Thursday, 1 January 2015

Plans for 2015

Between the holidays and other unrelated distractions I haven't been near my beers or my computer much for the last few weeks.  Things should be back to normal again now as the new school term starts up, and over the next few weeks I'll put up some tasting notes for some of the beers I brewed at the end of last year as well as hopefully having time for a few new brew days as well.  In the meantime I thought I'd follow suit with some of the other blogs I read and write a brief post about my brewing-related things I'm looking forward to in 2015.


Without a doubt the thing I'm looking forward to the most is beginning to pull from the various soleras I started last year.  This pale one should be ready for the first pull pretty soon, but I won't begin pulling from most of the others until later in the year, and even when I do I'll probably let at least some of the first pulls continue to age in another vessel.  I'm hoping to add one or two more soleras in the next month or two  as well (keeping my eye out for another 2 for 1 offer on 6 gallon plastic carboys): I definitely want to do a strong ale, along the lines of something like Gale's Prize Ale and inspired by the solera-style brewing described here and here; if I can afford (and find space for) another carboy I might also do another pale solera with The Yeast Bay's Melange Blend, just so that I have another pale beer with a different flavour profile to draw on in blends.

The main purpose behind all of this is having beers on hand for blending.  In some cases this will be as simple as pulling a gallon from a pale solera and using it to cut four gallons of fresh, dry saison; I have a couple of beers brewed in this way ageing already, and I'm planning on starting a few more with some of my first pull from the oldest pale solera.  In the same vein, some of the pulls will be used to inoculate fresh beer that is not as dry as a saison, which will go through extended ageing like any other sour.  But the thing I'm looking forward to the most is beginning to make blends from the various soleras---blends of the same beer at different ages, blends from different soleras, and even blends drawing on other beers I have on hand.  My batch size is pretty small, but I'm thinking about saving a small portion of any other beer that looks like it might be an interesting component in blend in a half gallon a jug while I bottle the rest of the batch---I may do that this with porter, for instance, or some of the other old ales that are currently ageing in my closet.

Other Brewing

Besides the soleras, I expect I'll carry on brewing the same sort of thing I've been doing recently: pale, dry, low-alcohol beers that are either sour or bitter, using English or Belgian yeast, with a few historical recreations and stronger beers thrown in for good measure.  

Whenever I sit down and start thinking about brewing I'm always drawn to the idea of simplifying things and narrowing my focus, e.g. by sticking to a single yeast strain or trying to perfect particular recipes.  That planning often goes out the window once I start brewing and come up with a bunch of new ideas, but I had at least some success with it last year, sticking to single yeast strains for several batches and coming back to similar beers several times.  Now that I have my soleras going, I like the idea of sticking to two yeast strains for the rest of the year: Wyeast 3726 for my drier saison-style beers, and Wyeast 1318 for everything else (i.e. bitters and top-ups for the soleras).  I also have ideas for a couple of recipes or beer templates that I'd like to work on based on things I've brewed this year: a bitter saison brewed with spelt or wheat, a funky and tart saison brewed with buckwheat and other unmalted grains, a tart and lemony saison brewed with rye, and a bracingly bitter pale ale with less than 4% ABV, and perhaps something dark and dry as well.  Perhaps I'll get distracted by other ideas, but at the moment I like the thought of working on these beers throughout the year.

The other thing I want to do is pay more careful attention to my yeast management.  This will be pretty much essential if I really do stick to those two strains, especially if I'm just repitching from batch to bacth.  I picked up a used microscope last year, and intended to teach myself how to do cell-counts and check viability so that I could have a better idea of the amount of yeast I was pitching into each beer.  I haven't really got round to doing that yet, but I plan to make an effort in the next month or so.


One of the nice things about starting this blog is that its put me in touch with lots of other home brewers, and I hope that will continue next year.  I especially want to find time to get more involved in the wiki being written by folks at Milk the Funk, but I'm also hoping I'll find more opportunities to try other people's home brew and to get more feedback on my own beers.  I'm not really much of a competition brewer, at least in the sense that I'd never brew something specifically for a competition.  But I like to keep an eye out for local ones that don't involve mailing beer, and I've saved bottles from a few recent sour batches to enter into some of the bigger local comps like Drunk Monk Challenge; I may even enter Nationals this year if I think I have enough spare bottles from my better batches.

Well, that's about all I can think of at the moment.  Its getting late, and I had planned to brew four gallons of saison today.  With any luck, more regular posting will resume in the next few weeks.  

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