Posted on Friday, June 29, 2012
With Canada Day long gone, I’m now at the point where I’ve gone six months without buying commercially-brewed beer for my own personal consumption around the homestead. As some of you may remember, I made the vow over the Christmas holidays that I’d only drink beer that I’d brewed myself at home for 2012. Six months and six batches in, I’ve learned a few things.
1. Making beer is fun
I never realized just how much fun I could have tinkering with water, barley, hops and yeast (and the occasional adjunct). The combinations are limitless, as are the techniques that you can use to achieve good beer in relatively little time.
2. Making beer makes fiscal sense
Not to sound like a financial planner or anything, but when you do the math, I’m down to $1 a pint, on average, for the beer I make. This includes pretty much everything including the electricity, water, propane, ingredients, etc. And I’m finding ways to make it cheaper all the time.
3. Not to sound snobby, but I like my beer. A lot.
Since I’ve started making my own beer, I’ve found that the stuff that is served in bars and restaurants is overly carbonated and just not quite to my liking anymore. I am enjoying some of the local beers that can be found in Alberta, but by and large, I can hold my own in the beer-making arena.
So what kind of beer did I make this year? Let’s recap:
My first batch of the year was the “Fifty-Fifty Pale Ale” from Radical Brewing. This one was a little darker and clocked in just shy of 6%. This one was another of those universal beers that wound up good for everything – cooking, braising, battering, etc. I used all-Cascade hops for the batch and really found a liking for that high-alpha kinda flavour.
Next up was my “Cup Run 2012″ Maple Cream Ale. I originally brewed this one last year in Ottawa as I was unable to get any Granville Island Maple Cream that far east (so why not make my own!). I tinkered with the recipe a little and used a slightly different hop profile (Hallertau and Fuggles) along with a bottom-fermenting lager yeast. Took a little longer for it to get started, but the effect was nice nonetheless. I do believe I’ll stick to Ale yeasts though, given my current setup. This one turned out nice as well; balanced, with a hint of sweetness.
March saw me get into SMaSH brewing – Single Malt and Single Hop. I really wanted to see how far I could go with the most bare-bones of ingredients. 2-row pale malt was my main weapon and I messed around with various yeasts and hops. Aptly enough, I started out by calling the first one “Beer, C1A2″. Deliciousness abounded. This one could’ve been nicknamed “Bulldog Pale Ale” as it’s the beer that I fed to my teammates from my hockey league after games. Cascade hops and Northwest Ale yeast were the differences on this one.
April’s beer, C1A3, saw me run Kolsch yeast with Hallertau hops for another tasty brew.
May was the month where I started to get diabolical. Decided to make a Belgian Strong Pale ale. My mashing technique was getting pretty good at this point, so I went all out and spiked the brew with an additional coupla lbs of corn sugar, just for the extra kick. The net result was a potent (8%) brew that became the signature beverage of my post-battle-fitness-test party. One pint and you’d need to reconsider your balance. Several pints could be hazardous to your health.
June saw me make a beer that just did not work out at all. I’d tried to make another SMaSH beer, but failed miserably. I tried using the new Hopville beer calculus and it failed me (not enough water meaning diluted wort). Then it was an acetobacter infection because I couldn’t get it chilled fast enough (plus I was brewing outside). So now I have five gallons of delightful malt vinegar on my hands…
For the next few months, it’s going to be about expanding equipment and techniques. My brother-in-law found me a keg, which I plan on converting into a keggle, which means the addition of a plate chiller into the mix. My process is going to get a little more controlled coming up, which is definitely a good thing. I plan on making a pumpkin spice ale as well as a chocolate mint stout as my “special” beers celebrating hallowe’en and Christmas, then the usual assortment of regular beers.
I think the whole thing has given me great insight into what goes into beer and the joy that’s can come out of making something that is truly your own. Looking forward to the next six months!!