Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back on 2008

There sure is a lot to write about in this final post for 2008. Going into it, I knew 2008 would be a big brewing year. With my building relationship with Half Acre Beer Co., to trying out many styles I've always been curious about, there was lots to look forward to and good challenges along the way. In comparison to last year's 75 gallons, production in 2008 rose a whopping 127% to just over 170 gallons. With batch sizes ranging from 1 gallon to 9, most were in the 5 to 6 range, and 39 brews (beer & soda) have been made. See the list in a continually updated post... A Brief History of Ted's Brews.

2008 has proven to be deeply rewarding on many levels. I was happy with every beer, and with a better understanding of ingredients and yeast behavior, I was able to predict the turnout of some uniquely "Ted" styles (Yvonne's Sterling Moon, Robust Porter, Rhino Rye). Just getting better balance with all the tasting elements in various styles of beer (bitterness, malts, sweetness, hop flavor & aroma, yeast, alcohols, etc) has been great. The results from this year's Schooner Homebrew Championships were awesome having 2 beers placing 1st (Brett aged Old Ale) and 2nd (Rauch Bock). I've also enjoyed swapping homebrews with brewers Travis and the Bearded Brewer, both of which are making excellent beer.

Like many other technical hobbies, brewing offers many areas to learn about and improve on. One area that seems to plague the finished beer is a lack of body. Slowly I'm learning that on the homebrew level, more dextrins are needed to help this, and adding plenty of Carapils to the mash will definitely help it out. Being one of the lightest crystal malts, Carapils is light enough that a lot will not contribute any outstanding flavors. This in combination with a higher mash temp and additional proteins (flaked grains), some good body is achieved. Acidity/Ph in the mash is also something I've figured out yearly in the year, and by using enough acid blend, I'm able to adjust the other salt levels to benefit any regional style. I've gotten some very rich, yet balanced beers this year, and will definitely go back to their stats as a benchmark.

Kegging is new for me. They have been both fun and a hassle. To remedy some problems they were causing with my neighbors, I had to find them a home, or discontinue using them. They have a home now, and it has become a super cool kegerator project. My Dad and I spent many hours building an attractive wooden collar for the taps. Not completely finished yet, but it is functional. Documenting the progress with posts and photos was also fun, and I invite you to take a look here at Finding a Home for Kegs.

The most rewarding part of 2008 has to be my involvement with Half Acre Beer Company. I was able to develop the second beer on their current product line...the Over Ale. It was very tricky to do, given that I didn't know what hops were eventually going into it. Then, it would also need to be scaled up to the 20bbL level. Overall, it has come out fairly close to my original recipe, and I'm happy to say it's selling pretty well. Overall, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to contribute to the beginnings of the newest brewery in town. As they have taken a considerable step forward, building their new/used brewery here in Chicago, my relationship has changed to what we both call the Ambassador of Homebrew.

This year I've gotten a few others involved by teaching the art and science of brewing. They came in to brew their own batches of beer in what ever style they wanted. They also got to go through the full all-grain experience, because there really is nothing like brewing from raw materials and creating a truly remarkable beverage. I love how everyone really gets into it, both scientifically and in the culinary sense. We're all crammed in a very small kitchen where the aromas tend to concentrate. When anyone leaves to catch a breathe of fresh air, they are once again greeted by all the scents in the's simply amazing! Yvonne's Sterling Moon was a kegged batch created for my good friend Yvonne, a very lager-like pale ale that was perfect for her parties on the lakefront. This has been lots of fun, and I hope to get even more people hooked in 2009.

Chi-Town Northside Homebrewer's Connection, is a club I've initiated with the intent to bring local homebrewers together to share stories, techniques, equipment, ingredients and beer. For now, the meetings will meet at my place on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, but the location may begin to change/rotate to some really great spots like local restaurants and our very own Half Acre Beer Co.

Looking forward, I'd like to get better at posting the results of the beers being created out of my tiny kitchen. Writing reviews for beers is sometimes the most difficult part. Maybe this is why I don't get into writing reviews of commercial beers. Regardless, it's very important in terms of using this info in the future when my memory has failed me.

I haven't really decreased my impact on the environment as much as I would have liked to. Since I have gotten into kegging, I think carbon dioxide harvesting and reuse in dispensing beer could work well. I've also had the largest yeast cakes this year (4-5th generation), and I'd like to know how best to dispose of it.

Keeping up with this journal is a lot of fun. Tracking viewership over the whole year has been interesting and informative. The average number of daily viewers has gone up gradually, and more significantly during the last trimester. I'm happy to see the level of absolute new viewers remain constant throughout the year at about 72%.

Finally, in ending this mega-post, I'd like to thank each and every one who has been to my site over the past 2 years. I enjoy writing about this stuff, and will continue to do so. I find comments add greatly to the hobby of brew/blogging and welcome all comments, questions & suggestions. I always look forward to giving a good reply.



Adam said...

:-) Happy New Year. You always have something worthwhile posted here. Thanks for a job well done!

M. Randolph said...

Hi Ted,

I love your blog, its been of great help this year as I started brewing, thanks! Is there any more information available on your nascent brew club?


Travis said...

Happy New Year! You should be pleased with all of your brews. Your attention to detail is obvious in each of your brews that I've had the opportunity to try.

Best of luck in 2009.

Unknown said...

Lovely recap of the year Ted. I've really got to hand it to you though, out of all the beer blogs I read (which is quite a few) yours has been by far the most informative and definitely the most 'ground breaking' for me.

I've probably learned more from your writings than anywhere else except books. Your posts are concise, easy, and fun to read. It is obvious that you love brewing and that your knack for it has grown as you have progressed.

Keep up the great writing and have a wonderful 2009!

Starlight Seraph said...

The involvement with the local brewery sounds incredible...its awesome that you were able to contribute a brew that's now being marketed and sold.

Keep it up, I'll definitely keep reading.

Russ said...

Didn't know that you developed Over Ale... I'll have to add that to my beer shopping list. Happy New Year!

Gabriel said...

Great job this year Ted. Brewing stovetop beers is an art that spills over into this carefully tended blog. Make 2009 a great year.