A Year Of Brewing: A Look Back
For our very first wedding anniversary, my wife Stacey bought me a home brewing kit. Living in Denver has put me in the “Napa Valley of Breweries ” and naturally, after visiting a few I developed an interest in brewing. We were all about keeping things clean and simple so I got a Mr Beer kit (great starter kit and cheap too since it’s about $30). So with this kit I wouldn’t have to select grains, hops or do all the hard work that turns everything into wort….while at the same time allowing room for some creativity. Now that a year has passed, I’ve brewed 6 beer batches and each has a story of epic fail or surprising results. It allowed me to bring up a few conversations with a few other guys that are into homebrewing and had me go from not really knowing them really well to having a “brewing buddy” to talk to, so it’s been a nice payoff. Now that I’m a year in, here is in a nutshell how my rookie year of brewing fared so far:
Batch 1: Golden Gorilla Ale (3.7%ABV) June 2010
For this I was a proud PaPa to my first 2 gallons of hootch. I used the standard pale ale mix that came with the kit. I followed the directions, made labels for the first and only time (but that doesn’t mean I didn’t doodle any potential labels at work!). I named it Golden Gorilla Ale b/c it was a golden beer and my high school team was the Trent Gorillas and “ale” b/c it was a pale ale and “ale” is a cooler word than “beer”. So I wanted to be nostalgic a bit and make it pay homage to that. This one also had 3 “tasters” when my family came into town. As excited as I was, the beer had a certain cider taste to it and not really all that good….it tasted kinda apple juice-like. So brewing excitement and biased pride aside, this was probably my worst beer yet. However, it’s the only one of my beers to ever cross state lines since I gave half of them to my family and my brother has the only bottle in existence today in his “Beer Hall of Fame” in his bedroom in Texas (I did advise him that drinking it a year later is probably a bad idea).
Batch 2: Witty Monk Honey Style (6% ABV) August 2010
Batch 2 was a little bit exciting for me, I was kinda stuck with the pale ale with the default recipe of the kit and I really don’t like pale ales much to begin with. So now that I had free reign on what to pick for my next batch, I naturally chose my favorite style of beer: Wheat or witbier! Looking in forums, I picked a recipe that should mirror the taste of Blue Moon (this one was called Witty Monk). So I got a deluxe refill (better than the standard!). I added about a cup of honey in addition to the kit’s ingredients to add flavor and up the ABV% one more number higher (yay honey!!, I also only use Colorado grown honey to keep things local)…and I kinda wanted to make Blue Moon’s summer honey wheat beer as well.
This one stands out a little more b/c it is the first one I actually kinda got a buzz from drinking. Now I’m not cheering on drunkenness, but I think it’s kinda awesome to get drunk/buzzed off something you made!!! It’s like those holier than thou guys like Mark Zuckenberg only eating what they kill (please don’t delete me off Facebook almighty Mark, I like being on there, and I’m making a comparison!). Instead of regret or shame there’s something of a prideful feeling when you get drunk/buzzed on something you brewed and waited about a month for. One thing that did kinda make it less enjoyable was this was the first time I dealt with sediment . Since the first was just a standard recipe the sediment was minimal this time it was noticeable. At first it grossed me out b/c it looked like some pervert did something highly inappropriate into my beer, but I learned when to stop the bottle pours and that the trub (aka sediment in brewing) is actually high in nutrients…so yeah healthy stuff!!!
Batch 3: Happy New Beer! (4.7% ABV) January 2011
I took a hiatus on brewing with the craziness of holiday seasons, moving and whatnot, but I decided to try the wheat beer again with a different recipe….also b/c while Christmas shopping I came across an “international series” refill kit 3-pack on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond and a wheat beer mix was part of the package. This time, I did more or less the same thing I did before but added some coriander to the mix and the result was pretty nice. Again, this one did get a few buzzes in and I called it “Happy New Beer” because I thought that was a funny thing to say on New Years Eve to very drunk people plus i was at a new apartment (or “brewery”), It was the first all glass bottle batch (used some plastic bottles before), and it was the first batch of 2011. So lots of “new” things. I did the taste test with regular Blue Moon, which I consider a pretty standard wheat beer and I honestly kinda liked how what I came out with just as much in taste. I have used the double all the steps method when it came to fermenting and priming times….so a suggesting 1 week fermenting, I’ll do 2 weeks and so on. In the end I’d count it as a victory.
