I've been thinking recently about what I wanted to accomplish in 2016 both as a brewer and where I want this blog to go. Also personal goals of course. We all tend to do that at the start of a new year I believe. So this post may be a little long winded but I mainly wanted to post it here for myself. I'll be able to see it and come back to it for reference throughout the year. I've seen some other guys do this and I think it will really help. I apologize for any rambling you may see. I'm really just writing this down to get the thoughts out of my head.
First, since this is essentially a homebrewing blog and a brewing journal for me, I'll start with my brewing goals. Some of them I've already started on and some may be new all together.
Bitterness: One thing I've been really thinking about is brewing my Saisons with more pronounced bitterness. Primarily I want to do this without the presence of sourness. If I brew a clean or brettanomyces Saison, I would like the bitterness to come through more. In speaking with Amos on this topic, and hearing some of his thoughts on some of the beers I've sent him, I think this is definitely an area I can improve my beers. I am a large fan of using low AA hops to achieve the bitterness I think is fitting of a Saison. Using BeerSmith to build the recipes I usually target 25-35 IBUs but I am not sure how accurate the software is at calculating this. Moreover, I may not be degrading the AA enough in the hops I'm using. I tend to use a lot of freshly bought hops when I brew but at times I use hops that I have stored in the freezer as well. I cannot be certain of the freshness of the hops in either case but some degradation may be required to achieve the bitterness I am looking to get. I may try some different hop varietals for brews in 2016 to help with this part of my brewing. I don't tend to notice the lack of bitterness in my blended or tart Saisons but there is definitely a missing layer in my clean and brett'd brews.
Batch Size: The second thing I would like to do in 2016 is brew more large batches of beer that I would be able to split into separate smaller batches for testing other yeast strains as well as be able to let more beer mature with mixed cultures for blending use in the future. I would like to brew a 10 gallon batch of a beer like Kathleen and use 5 gallons for fresh bottling and the other 5 gallons for pitching a mixed culture. This would up the supply of mature beer that has either a pronounced acidic or brettanomyces character/funk that I would be able to use in blending.
Blending: That leads me to blending more. Early in 2015 I became enamored with the Bière de Coupage process and plan to further my knowledge and experience with it. I would like to be on a steady schedule of blending my beers. This will improve on the quality of the beer as well as help me become a better brewer and blender. Blending is an art form. Even more difficult than brewing in my opinion. It takes experience and patience to blend a beer correctly to meet a flavor and profile that you expect. I intend to better acquaint myself with my beers and learn how to let them direct me on how to blend them. I will also continue to brew my blonde sours that I primarily use for blending. A simple grain bill and low AA hops have been leading to a nice profile when blended with my Saisons.
Process: Next I would like to focus on my brewing process more instead of going out and buying all the new things out on the market (hops, yeasts, etc.) I think this will help me to make better beer. This seems counter intuitive to my post about brewing larger batches to test yeasts strains and such, but I don't believe it is. With splitting my batches I will be able to use one process and get different results from the brew day. I will probably use some new yeasts in 2016 but it won't be my focus. I'd like to take what I know and what strains, hops, and malts that I'm familiar with and improve my process with them. This may mean splitting a batch of beer with two strains I already like and seeing what beers are better for blending and what beers are best as a stand alone product. For example, I know that I love beers fermented with Wyeast 3726. Those beers have been great stand alone but have also done very well when blended or when 3726 was pitched with other organisms. Brettanomyces Claussenii and Trois Vrai have been favorites to pair with it. What I would like to do is brew a beer, split it and pitch 3726 as primary in one, followed by secondary pitching of the brettanomyces strains. Then take the remainder and pitch all of them at the same time. This will let me see what I prefer and from there I will have that process down. By the way, I think I will see a return of using WLP565 in 2016. A couple years ago, this was my go to strain. I'd like to experiment more with it now that I am a bit better at brewing.
Organization: The last brewing related goal is to become more organized. I'd like to have my equipment as well as my ingredients better arranged to not have to worry about where anything is at any time. I think this will make brew days smoother and keep my head clear about what I have on hand and what I need to pick up. I started on this in 2015 but didn't get quite where I wanted. This spills over in to my brew days. I'd like to develop my own set schedule for the day. It's all pretty much the same but I feel if I write down a schedule it would make things a lot easier. Have it with me the day before in preparation and then keep it with me throughout the brew day. I already keep my brewing journal with me 24/7 for the most part so I may just come up with something to go along with it.
Blog Related Goals:
Posts: With the blog I'd like to be able to post more. Hopefully I can give more time to the blog and have posts come out more consistently. I want to keep something going for folks to read but, also, if I'm posting more, I'll be brewing more. That won't be a bad thing at all.
Information: I would also like to include more information in the blog. So far it has really been more of a brewing journal than anything. I don't plan on changing that but I would like to post any information I come across or learn so that others can see it. This will help the readership and help improve my learning as well.
Imagery: Better imagery is another area I'd like to improve. I've been dabbling in photography lately and I'd like to bridge that over to the blog and my brewing. Documenting my processes, shooting pictures of the beers, and taking pictures when I travel to places will definitely improve the visual appeal of the blog. That's never a bad thing.
Other Outlets: I plan on using YouTube more for another outlet of the blog. Posting brew day videos, maybe some interviews, and even short blurbs about the beers I'm drinking or brewing would give more content for the blog. I started a Facebook page late in 2015 and I'll probably keep that going as well as maybe creating a Twitter or maybe an Instagram account for the blog. Anything that helps me share my experiences.
Interviews: Interviews of both homebrewers and even professional brewers of my favorite styles would really add to the blog as well. Maybe I can work something like this out in 2016. I have tons of conversations with both homebrewers and professionals where after they are over I think that would be a great thing to write about on the blog. Hopefully I can begin doing this.
Travel: I'm turning 30 this year and I've begun to think about things I haven't done or seen yet. I've been to a lot of great brewers and traveled a good bit with my work but I'd like to do more. I still have a ton of time to do this but if I wait, that time would slowly dwindle down. My girlfriend loves traveling as well so I think there is a definite possibility of more travel in 2016. Plus I need to do something great for my 30th right??
Learning: I hope to never stop learning. In 2016 I hope I learn more than I have in any previous year. That's up to me entirely so I'll be making that effort.
As of right now, these are the goals I have for my brewing, the blog, and some personal ones. I'm sure it will change and I'm sure there are some things I've left out or things I'll think about going from here.
In other news, I'll be on a radio podcast on January 28th talking with the guys at the Fermentation Nation. We'll be talking about the blog and general farmhouse beer stuff. I'm not sure when it will be up but it will be soon after it's live. If you haven't already, check out their podcasts. A lot of great information for homebrewers and about the industry itself. You can check out their website here.
Thanks to all those that have read the blog so far and to those that helped inspire me to start it. I always tell folks to check out my recommended websites I have listed and I still do. So many great brewers are out there with information at the ready for you to learn. If you have any questions for me, shoot me an email or a message on whatever form of social media you prefer. If I don't know the answer or have experience with it, I'll do my best to direct you where to find it.
Here's to 2016!
Edit: I also want to brew more English Ales to keep on tap in my keezer. I am really wanting to build a beer engine as well. Maybe I can get to some things like that this year.
Andrew "Gus" Addkison
@aaddkison on Twitter