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Brew Year’s Resolutions

While many of us have New Year’s resolutions to become healthier or fitter, we should also take the time to look at how we can be better brewers, too. Long-time homebrewer Jester Goldman has some ideas!

Jester Goldman January 06, 2017

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New Year’s resolutions are often based on unrealistic aspirations. Sure, I ought to go to the gym regularly and eat more vegetables, but those are hard, even though being healthier is a good idea. In contrast, I offer you the following Brew Year’s resolutions. What’s the difference? These are all about taking the hobby I love and making it even better. Your specific list might vary, but here are five things I plan to improve in the coming months.

1. Tackle Some New Styles

Like many of us, I sometimes get in the rut of repeatedly making the same set of beers. I could easily loop through my time-tested recipes for rauchbier, Scottish Wee Heavy, Kölsch, Saison, and IPA. I’d always have something great on tap, but I could just about brew those on auto-pilot. By contrast, I recently brewed my first Schwarzbier, which turned out very drinkable, but not quite what I was aiming for. The thought of fine-tuning that recipe has rejuvenated my excitement about brewing.

In the next year, I plan to put my favorite beers on hold and tackle some new styles—not just as one-offs, but to dial them in until I get them right. Right now, my list includes German Dunkel and New England IPA, plus perfecting my Schwarzbier. I don’t expect to nail all of these, but I will step away from my standard rotation.

2. Get More Creative

While I haven’t felt constrained by BJCP-recognized beer styles, most of what I brew is generally within those bounds. My success with last year’s experimental star anise orange zest IPA suggests that I should sometimes treat brewing more like fusion cuisine, where style is just a starting point. A recent tasting of Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island also provided additional inspiration. The combination of smoky chipotle, cacao nibs, and maple syrup in an imperial stout offers some interesting avenues to investigate.

Inventing something unique is challenging and fun, and even the misses are instructive. Brewing at least one off-the-wall beer this year will build up my experience with ingredients and flavor blending.

3. Organize My Brew Room

Organization is my one aspirational resolution. I have a utility room that houses my brewing gear, a chest freezer, and other supplies. It’s not quite a junk closet, but the collection has expanded over the past couple of years as people moving on to other hobbies have given me their old brewing equipment. Clearing out the excess gear and organizing my space will streamline my brew day, and it gives me a chance to gift beginning brewers with miscellaneous freebies.

Part of the organization work will be to reassemble my brewer’s box, where I keep the small stuff such as my refractometer, gypsum and Irish moss, and the lighter for my burners.

4. Modernize My Mead Making

When I brewed my first batch of mead, the process was simple but required a lot of patience while waiting for fermentation to finish and for the mead to age into drinkability. I’ve made many great meads this way, but the art has come a long way since then. With managed fermentation, a batch can reach maturity in a fraction of the time without sacrificing quality. It’s a matter of staggered nutrient additions, along with regular rousing.

Since my meads have been fine, I haven’t bothered to try this out, but process improvement is part of becoming a better brewer. If you’re strictly a beer brewer, you might try out your own new techniques, such as mash capping or first wort−hopping to see what you learn.

5. Brew More Socially

If you’re reading this, it’s a fair bet that you love good beer, but you probably also enjoy the camaraderie that goes with it. It’s nice to have people drop by for a drink, and a brew session is a great occasion. You can trade tips with your fellow experienced brewers, show off your process to beginners, or just raise awareness among your non-brewing friends. I’ve had my share of open brewhouse days, but lately, I’ve kept things more low key. This year, I want to get back in the habit of sharing my hobby. Our brew club has a mailing list, so I can send an invitation out a day or two in advance to let people know they’re welcome to come over.

These are my Brew Year’s resolutions. What are yours?

From steeping specialty grains to extract and hops additions to pitching yeast and racking to secondary fermentation, as well as bottling your beer, CB&B’s DVD, Brewing Great Beer Start to Finish, will get you started down the road to making beer that rivals what you get at the local pub.