Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back on 2009

Looking back on 2009, it was another big year of brewing activities. Yet again, I'm surprised at how busy it's been and wonder where I fit it all in, besides my belly!

Starting with the numbers... In 2009, 201.5 gallons of beer and soda were brewed and packed into only 30 batches. 20% or 30 gallons over 2008, with 20 fewer batches! The average batch size went up from 4.25 to 6.72 gallons. The approximate total of gallons brewed since my hobby began over 7 years ago is 730! That's a lot of beer!

Since mid-2008, I've had the great pleasure welcoming 15 students into my tiny kitchen, to learn the art and science of all-grain brewing. It's cool to see a high level of interest, and many art & science related questions during the process. After a few weeks they return to bottle/keg and walk away, not only with the experience, but with a full batch of their very own home brewed ale. I'm especially pleased to see two students who have gone on to brew all-grain and high quality beers from the start! I'm a firm believer, that with a little hands on experience from an experienced home brewer, beginners can start out at a much more advanced level.

One year ago, I started the NHC. Chicago's Northside Hombrewer's Connection, a club focused on forming friendships on the Northside as a whole, but also in various neighborhoods throughout. We've already had monthly meetings in a number of homes and fun places like Half Acre Beer Co. & Hamburger Mary's. We've also had our first internal dark, draft beer contest hosted by Hamburger Mary's. Sampling and judging was open to the public, which turned out to be a fantastic event. The winning team will brew their winning batch at Hamburger Mary's on January 9th for debut in February. Bulk buying grains and hops has saved some of us more than $10/batch. With 1 year past, and a couple unofficial "board" meetings, we're ready to build a closer network of brewers, have scheduled and fun meetings, build a better online resource & connection of members, and schedule a number of technical clinics and special events. I plan to push a more online presence of the club here next year. I must send out a BIG THANKS to everyone who has come to meetings, shared input, and supported the NHC so far!

Brewing highlights this year have really been the lightest ABV beers yet, true parti-gyle techniques, and brewing for a couple special events and a wonderful getaway weekend wedding in Michigan. My new favorite style to brew is the small beer with ABV's less than 3%. Of these, Scottish 70/-, Palisades Best Bitter, Small Beer, Peppercorn Belgian Ale, Big Batch Small Beer and Mild Ale, the basic Small Beer was my favorite. I love how light and refreshing these beers are, but they also pack a lot of clean & simple flavor and aroma. They have become important learning curves, that will help the building of English styles and even the much larger ABV ales. I'd like to experiment by adding some biscuit to give it a dryer and more toasted taste versus fruity notes.

Its really a toss up for my favorite beer of the year. I guess I'd put these into the pitcher as a round of faves... Double Dark Scottish Ale because of how smooth and balanced it was with flavors of chocolate, nuts and hints of roast... Belgian Tripel 3 because with a few minor adjustments it has clearly been the finest brewing of the same recipe... Cocoa & Ancho Chili Smoked Porter because of how ridiculously rich and satisfying it was with great balance among the chocolate/roast malts, bitterness and slight chili burn down the throat... Small Beer because of how simple and perfect it tasted with wonderful malt flavor and assertively clean bitterness.

I find myself teetering both the art and science of brewing. I'd say most of this year's beers have had more of a nerdy approach than culinary expression. I'm still finding that simplicity turns out much better and balanced results. After minimizing flaws in every stage in the process, water profiling/conditioning has provided dramatic results in some styles. Having new benchmarks, I hope to make even better beer for myself and as base recipes for future students.

Looking ahead, 2010 will also be a busy year. The NHC should keep my time well occupied, and I really look forward to the meetings, clinics and events lined up. Building a tiered, partially pumped, outdoor, keggle brewing setup will be a fun first project of the year. This will allow easier brewing overall and a little more capacity. Finishing my kegerator is also on the radar, with a spiffy drip tray, restored vintage soda faucet, mini-randall, remote controlled hydraulic lid, blue neon lights, with gold & diamond edging. Since in 2009 it was challenging to sit and write posts and definitely final results, I also hope to set the time for it next year.

Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who has visited my site. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year 2010!


Kevin LaVoy said...

Man, I feel like I'm busy with brewing sometimes, and I didn't even get a chance to come to an NHC meeting. Nothing like you though. I hope to attend a few meetings next year, as I've done some really great beers lately, and would like to get some feedback from some other brewers.

I've been looking at pumps too. I can't wait to just have to carry my supplies and water out to my back porch, and have a full carboy come back in a few hours later.

I hope to see you soon to have a few pints. Thanks again for asking me to brew a batch for the party. That was a real thrill.

Ted Danyluk said...

I'd love to have you at a meeting soon, and to try/swap brews. It's been too long. We should catch up over a pint or two in the near future. Let me know a good night/time/place. The arcade event was fun, of which I'd like to help organize more in 2010. Cheers!

Jason said...

Happy New Year Ted!!

Unknown said...

Hi Ted. my name is Ria, I am a homebrewer, I came upon your site and it is really great. Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips and recipes. I have a question, maybe you can enlighten me, have you ever brewed a witbier and if so have you messed with lactobacillus at all? Brewing a 13g, thinking of splitting it at secondary or at bottling and adding a second yeast, or brett or lactic acid to one batch, just not sure yet...