Recap 2012: The good, the bad, the bubbles

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by inchrisin, Dec 17, 2012.

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  1. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    The forum's been slow the past couple of days and this gives me time to think--a dangerous thing.
    I'm hoping everyone will share some of the things they've learned or some of the memorable brewing experiences they've had in 2012. This is a way to reflect on where you were, where you are, the things you'll repeat or never do again. I'll leave it pretty open.

    I get to start :slight_smile:

    I've learned that it was worth treking all my stuff across the state to keep a hobby after breaking up with my fiancee. While drinking isn't the healthiest way to cope with the loss, there are lots of social aspects of brewing that helped me through a rough time.

    I've learned that aeration is more important than I thought and I continue to make starters and keep an extra bottle of O2 around to give the yeast the best chance they can get for a healthy fermentation.

    I learned that if the kettle is too heavy/cumbersome/awkward to pour into a fermenter, I can lift the pot and sit down in a chair. I use my knee as leverage to try to help pour without spilling. Someday I'll get a ball-valve and pump or have the gumption to siphon into the fermenter. Someday. :slight_smile:

    I've been able to use BA just about exclusively to get feedback, help, or just to shoot the shit about bewing. It's been a lot of fun. Thanks everyone.
  2. RichardMNixon

    RichardMNixon Zealot (515) Jun 24, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I used to take the cooled wort down the basement stairs to pour into the fermenter. Now I take the carboy outside and pour from the pot without disturbing as much, I get a lot less sediment in the filter that way.

    Also made a pumpkin beer with 4 oz. of wheat that somehow came out tasting like a wheat beer. Don't think I'll be using wheat again any time soon.
  3. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,453) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Memorable experience: Stuck sparge when using adjuncts - happened multiple times. Problem solved by transferring mash to paint strainer. Lesson: use rice hulls and keep strainer bag on hand.
  4. WeaponTheyFear

    WeaponTheyFear Aspirant (240) Mar 9, 2008 Connecticut

    I just started brewing in January after reading about it for a while. I brewed about 15 or so batches, including 2 partial mash beers and have learned a lot along the way. I've learned I can never drink as much as I brew so I share a pretty good amount with friends and family. I like experimenting with the harder to get hops such as Nelson and citra because I can rarely find commercial examples. Although I should have already known, I learned at if you want to brew a Belgian style that is hoppy you need a lot more hops than with a neutral yeast.

    I've had a blast brewing and even built my own kegerator this year and never looked back. Hopefully in 2013 I'll move to all grain and I already have a stir plate coming in the mail to improve my starters.

    Memorable experience: brewing the beer served at my wedding.

    Oh and I make sure to use blow offs when fermenting the first couple days. I brewed a double IPA with yeast that I had from a local brewery and not only did the airlock blow off but the krausen was actually coming out of the carbon with 1.5 gallons worth of headspace.
    inchrisin likes this.
  5. good_gracious

    good_gracious Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2012 Maryland

    I've been brewing for about a year and it just occurred to me that I've gained exactly 1 pound for every batch of beer I've made. Dammit! This does not bode well for 2013. And here I am trying to scale up my operation......guess I need to share more......anybody want a beer? I'm pouring :sunglasses:
    Naugled likes this.
  6. NiceFly

    NiceFly Aspirant (275) Dec 22, 2011 Tajikistan

    Water chemistry for me. I started brewing with hard water and never really got into the chemistry and seldom had to adjust mash pH for any beer.

    Then I moved and everything was different. Found out I now had soft water, so I started with the water chemistry. Definately makes a difference.
  7. premierpro

    premierpro Disciple (384) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    I learned that I do not like brewing outside in 90 degree heat!
    koopa likes this.
  8. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    Successes: All of my IPAs, pale ales, elderberry wheat, American stout.

    Failures (or at least partial failures): English IPAs (2), failure to add enough priming sugar on an ESB. For whatever reason my English IPAs haven't been all that great, but they were drinkable.

    Improvements: moved to all grain successfully. Invested in a freezer chest with controller, and a turkey fryer for outdoor brewing. No regrets there!

