An award. A new stove. Lots of new books. More beer writing. And a helluva lot of fun brewing. 2010 brewing for this homebrewer and craft beer enthusiast was a time of fun and growth, and has set me up for a lot of brewing and beer writing fun in 2011.
Now an Award-Winning Brewer!
On a whim I entered our “I Do” Belgian-style Tripel Ale Marriage Beer in the annual Sasquatch Homebrewing Competition. Naturally, I’m partial to this beer. We brewed 10 gallons for toasts at our wedding (and cellared a case for drinking on anniversaries). It was well-received, as my sister-in-law can attest after “accidentally” drinking an entire 22-oz. bottle of deceptively smooth 9% tripel ale!
Little did I expect, though, that our wedding brew would win second place in the Belgian Ale category!
The award was a cool honor. There’s always more to learn though, more challenges to take on (more on that in a bit). This year I’m planning to enter the Sasquatch competition again — perhaps our new Rucksack Stout will be a good entry…
The St. Clair kitchen cranked out 7 batches of homebrew beer and cider in 2010:
- February: Jubilation Chocolate Porter (Jodie’s 2010 birthday beer)
- March: EPR Ella Puppy Red Ale
- May split batch of brown ale: Ol’ Dillydally English-style Brown Ale and Parchcrusher Nut Brown Ale
- August: Taste of the Mild English-style Mild Ale
- October: Crisp 2010 Hard Apple Cider (bottled in January 2011)
- November: Aledonia Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
- December Rucksack Stout (bottled in January 2011; blog post coming soon)
The St. Clair brewing kitchen is simple and straightforward, especially since I do strictly steep-and-extract brewing. I was stoked in October to replace our old, crapping-out-burners-wouldn’t-heat stove with a brand-new heavy-duty GE electric range. Faster burner response and control has made brewing (and clean-up) much easier and stress-free. (Before you ask, our house doesn’t have a gas line, and we weren’t interested in adding it and doing a gas conversion.)
New beer books
New books have also joined the house’s craft beer and homebrew library. Holy moly, we have a lot of beer books! Not that that stopped me from updating my Amazon Food & Drink Wish List, since apparently one of my life’s ambitions is to need an entire bookshelf just for beer books.
Here are new titles on our shelves (separate reviews to come):
- How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time
- Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition
- Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them
- Ultimate Beer
They join these already well-thumbed and probably wort-splattered tomes:
- The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Third Edition
- The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food
- Microbrewed Adventures
- 101 Ideas for Homebrew Fun
- The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs
Near the end of 2010, a great opportunity wound up with me writing a feature piece for the Register-Guard on the awesome Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Oregon. Also, I’ve been writing about the beers and events at the schweet new Eugene bottle shop, 16 Tons. Coupled with other conversations and such here and there, during 2011 I’m working on a lot more beer writing for the blog, for brewing and craft beer industry publications, for breweries, and beyond.
The more I brew beer, read about beer, talk about beer and learn about beer, the more I’ve realized how much I love writing about beer. Writing about craft beer and homebrew, and seeing these industries grow, has become a big passion of mine.
Shameless pitch (and no, not for yeast): If you know of brewing sites and publications seeking craft beer/homebrew content, please drop me a line. Same if you know of a brewery, bottle shop or other beer-industry organization who is looking to ramp up their copy (marketing, website, internal communications, etc.)
Now that I’ve been homebrewing for a few years, I’m improving how I plan out the brewing year. Here are some of the things I’ve been working on, plus a brainstorm list of potential brews for 2011.
One decision I’ve made is to take July and August off from brewing. This way I get a breather from the brewpot, plus I don’t have to spend hotter months over a boiling pot of wort. Though given how much more Jodie and I have been doing canning and food preservation nowadays, we still often wind up over a boiling pot in July. No matter though; a wee brewing hiatus also makes it easier to make time for canning.
Every year I make some notes on beers I might want to brew for the coming year. It’s not a hard and fast schedule, just ideas and maybes. Every year new brew ideas come my way and I run with them, sometimes the schedule doesn’t work, but many of these ideas also wind up bottled and ready to drink. Here’s our brewing idea list for 2011:
- Qingdao Dark Lager, (Microbrewed Adventures , p. 367): My first lager! This dark lager, based off a Tsingtao beer from China, is on primary fermentation in the garage as we speak.
- Saison. Maybe more than one, even. Saisons, stouts and porters are my current holy trinity of beer, and Jodie and I have agreed that a saison is to be her birthday beer for this year. I get to push my brewing knowledge and experience by doing some wild yeast/Lactobacillus work, and I get to brew, for the very first time, one of my favorite styles of beer.
- Irish Cocoa Wood Porter (Microbrewed Adventures , p. 312): Will probably brew this in the fall.
- Brooklyn’s Original Chocolate Stout (Microbrewed Adventures , p. 297): Brewed this in December 2010 (it was on the 2010 might-brew list), but we bottled it in January for drinking as of February. Dubbed “Rucksack Stout”, well, holy moly — it’s one of the best beers I’ve ever brewed.
- Black Honey Spruce Lager (Joy of Homebrewing, p. 211): Seeing how my adventures in Qingdao go, I may crank out this lighter lager in December (December and January are looking to be the best months for us to do lagering).
- Kolsch or Wheat Beer: We’ve done each of these styles in previous years, and I’m feeling a hankering for one again this year.
- Frog & Rosbif’s Brown Wheat Coriander Ale (Microbrewed Adventures , p. 337): May or June for summer sippin’.
- Crisp Hard Apple Cider: Our annual first-of-fall brew, done up in September or October.
- Pumpkin Ale: We didn’t do a pumpkin ale last year, so may do one this fall.
Yes indeed, 2010 was a fine and fun year for homebrewing in the St. Clair household. Whether drinking it, brewing it or writing about it, here’s to a fun and beery 2011.
Cheers, Slainte & Kippis!