Monday, February 10, 2014

2014: What to Do, What to Do?

I recently posted a last year in review post, and thought it would be good for me to get an expectations and goals for the coming year article up as well. Last year was a good year with lots of expansion to the brewery, learning and using new techniques, some really good recipes, buying a house, etc. This year I have a few things that I really want to either get into or refine. Unfortunately I am posting this one a few weeks later than I had hoped to, and so some of these goals are already achieved or at least parts of them are.

To start, this is the year of competitions. My aim is to enter my beers in competitions and place as many as possible. It is all fine and dandy when I like my beers and think that I did a good job, it is another thing to have unbiased judges give real feed back and to have medals to validate my own beliefs about my recipes, process, etc. We have 6 Club Only Competitions this year, 5 of which I am able to enter (one is for first time COC entrants only). I am hoping to beat out the reigning 3 time COC winner this year, high hopes for sure, but I think I have a chance. I have also entered 7 beers into the KLCC homebrew competition which is BJCP sanctioned, and was judged this past weekend. There were 221 entries total, and from my 7 entries I had 4 beers place. My Dopplebock, Procrastinator, took 2nd place, The Caleb, a recent Bourbon/Oak aged Imperial Stout took 1st, CUDL Buddy, a Winter Warmer entered as an American Brown, took 1st, and my first Lambic from September 2011, The Carol, took 1st place in sours as well as Best of Show for the comp. I will also be entering the Sasquatch homebrew comp, which is another locally hosted but nationally opened BJCP comp in June.

We started refashioning an extra room in our house (built in the garage) into an entertainment room. We have painted, installed really nice shelves on which we arranged glassware and "show bottles" (Cantillon, Dissident, Abyss, etc.). We bought a couple comfortable but ugly chairs that we need to reupholster, and we want to use a dark leather to do so. I am hoping to border the room from the floor to about 3' up the wall with metal corrugated panels to add that garage feel, and also accent with some dark wood. I also want to buy a mini fridge for my yeast, and then put full taps in the beer fridge door with a drip tray. Eventually we want to get a new TV for the Family Room and move our smaller one into the entertainment room. We also need to take some good shots of my beers with nice backgrounds and frame them for the walls, and mount awards/ribbons as well.

I have plans to build an incubator in the coming months for culturing yeast. I want to couple this with actually culturing more yeasts. A buddy from church is a microbiologist and ranches yeast, and I have been getting into this with him. We are working on culturing Cascade's Lacto strain that I was stepping up. We are also trying to clean up some Conan I got second hand that was infected. I have petri dishes with medium on them and a few slants as well to start using.

Last year I got new kettles that have a larger boil off rate than my previous ones. I also recently bought a 70 quart cooler to convert over for mashing bigger batches and that will take some testing. I need to pin down this new system during the start of the year. I have also been getting much higher efficiency on my system with my water treatment and over night mashing, so I need to dial this into account when building recipes, especially when trying to replicate previous brews.

Last year I wanted to start a Solera project, but was not able to track down a barrel or legal keg to use. After doing some networking I found out that one of my buddies in the club has a used 14 gallon wine barrel he wants to do some sours in. He has agreed to splitting the barrel which will probably age in my garage, and we are going to start with a Flanders Red, a style I absolutely love but have yet to brew for some odd reason. After a year or so we plan to remove 5 gallons each of the beer from the barrel and replace with a new 10 gallons of beer to mix with the remaining 4 from the first batch. He is also trying to track down another 14 gallon barrel for me to get and brew on my own.

In previous years I have brewed 2 Wee Heavy beers, and both were failures. The first batch was infected with a gusher yeast and tasted too much like cherries. The second batch was a good base beer but I pitched a large jar of old yeast and ended up with autolysis which made the beer taste like pot roast. It is great for cooking beef and pork dishes with, but not much more. My desire for this year is to brew a really good Wee Heavy, and I brewed the beer a few weeks ago. So far it seems to be a good beer, but needs to get some age on it for melding the flavors. At 4 weeks it is sweet, chewy, malty, caramelly, and good, just needs to come together more, and I might need to add some acid to the keg just to drop the final pH a few points and brighten it up as the finish is a little flabby. It is bulk aging in a purged and sealed keg in the garage, and might get some oak at some point. 

For some odd reason, much like the Flander's Red, I have yet to brew a Barleywine. This year that is going to change. I was planning to max out my current mash tun, but with the new one on the way, I won't have to. This beer will be big; I am planning on a 13%+ ABV beer on this one, tons of hops, and over 120 IBUs. I also want to brew a Vienna Lager this year. 

As of yet, I have not actually grown hops. I have hops planted, but I have not grown enough to count. The first year I planted Chinook in a container and got maybe 12 cones. The second year I planted another 8 varieties, and got maybe a pound total from them, the transplanted Chinook giving the largest harvest. Last year we bought a house and moved the hops late in the season so I didn't have any plants to harvest. I was able to install a sprinkler system for them which will help a lot. i am hoping that this year I will have my first good crop, at least from the established plants. I am going to be removing the Brewer's Gold and planting Cascades, Centennials, and Columbus. Maybe even some Magnum to get a clean bittering hop. My eventual desire is to become self sustaining for hops (unless I need to buy some patented hops like Mosaic or something).

I want to rebrew a few beers this year, mostly with slight tweeks to the recipe. I have already rebrewed my IPA and Black IPA split ferment from this time last year. I change some of the hops up and one of the yeasts, but I also got super high efficiency leading to an OG of 1.074 instead of 1.065, and got full 5.25 gallons instead of the 5 and 3.75 from last year (another reason to pin down my system). I also want to rebrew my 1st place Dopplebock, stepped up to a 10 gallon batch as I have a family member that wants to have some cases of it and is paying for his batch. 

My buddy from church loves to work with metal, and has an itch to weld. He has offered to build me 2 burner brew stand, which would be awesome for brewday. I am hoping for one that I can set on its side out of the way when not in use, then drop down and roll around during the course of a brew. I hope to assist (watch) him on this project. 

Each year I ask for brewing gear for my birthday and Christmas that I can't really justify buying throughout the year. This year I really want to move from aeration to oxegenation, so I am asking for the oxygen regulator and stainless steel wand from William's Brewing. I wouldn't mind getting new quick connects for my equipment to replace the Aluminum cam locks with Stainless Steel ones as I use Bar Keeper's Friend and Oxiclean on my equipment and these are not good for Aluminum.

That is a lot of stuff to cram into one year, but I am well on the way to getting it done. We'll see at years end how I did. Until then, I'll keep brewing, and Let the Beer Speak.

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