Last night was one of those nights that will go down in the books of homebrewing lore as a truly legendary event — I celebrated my one-year anniversary as a homebrewer by bottling my latest batch. Well, that may be a touch dramatic. But I thought it was a great time to reflect back on what becoming a homebrewer has meant to me.
Let’s start with last night. My latest creation is a dry-hopped robust American brown ale that I believe is pretty tasty. I picked American brown because that was the first batch I ever brewed, using an extract kit from Brewer’s Best, and thought it would be neat to re-create and see how far I’ve come in a year.
For this batch, I did all-grain using brew-in-a-bag method with a modified sparge. I followed the recipe from “Brewing Classic Styles,” with a couple slight variations — one intentional, and one not.
The recipe called for horizon and Amarillo hops, so I bought a little extra and dry-hopped for four days with a blend of 1.5 oz. That was the intentional variation.
The non-intentional variation was making a five-gallon batch when the recipe called for six gallons. Oops. The end result? A robust brew checking in at 6.3 percent. I’m not part of the kegging world just yet, so the beer still has several days of carbonation and bottle conditioning ahead, but I feel pretty strongly this will be a good brew based on my preliminary field research — probably better than that first extract kit!
Reflecting back on the past year, I really am glad I got into homebrewing. I used to think I knew some stuff about beer. I mean, I never pretended to be any kind of expert or beer authority, but I felt confident I knew more than the average guy. Then I started making beer, and meeting other homebrewers, and quickly realized I really didn’t know much. A year ago, if someone said to me “I did all-grain using brew-in-a-bag method with a modified sparge,” I’d probably nod with a wide-eyed look while making a mental note to go home and Google what that guy just said. Now, that’s just a normal sentence anyone might utter.
But that’s not to say that I now think of myself as some expert. The truth about beer and beer-making, I’ve found, is that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. I mean, heck, just thinking about the numerous variations you could do in a single batch of beer with just one variety of hop can be too much to wrap your mind around.
But that’s the great thing about homebrewing — you can do it a million different ways, and in the end, you’ll end up with beer. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, of course. So far, I’ve found nothing wrong with getting to hold up a cold glass of tasty beer that I crafted myself. It’s really very rewarding. Plus understanding the process on a micro level helps me understand better on a macro level what some of my favorite craft brewers are doing, and that helps me know what I’ll enjoy and not enjoy.
Throw in how fun joint brew sessions are and the chance to try countless varieties of beer that other homebrewers have made, and it’s been a good year to be a homebrewer. I’m looking forward to an even more rewarding second year.
-Trying to finalize your Super Bowl beer plans? Well, you’ve still got the rest of today and Saturday to secure your (good) beer. You could go with the Baltimore vs. San Francisco angle: Flying Dog vs. Anchor.
-Keep your eyes open for this new offering coming soon from Boulevard: Grainstorm Black Rye IPA.
-Ever wanted a beer bottle opener that can shoot bottle caps?
-The guys over at Roughtail have updated their blog. The lesson? Find a good contractor.
-Tickets for the annual American Craft Beer Festival in Boston went on sale today.
-Also, American Craft Beer Week has been set for May 13-19.