Doppelbock of Resolution: Turn Over a New Brewing Leaf

BYOB by | Dec 2007 | Issue #12
Illustration by Scott Murry

Across America at this moment, millions are exclaiming, “I will go to the gym this year!” By next week, those promises will lie in tatters for all but a few stalwart goody two-shoes. Make a resolution that you can keep! Change, break the cycle of your bad habits and climb out of your brewing rut. What should your Brew Year’s Resolution be? How about these to start?

Despite this past year’s exhortations, many of you sit undecided about brewing. Take the plunge! Get a kit, find the space and join this revolutionary world with style. Are you the next brewer to release a beer feeding frenzy with your Double Cherry Barrel-aged Ale? If you get your kettles roiling, you will create magic. Something this easy and fun, it should be criminal.

Maybe you’ve got the gear, but you ain’t got the time? Trust me: Many brewers live in those broke-down shoes. Take a couple of hours, pound out a simple batch of beer and remember you are a brewer! Keep it simple. Anything to keep your hands busy brewing. Buy your family dinner and dream of a freshly made bottle of sudsy joy.

Brew With a Newbie (To You)
Our brewing process is the biggest rut into which we fall. Staidly following the numbing routine, the same measurements, infusions and timings we always do. Break away from your tired routine and step into another brewery. Liberate yourself; listen, observe and learn from a fresh perspective. Renew what was once rote.

Annually, my mission is to seek new brewing partners and see what voodoo they do. Leeching nutty bits of brewing philosophy, practical means of formulating recipes, crazy times dropping shots of “energizing” tequila, celebrating every step—what could be better? Leaving my new compatriots, I am invigorated with new gadgets to build, new techniques to try. Ruminating over pints with others helps shape new recipes and styles. Without this effort, I would have missed so much fun.

Lacking other experienced brewers in the area is no excuse! Drag Uncle Jack or Neighbor Larry into the game. Gain a homebrew drinking buddy and listen to their naïve questions as they strengthen your knowledge and expose practices that have outlived their unexamined life.

If you are the newbie, find a veteran and offer to pay or do all the hard work!

Brew the Beer Less Chosen
Examine my brew logs and a pattern quickly appears: Mild, DIPA/Belgian/Something Experimental, Mild, ad nauseam. Brewing a style we love is easy. This is the classic brewing rut! How many IPAs can you drink without boredom? Focusing on specific combinations of flavors, aromas and textures saps the creative vitality that creates masterful beer. Ignore this loss and face the very real possibility of waking up without the fire for brewing and a routine, dull beer on tap. Eventually dust settles an inch thick on your kettles and a Craigslist fire sale ad awaits your carboys.

Tackling a long forgotten or never-tried style keeps the Craigslist vultures at bay. Walking away from the usual recipes forces you to study and approach the brew day with a new eye. Even switching base ingredients reboots the mind. Just think about the difference between brands of base malt, both foreign and domestic.

Compile your brewing notes. Do you brew a lot of a particular style? Step away from it for a while. Find a style that intrigues you and give it a shot. You may not succeed on your first attempt, but the trial is the point. If you have never done a lager, tackle it while the weather is still cool. Lagers tax your temperature control regime and require extra care with your yeast. A Bock or Pilsner is a worthy challenge and switches up your brewing practice.

Brew a Mutant
Sometimes, if I stop thinking and wing a brew, I whip up a fantastic mutant. Springtime in Amarillo came about by this sort of surrender. See, my monster Saison d’Hiver requires a metric ton of yeast to ferment from a dense 1.140. To grow a yeast cake, I brew a smaller beer, like Saison Potiron. Inspired by the success of my Gumball-head-style beer and the appearance of Belgian Ales crossed with American hops, I instead brewed Springtime in Amarillo; an Amarillo infused Pale Wheat Saison. It was a lark, a cheap throwaway beer to lay groundwork for the expensive d’Hiver. Saint Arnold himself blessed the stupidity; now this grapefruit-perfumed American Saison resides in regular rotation.

Check the world around you for inspiration. Think about a recent meal: What would fit well with its flavors, what in the dish would work well in a beer? What beer recently flattened you? Troll the pages of Mosher’s Radical Brewing, Calagione’s Extreme Brewing or Harrod Buhner’s far-out Sacred Herbal and Healing Beers and more for guidance.

Brew Something Else (Mead, Cider, Wine)
After brewing a while, you realize that fermentation is fermentation. Doesn’t matter if you’re fermenting grape must, pressed apples or barley washings. OK, it matters a little in the finer details, but the basics work the same. The key is still to find the freshest and best ingredients and ferment clean. Get a leg up with fresh-pressed apple cider or grapes straight off the vine. Barring that, find the best packed versions, juice without preservatives or vacuum-packed wine must.

Mead, honey wine, is a perfect project for the time-strapped brewer looking for a way to please their partner. From start to pitch, mead takes less than an hour to start and a wait of six months to a year to enjoy. Additionally, fresh honey is available year-round! Check the farmers markets or local apiary and watch for a supermarket special to grab a deal. Brewing a gallon at a time saves time and money and encourages experimentation.

If you are particularly brave, look at fermented foods: vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and more. Beware! Organisms used in those processes may be detrimental to your beer’s health.

That’s just a scant smattering of suggestions. What do you resolve to do? Let’s talk about it on the Homebrewing Forum. There are no prizes except the feeling of keeping at least one resolution this year! This year I resolve to perfect a Doppelbock. The Doppelbock of Resolution is the never-brewed starting point. Look for updates and judging reactions throughout the year.

5.5 gallons at 1.088 (68% efficiency), 36 IBUs, 22 SRM

11.00 lb. Weyermann Munich
6.50 lb. Weyermann Pilsner
1.00 lb. Weyermann Crystal 65L
0.50 lb. Melanoidin malt
0.25 lb. Weyermann Carafa de-husked chocolate malt

Mash Schedule
Beta: Rest 142°F for 30 minutes
Saccharifiction: Rest 152°F for 60 minutes
Mash by decoction or tons of stirring.

0.70 oz. Magnum (pellets) | 14.8% AA | 90 minutes
0.50 oz. Tettnang (pellets) | 4.9% AA | 15 minutes

WLP833 German Bock (Ayinger)