Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014 Year In Review; Part 1, What I Planned to Do

At the beginning of the year I posted a thread on the things that I wanted to accomplish as a brewer over the course of the coming year.  Well, the year has come and gone, and I thought it would be good to reflect on what I did accomplish, both in terms of fulfilling the desires I had for the year as well as things I didn't think about 12 months ago but have done anyways.

One of the first things I said I was going to do was make it a year of competitions, and boy did I.  I entered 3 BJCP comps in our area and placed in all of them.  The first comp of the year, KLCC, I entered 7 beers.  4 placed.  I took second place with a 1+ year old Dopplebock that had taken 1st in May of 2013.  I also got 3 1st place ribbons for an American Brown, Oak Aged Double Stout, and my first sour that was 2.5 years old at the time of judging.  This beer also happened to take Best of Show.  This lead to brewing a couple beers at local breweries (more to follow).  For the Sasquatch brewfest I had 2 beers place.  An American Stout took 2nd (recipe was a collaborative effort of lots of brewers on the Beer Advocate homebrew forum).  I also had an all Vienna malt, Amarillo and Simcoe hop bursted American Pale Ale, fermented totally with 100% Brett Brux Trois take 1st.  The judges were blown away with the explosion of hops and tropical fruits.  In the BOS round it was knocked out when one judge picked up a medicinal note in the finish.  All judges jaws dropped when I told them it was 100% Brett.  I also entered a brand new competition this year in our area.  I entered an IPA and Imperial Red IPA, both took 1st place, and the IPA got a 40/50 which is totally unheard of in the competitions held in Western Oregon.

Another thing I had hoped to do this past year was to finish some updates on our entertainment room.  I didn't really get anything done on this by year's end, but did get a lot more done in the first few weeks of 2015.  I had wanted to put corrugated metal on the walls which will have to wait due to cost.  I had wanted to put in faucet taps which didn't happen until the new year in a new keezer.  I did get a TV hooked up on the wall which runs off of a desk top computer that has WiFi access.  It runs a digital taplist that I made in Excel.  It isn't as awesome as some other ones in Craft Bars, but who cares, it works much better than chalk and dry-erase makers.  And it looks cool. 

I had wanted to build an incubator for yeast ranching, and dang-it, I did!  It is fairly simple, a large styrofoam box on its side with a lizard heating pad taped along the back hooked into a dual-stage temp controller that I built. I will be installing a small box in the back with a computer fan in it and a light weight door that blows open to the outside when it gets too warm on the inside.  This should suck the warm air out of the incubator when the temps get beyond where I set them, although for an incubator I want it around 84*F anyways.  My buddy Stephen and I were working on culturing the Cascade Lacto strain, and we did.  We got it built up and both used it to ferment a few batches.  Now I need to get it back up and plate it so I can seperate the Lacto, Sacc, and Brett.  I am also attempting to culture the Oakshire Hellshire II Lacto infection strain.  The couple petri-dishes and slants are gone, but there is much more going on than that now (see Part 2).

Having gotten some new equipment the end of 2013 and early in 2014, one of my goals was to dial in my process with them.  I have for the most part gotten that done.  I still have a few misses here and there, but for the most part I have it set.  I just converted the 70 qt cooler which will take some tweeking to get it where I want it.  And I will be making a few changes to my process in the coming months which will make even more work to get my system set.

My desire to start a Solera was fulfilled.  The buddy who was going to split the barrel with me actually just gave it to me and I brewed up 16+ gallons to fill it (and was still short...).  I brewed a Belgian Blonde with a yeast isolate I got from Jasper Yeast, as well as 5 Brett strains and Cascade's Lacto.  Once it went into the barrel it received a top up of Rye Saison that was fermented with 5 other Brett strains.  The plan is to pull 5 gallons in February to package and then top off with something new.

The Wee Heavy I brewed turned out much better than previous batches.  Only big issues is that it is way too sweet, and bottling it warm from the keg led to almost no carbonation.  Next version needs to get a little higher IBU to balance it out and then either bottle condition or get it cold and carbed up correctly before bottling.  I also brewed a Flanders Red type beer as an after thought.  I didn't set into the recipe to make that beer.  I split the batch of American Stout that placed 3rd (see above) to make a Spring Saison that didn't attenuate like I had wanted.  So I soured it.  I also finally pulled the trigger on a Barleywine, not the 13% ABV one I talked of at the beginning of the year, but 11% is still a Beast.

My hops didn't really give me a huge harvest this year, but I did up my variety to 12.  I moved a couple around, and then tossed some others.  I now have Columbus, Crystal, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Magnum and Blisk on the south wall, and Hersbrucker, Tardif de Bourgnone, Cerera, and Santiam in the back yard.  This coming year should give some good harvests.

Didn't rebrew the Dopplebock, or get a brewstand welded.

I did get my Oxegenation set up; I found a used torch at a local re-use store and pulled the tank and regulator off, then hooked it up to an inline air filter and sintered stone using medical grade air line we had from when my youngest was on a nebulizer.  I also just moved all of my pump and cam-lock fittings to full Stainless Steel for my birthday.

Part II to follow...

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