    For the new year: Maybe kegging if I can afford it. Improve and perfect my all grain processes. Get my brother to start liking IPAs. :rolling_eyes:
    inchrisin likes this.
  9. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    You get to a boil quicker. I mean, not you, but your beer. You don't have propane regulators freeze up. You have an excuse to chug a few session beers after you're done. It's not all bad. :slight_smile:
  10. hopdog09

    hopdog09 Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2012 Michigan

    this year I finished rebuilding the brewery, turning it into superheat direct steam injection RIMS. It's been a great project from me and my brewing buddy having a few and coming up with the idea, to design and buliding and finally learning how to brew on it. haven't perfected it yet but so far i'm diggin it.
  11. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    My worst and best experience of the year revolved around a pale ale I brewed for a friend's birthday bottle share. I decided to make a hop bomb of a pale (Hopbursted, huge whirlpool addition, hopback and double dry hopping) centered around falconer's flight, citra and amarillo, with a light and biscuity malt bill, calculated: 45 IBU, O.G. 1.050, F.G. 1.010. I brewed the beer later than expected and was only able to do a single dry hop before fining, kegging and carbing. I tasted the beer, hated it, but had to take it to the party... other than the overly gracious hosts, it seemed that no one liked the beer, and the feedback I got universally was "Smells great, but just tastes generic and is overly bitter". Reactions from my homebrew club were identical.

    Since I brewed a 10 gallon batch, I took the remaining 5 gallon keg, and added a mix of Citra hops and amarillo hops for my second dry hop, left them in for 2 weeks at lager temps, and bottled for competitions. After I sent off bottles, I decided to taste one, and was blown away how much better the beer was, very dry (finished at 1.006), but had a nice biscuity malt backbone, and was incredibly fragrant and flavorful. Three weeks latter it netted me a best of show at a ~300 person comp, beating out my own milk stout (A beer I liked from the beginning). Goes to show you to not give up on a beer, and also, my personal opinion here, that dry hopping can add a ton of flavor and aroma, especially since aroma and flavor perception are so linked.
  12. MMAJYK

    MMAJYK Defender (650) Jun 26, 2007 Georgia
    Industry Beer Trader

    My only real flop this year was a Berliner Weiss. I made 10 gallons, split 5 and 5, treated both of them the exact same, and one turned out nice, and one had an extremely off-putting rubbery flavor to it. So, I added about 5 lbs of frozen raspberries to it, and it tasted like raspberry rubber, with a touch of musty flavor. I got thru it mostly, giving a lot of it away. The other 5 was great, winning a few medals, but I'm not sure what happened to the other.

    It's been an awesome competition year this year. Took the Midsouth Brewer of the Year and GA Brewer of the Year, and took BOS medals in 5 out of 6 competitions I've entered. That said, I didnt take any 1st place BOS this year, which kind of sucks. I won my first Mead medal(s) this year which was another goal I had.

    Next year, I am not going to compete all that much, and going to focus on experimenting and playing with sours and such. I'm (hopefully) moving into a house soon, so I hope to build a nice brew set up in the coming year, as well. Between the move and building that, I should be pretty busy. I would also like to make a bunch of big beers next year, for future comps and drinking.

    I would like to compete in the NHC again, but might wait until 2014. The timing isnt the best for me and my usual brew schedule, but we will see.
    barfdiggs likes this.
  13. jamescain

    jamescain Meyvn (1,001) Jul 14, 2009 Texas
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I've been experimenting a lot recently with 100% Brett beers. I would say this year I've learned and improved the most on water chemistry and I can finally control my fermentation temperature. I've also learned that I really don't like lactose, even if its just a small I have 2 cases of a beer I don't want to drink.

    Next year I'm going to hopefully start kegging and hopefully start entering competitions. I'm also going to get my souring program running so I have more then just one batch every year and a half :/
  14. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Disciple (347) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    First I want to thank all of the BA homebrewers because not only have I learned from having my questions answered but have probably learned more from reading all of yours. This is a great community and I thank you for letting me be part of it. I started researching back in March and brewed my first batch in June. I have honestly learned more about beer in the last 6 months than I learned in 10+ years of drinking craft beer.

    My most memorable moment so far was my first brew day. I had a brand new outdoor burner that I had never used. Got everything prepared and started my water and cracked a beer. However for some reason it took me over an hour just to get a tiny boil going. By the end of the day it seemed like everything went wrong and I was half drunk because I started drinking to early. I was dejected and thought my first brew was ruined.

    The next day I came on here and posted about the burner. Someone suggested that I might have opened the valve on the burner 1st before opening the valve on the tank. I went home and tried the correct order and I could tell right away that was the problem since my burner now sounded like a rocket engine. I immediately felt better knowing that I would not have this problem next time. And in the end the beer turned out a lot better than I thought it would.
    inchrisin likes this.
  15. hopsandmalt

    hopsandmalt Initiate (0) Dec 14, 2006 Michigan

    I learned (the hard way) that my mash tun holds 28lbs. of grain and strike water (not 30lbs).:grimacing:
    Beerontwowheels likes this.
  16. RendoMike

    RendoMike Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    The good: I started actually participating on BA forums this month instead of lurking all the time. Clicked on this section for the first time about a month ago and brewed my first batch, a chocolate oatmeal stout on Thursday, so far so good.

