2013 Year in Upalong Homebrewing

I started this blog a year ago to document my attempts to get better at homebrewing. I have to say, 2013 has probably been the most productive and educational in my homebrewing career. I brewed styles I hadn’t brewed before, learned a lot about water chemistry and ph management, tried new yeasts, hops, and malts, and generally just brewed more than I ever had before. In what follows, a summary of the beers I brewed this year, what I liked about them, what I’d change and my plans for the new year.

Ubiquitous glass of grain.

Ubiquitous glass of grain.

January 2013
My first brew of the year, Pepperrell Porter, needed a little time to calm down the roasted malts acrid acidity. Once it mellowed it was one of the best beers I’ve ever brewed. I’ve got a bottle or two squirrelled away that I want to keep to try alongside the re-brew of this recipe that I’ve planned for January 2014.

February 2013
I had a lot of hops, so I brewed my B’yPA. An experiment in trying over-the-top hoping, I’m happy with the overall sweet, fruity hop character (almost strawberry) I developed. It needs some tweaking, as I don’t know if the kitchen sink approach to hopping is one that I’ll be trying again in the near future. I’m also trying to use fewer hops that have a tendency to run out, so this one with Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe doesn’t fit that bill.

March 2013
Basilica Blonde was my biggest failure of the year. Not undrinkable, but I ordered based upon a working recipe where there was way too much crystal malt. This beer taught me what too much crystal malt tastes like in a beer. The name of the beer will stay, but I’m restarting the recipe!

April 2013
Lauds, my oaked rye saison, was probably my best homebrew of the year. It’s planned to be re-brewed in 2014 to see if it’s repeatable! It reminded me a lot of some really great American-hopped saisons like Sorachi Ace or Goose Island’s Sophie, so it’s scheduled to be brewed again ASAP.

May 2013
Taking lessons from my SMASH pale ales, Falconer’s Flight was a nice, light happy ale.

June/July 2013
The busy summer months are always hard for brewing and temperature control. I brewed my Dark Smoked Wheat over these months which was nice and sessionable. It’s actually not that far in taste from Bellwood’s Gognard, so that’s good, but it’s not a beer I think I’ll be trying again. I’ll either go with a wheat beer or a smoked beer, but the light finish to a smokey front doesn’t totally work as a recipe.

August 2013
In August I brewed my Brett Saison, later called Lester’s Farmhouse after Lester’s Farm in St. John’s. This is kinda a simple saison base brewed to try out the American Farmhouse Blend from White Labs. It could use some work to make it more interesting, perhaps some Simcoe or other American-ish hops, but as a test of the strain, it’s very tasty indeed.

September 2013
I did two bigger beers in September. The first, aged for two months in secondary, was John Barleycorn Must Die. It was brewed on the day I couldn’t get to the wedding of a couple of my friends. And is still fairly young for such a big beer, but already showing nice candied fruit and toffee characters. The other beer was Vespers my Belgian Strong Dark Ale.

I had wanted to do a Belgian Strong Dark Ale for a long time since they are pretty hard to come by in Ontario and one of my favourite styles. I really like the raisin bread notes in these beers, so mine was aimed to really play that character over any other spices. I think it hits the mark, though it’s a style that ages pretty well and I’m looking forward to seeing what time does to it.

October 2013
October was a hectic month that had me in Portland (Maine), Newfoundland, and Montreal. When I was home in Newfoundland I got a chance to brew my molasses, coffee, oatmeal stout Newfoundland Breakfast Stout and to start a year (or more) long project to brew a sour, the NewfoundLambic. I’m really happy with the Newfoundland Breakfast Stout which is deeply flavoured with molasses, raisin notes, and has a nice coffee finish. I have some tweaks, but it’s pretty much how I want it.

November 2013
I finally got around to brewing my Black IPA (or American Dark Ale) after a couple of busy months of work. All Ontario Chinook hops were used to make my Chinook ’85. A little young yet, but tasting amazingly fresh and piny. Looking forward to trying a couple of bottles soon.

December 2013
In December I brewed three beers. My Imperial Stout and Mild, Amherst Rock and Seagull Dreams, and my Pomander Stout. Too early to tell how these are going to turn out yet, but early tastes are promising.

Throughout the year I started brewing 3.5 L SMASH beers, which included a Galaxy, Calypso, Polaris, and Hallertau versions. I need to brew more of these in the new year too, though I might add to the malt bill a little to make them more similar to Bellwoods Monogamy base. More crystal and oats for better mouthfeel and head retention.

And that’s the year! My rough math puts my output at around 250L of homebrew this year! Not too bad. Considering a British Brewers Barrel is 163.6 litres (an American one is 117?) I brewed about 1.5 BBL (or 2 American Barrels?). Metric is easier, so let’s just say 2.5 hectolitres. In total it was 18 unique beers, though subtracting four 3.5 L beers, that’s 14 which surpasses my beer-a-month goal set for 2013.

After all that, here are my “core brands,” so to speak of my imaginary brewery. I’m hoping to try some of these recipes again to try dial them into how I really want them.

Upalong Core Brands
Pepperrell Porter (American Porter) – First brewed January 2013.
Newfie Bullet (English IPA) – Planned 2014.
Foolish Gommel (American Pale Ale) – First brewed (as Falconer’s Flight) June 2013.
B’yPA (American IPA) – First brewed March 2013. To be redesigned 2014.
Basilica Blonde (Belgian Pale Ale) – First brewed February 2013. To be redesigned 2014.
Lester’s Farmhouse (Saison w/Brett) – First brewed August 2013.

Upalong Specialities
Newfoundland Breakfast Stout (Breakfast Stout) – First brewed in 2012.
John Barleycorn Must Die (English Barleywine) – First brewed September 2013.
Amherst Rock / Seagull Dreams (Imperial Stout, English Mild) – First brewed December 2013.
NewfoundLambic (Sour Ale) – First brewed October 2013.

Conical Hours Series
Lauds (Chardonay Oaked Rye Saison) – Morning Prayer – First brewed April 2013.
Terce (Belgian Strong Pale Ale) – Midmorning prayer – Planned 2014.
None (Belgian Table Beer) – Midafternoon prayer – Planned 2014.
Vespers (Belgian Strong Dark Ale) – Evening Prayer – First brewed November 2013.

So, that’s the year. My goals for next year:
(1) Focus on re-brewing a few of my core recipes and dialling them in.
(2) Brew more with fewer yeast strains. Try to focus on simple yeasts to eliminate variables in recipes.
(3) Brew more smaller batches. My biggest challenge last year was keeping up with emptying the beer from my bottles. This year I might cut my batch size down to 15L as a standard.
(4) Keep it metric. All metric units, all the time.
(5) Bottle better. I have an old bottling bucket that’s kinda crappy. I need to focus on getting less oxygen contact when bottling.
(6) Enter some kind of competition.
(7) Learn more. Much, much more.

That’s it! I’m excited to get brewing in 2014! I want to get brewing!

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