Batch number 4- “Dr. Ocktoberfest” February (4.7% ABV)
So the 3 pack refill had a Oktoberfest beer recipe in it, but at the time of brewing it, it was still a long time til October but none-the-less I had the stuff and I wanted to make it. This would become my “Super Bowl” beer and I called it Dr Oktoberfest b/c it was a play on the name of Doc Ock from Spider-man. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t particularly stand out either, but I did make the decision to prime my bottles with a different sugar from that point forward. So while I didn’t have anything else to say about this beer it did point me in the right direction.
Batch 5 “B2 Bomber Irish Stout” (5.6% ABV) March 2011
This is where I consider my greatest success to date with brewing. I called it the B2 Bomber at the suggestion of a friend when I showed him the beer kit and called it “B-squared Brewing” (b/c my initials are B.B. so B2 seemed like a cool name) and he said my next one should be called (B2 Bomber). Anyway, I wanted to make a Irish Stout for St Paddys Day so I got the recipe for a St Paddys Stout added some honey, creamy brown unhopped malt extract and then some brown sugar both when making the wort and when it came to priming the bottles. Gone was the cidery aftertaste that most of my brews had so Brown sugar kinda became the norm since. This brew also served as a guinea pig with what sugars to use going forward(I had white, brown and mix) and in the end, brown sugar gave a taste I wanted.
Batch 6: “St. Bradius”(7.5% ABV) May 2011
I’ve over the last year grown a fondness for Belgium Beers such as Chimay, Gulden Draak, Piraate, Orval, and so on. So naturally, I wanted to make the stuff as well. Some of my favorite styles of this beer have a very noted fruity taste. So I added cherry syrup to the mix and used a Belgian strain of yeast. Sadly, it wasn’t anything that I was expecting. What I was expecting it to be was a fruity beer but the taste was more along the lines of New Belgium’s “Abbey”. None the less it was decent but it has a weird cherry aftertaste b/c i expected something different and had I known what the style was going to be, I’d have not added cherry into it otherwise. Anyway live & learn
So here’s a few things I want to do going forward…
Pumpkin Ale- I really really want to do a pumpkin style beer in the near future. I don’t know what my hold up was from before but I plan to make this happen for sure.
Bock- My recent trip to Texas had me drinking Shiner Bock like it was water, I mean I can get it here, but I think I’ll like to give it a try.
A Fruity Belgian-style beer- I want to try to duplicate one of the Belgian beers that I enjoy drinking, it’s a goal i want to scratch off sometime later this year.
Oatmeal Stout- I’m a fan of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout as well as the Oatmeal Stout that Breckenridge Brewery puts out as well….time that I try it out.
Golden Gorilla II- I was proud of the 1st beer I ever made but it was my worst one. I want to do an overhaul and revamp it and make it something drinkable.
Dr. Oktoberfest’s Revenge- A stronger, better tasting Oktoberfest beer. I’ve learned from my mistakes and will make this one better than before
Lime Wheat Beer: Blue Moon’s decision to change their spring seasonal beer really grinded my gears this year. Prior to 2011, they had a wonderful seasonal brewed with lime peels and keiffer lime leaves, and it was wonderful! Since then, they’ve gone to a lemon version and it’s not as good.
All Raw Ingredient Mix- So I’ve been taking things pretty easy with brewing, for the most part I can get a 2 gallon batch in a hour done. I went with the kits b/c it’s easy, less messy and less clutter as well (which our apartment can use far far less of), however I think within the next year I will graduate into all raw ingredients and choose my grains and what not. I’ve already begun adding more and more raw ingredients into my kit recipes, but I think it’s now only a matter of time.
Keg- Anyone that’s home brewed had considered at one point or another to keg their beers….and dream about opening a brewpub. However, the problem is that kegs are expensive and hard to store (even the “corny kegs” that hold 5ish Gallons), but this “Party Pig” is a very attractive option and it’s price makes it even more tempting.
So that’s pretty much how my first year went. I learned a few things and have a few goals set for the future. It’s a fun hobby and I’m having a blast doing it sohere’s to a new year of brewing….PROST!!!
(this is my stuff not Miller High Life…that stuff is gross, but the glass was free)