    The bad: I've spent way too much money on beer this year.

    For next year, instead of investing in beer other people brewed, I will continue to invest and improve on brewing my own.
  17. MrOH

    MrOH Defender (614) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Well, this being my first full year in Philly, a few things finally hit me that hadn't really sank in before (and the first two go for all consumables, since I work as a cook, not just my homebrewing).

    1. Most people prefer to be critics, they are afraid to create.
    2. A good amount of people who take up a hobby will half-ass it so their feelings won't be hurt if it doesn't turn out right
    3. "Wow, this tastes like real beer" is a great compliment.
    4. Adapt to your environment. Brew more Belgians than you can drink in the summer, and don't be afraid to experiment. Brew your heavies in the winter, they'll last and the journey they make over a year is incredible. There aren't many problems that more hops won't take care of (as a stop-gap solution).
    5. Golden promise works as a great base malt for many, many styles
    barfdiggs, koopa and BeerBum like this.
  18. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    Mash thicker! That's my solution... :slight_smile:
  19. DAllspaw

    DAllspaw Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2009 Indiana

    Just started in September, on my 5th batch, key learnings from the first batch, which was dishonhorably discharged down the drain.
    1. Wort chillers are great, but late summer ground water is too warm for quick cooling (took 1 hr)
    2. Aerate the wort, don't just stir like the queen with her afternoon tea, shake the bejeezus out of it (thanks Vikeman).
    3. Control fermentation temps, bathtub with ice is great when too warm.
    4. Read, read, read, and keep taking notes so you can accurately deduce what worked and didn't
  20. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,453) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    These are all good lessons. Did you stir while you were chilling? If not, that should help. Also, I prefer using an aeration stone and oxygen supply to shaking. Much easier and more effective.
  21. DAllspaw

    DAllspaw Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2009 Indiana

    Yep - I stir when I chill now, another good lesson learned on this forum. Manual agitation, and of course adding a healthy yeast starter, have provided good attenuation in subsequent batches, active within 6 hours and usually going for up to a week, and always hitting desired FG. Agree a stone is good next step nonetheless, especially for plans on higher OG beers. It's on my list.
  22. afrokaze

    afrokaze Zealot (579) Jun 12, 2009 Arizona
    Beer Trader

    Sucesses: Started homebrewing! Now 3 batches in and loving the new obsession. Did a lot of reading first and it paid off, I pretty much feel comfortable with my timing, prep, cleanup, etc. My second batch (dry hopped saison) was particularly nice and got good comments (hopefully Vinnie from RR can give me some feedback in a few days if I get lucky!) And finally did a starter on my most recent batch, which seems to be paying off already.

    Lessons: Killed a pack of yeast making my first starter. Learned to pay attention to weather before brewday. Wor on temp control. Always let it bottle condition for longer than you think. And of course, RDWHAHB!
  23. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (8,061) May 5, 2010 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    Started all grain. All beers were great, except the first one(Brown) which was still good; just a bit estery. I built a tun with zinc washers and realized my mistake afterward.

    Won Silver in Cat 23 with a Rye IPA in August

    I realized I need to get a double crush now at LHBS or have them calibrate it when I go in. I got ~66% eff like 3 times. Everything else has been spot on, due to me already having a year behind me.

    Started water/mash chem for the first time in late August. Beer quality went way up.

    Love me some paint strainer bags now. Super clear beer all day, low trub out of primary. And my keezer fermentation chamber is a priceless investment. Fucking nailed the 2 Belgians I made. People have been raving about my White IPA.
  24. psnydez86

    psnydez86 Disciple (363) Jan 4, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I'm 2 years into this incredibly awesome, rewarding, and obsessive (expensive, time consuming, and a lot of damn work) hobby and I have aquired some great knowledge over the past year, and continue to have a blast brewing and learning. These are some things i've learned over the past year or so...

    1. Proper pitching rate is crucial to good beer and mr. malty as well as other yeast calculators make the science to it very simple.

    2. Fermentation Temperature control, pure 02 thru a stone, and #1 can produce an absolutely fantastic beer.

    3. Practicing brewing with #1 and #2 provides a much healthier and somewhat angrier fermentation and figuring out how to fashion a rudimentary blow off hose with a 3 piece airlock and siphon hose is absolutely monumental. Thank you BA'S OUT THERE!!!!!

    4. After 11 batches I have had enough of bottling and bottle conditioning as the work and effort along with the time one must wait to consume their beer is just too much to handle. ( I will continue to bottle condition beers that benefit from some waiting/patience)

    5. If you get a package of liquid yeast and "smack" the pack so agressively that you get chunks of english yeast in your eye and nose... for god's sake drive a half hour and get some different yeast to propogate, as that package is not safe to sit on the counter for 3 hours while you hope it puffs up prior to making your starter.... its no wonder my wife calls me dumb.

