop rhizomes: Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Northern Brewer, and Willamette. I suspect I planted the Centennial and Cascade a bit too deep. Eventually I replanted them and they did grow. The Centennial grew to a modest height, but I did clip the Cascade with my weed whacker....whoops!
I had heard that Chinook grows really well in this area. For a first year plant it did okay in my yard, but I do think it would do better in a spot that gets more sunlight. The Willamette looked promising early, but never really took off. I spoke with a representative from Four Star Farms at a trade show who told me that Fuggle-derivatives like Willamette don't always do well in Massachusetts. I'll give the Willamette plant another year and see what happens.
The plant that did the best by far was the Northern Brewer. I planted the rhizome in the middle of my yard, which in hindsight meant it got the most sunlight over the course of the day. I probably harvested about a pound of wet hops from the Northern Brewer plant. I dried them on a screen and used them as the flavor and aroma hops in a California Common. The beer was decent enough, but didn't have a ton of hop flavor. I probably harvested the cones too soon which would explain the lack of flavor and aroma. Next year I won't be so anxious.
In 2018 I wanted to perfect a house beer. I brewed three versions of Galloupe Street Gold to date. The first batch was good, but a little more hop forward than I was going for. I designed the second batch to be more of a traditional English Bitter. That batch was infected and I dumped it. My third batch that I brewed in the summer was pretty good. I used a single hop, Sterling, and just thought the beer was a little one-dimensional. Jennie will want me to brew this one again.
For 2019 I want to keep my resolutions and make them obtainable. I will carry over one resolution from last year, but with a twist:
- Generate more content next year. Instead of just resolving to write more blog posts, I just want to post more stuff. Whether that content is new blog posts, a quick post on my Facebook page, sharing posts from my archives, or new photos and videos., I want to post more. I could post about brew days, tasting notes, or maybe just cool places I visit on my travels. One or two posts per week should be easy.
- Retake the BJCP Exam and score an 80. I told myself I would never try to become a National judge. Now I have the requisite experience points and work in the industry, I feel compelled to push on. To move up in rank I need to score an 80 on the BJCP Exam, which for me means I need to take it again, and then pass the BJCP Written Exam. I retook the exam at HomebrewCon last year in Portland. I barley studied and took a punt that additional experience since I last took the exam would carry me through. I scored a 76, which tells me I am not far off. Rumor and innuendo is that the BJCP is loath to give out scores that are off by a point or two because that invites exam-takers to appeal their grade. If I continue to judge and put more effort into studying I am confident I can achieve this one.
- Dry(ish) January. Dry January is a recent phenomenon that encourages people not to drink in the month of January mainly for health reasons. I seldom drink to get drunk, but I am looking to get back into shape in the new year. In August 2015 I vowed to downsize my consumption and production of beer. For two years I did a fair job with it. There were times my diet and exercise was better than other times. A rotator cuff injury in 2016 didn't help matters. In 2018 the wheels fell off again. From mid-August to mid-September I was on the road almost every week. Eating out, eating at airports, eating at highway rest stops, my food choices steadily became worse. When traveling alone it became too easy to sample the local beer where I was staying. From my experience, a few weeks of abstaining from alcohol can do wonders in terms of lowering my alcohol tolerance, which will help me drink less in one sitting.
Beyond the calories I will be saving, I think a bit of a break from beer will be good. So many beers I try now are indistinguishable from other beers I have tried. I am increasingly bored with New England IPA. It has been too long since I have tasted a beer that really wowed me or made me want to try and brew a beer like it. My palette needs a break almost as much as my waist.
I am calling it Dry(ish) January because my job does make it almost impossible to completely abstain from alcohol. If a brewer asks me to try his/her beer I'll limit myself to just a couple of sips or a four ounce taster at the most. Similarly if I need to taste my own beer, I'm not going to make a huge deal out of it.
In terms of what I want to brew in 2019, I am going to keep things open ended. Luckily my brewing has been more consistent than my writing over the last six months. I have no overarching goals. I am having fun revisiting my older recipes, and there is at least one new recipe I have been working on that I can't wait to have a go brewing. In 2019 I'm just going to keep having fun with my brewing.