    6. Homebrewing is like no other hobby out there, and requires more work and dedication than anything i've ever done, but is also more rewarding than anything I've ever done. I'd like to send out a cheers to everyone on this forum that has helped me become a better brewer, and for helping out so many brewers on this forum tackle common brewing obstacles. If your reading this, take a moment to enjoy a homebrew, and be proud that your part of the tradition of brewing. As I think we all know this hobby can be very testing at times, but those who endure, are the truly obsessed, and blessed.

    Cheers to all and have a splendid holiday!!
    MMAJYK likes this.
  25. mattbk

    mattbk Devotee (467) Dec 12, 2011 New York

    Mostly what I've learned is that I still have a lot to learn. For every batch I brew (up to about 40 AG in a little less than 2 years) I still learn new things and figure better ways of doing things. Thanks to all of you that have helped. Looking forward to more of the same next year.
    inchrisin likes this.
  26. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    So how did sparging go?
    hopsandmalt likes this.
  27. hopsandmalt

    hopsandmalt Initiate (0) Dec 14, 2006 Michigan

    A slow trickle.
  28. drgarage

    drgarage Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2008 California

    I'm 2.5 years in now. Highlights from 2012:

    -- Getting my first beneficial infection took a pretty boring hoppy pale ale and made it into a delicious super-dried out brett saison (2013's first task: harvesting that culture!)
    -- Dramatically expanding my knowledge of hop profiles and yeast strains; my happily fermenting hoppy tripel that's making the whole house smell like pineapple and mango is a testament to that
    -- First public beer release at a friend's art show; they all drank the session Falconer's IPA that my brew buddy and I made so quickly that I only got one bottle!
    -- The devastation of watching an extremely promising vanilla porter turn into an infected, exploding nightmare as it aged. Much improved bottling is an aim for 2013 also.

    That's pretty much 2012. Next year will be about moving to all grain and entering competitions.
  29. OddNotion

    OddNotion Devotee (478) Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    1. Got my Dad into homebrewing
    2. DRASTICALLY improved the quality of my own homebrew
    3. Successfully brewed about 180 bottles for a wedding, not only in the feedback I received but in the fact that I saw numerous people walking around drinking the bottles throughout the night that I had not talked to about myself brewing the beers
    4. No failed beers this year, closest call was a DIPA that I was shooting for 8% abv but wound up with 12% abv due to a higher than expected efficiency, undershooting volume, and yeast that attenuated far above my expectations
    5. Began kegging and other than sours I will never turn back
    6. Successfully brewed a Brett beer - the sours are still fermenting
  30. ithacabaron

    ithacabaron Devotee (433) Jul 16, 2003 California

    This year marks 10 years behind the kettle for me.

    Didn't brew as much as I'd like, but I was really happy with what I made. For me, this year was about two things: working the kinks out of a few styles, and reminding myself about those things (certain malts, hop varietals, etc.) that really make me happy.

    To that end, I finally worked the kinks out of a nice Wee Heavy, made a knockout tribute to Avec Les Bons Voeux, experimented with new hop schedules, and made a much needed upgrade to the old brewing rig -- new kettles, a new mash tun, the works. I even got myself some fresh grape juice and made wine for the first time. Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks?

    All in all, it's been a great run. Here's hoping my next batch is even better than the one before, into perpetuity.
    MrOH likes this.
  31. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,416) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    - I learned (or solidified what I already thought I knew) that water chemistry really is important to make the best possible beer. The old saying that "If your water tastes good, it's good for brewing" should be revised to say "If your water tastes good, you can make beer with it." Subtle difference, I know.

    - In several different 2012 threads, I learned that some homebrewers have serious difficulty discerning the difference between right and wrong, legally and/or ethically. Which is disturbing.

    - I think I have finally settled on a formula (# of seconds by OG by ale/lager type) for hardware store cylinder pure O2 aeration through a 0.5 micron stone. So i got that goin' for me, which is nice.

    - I learned that short of sacrificing goats, BOS Round 1sts are statistically hard to come by. Counter-intuitively, 2nds and 3rds are practically lying around to be tripped over. My white whale is still out there, and 2013 will be the year. You betcha. OTOH, and more seriously, objective feedback is still the main reason for entering contests.

    - Drink up. There are two days left.
  32. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,453) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Like you, I use a this setup for aeration, but I have never gotten too systematic about it. I open the valve until I begin to see some vigorous bubbles and do about 45-90 sec, loosely based on gravity. What is your formula?
  33. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,416) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    O2 Seconds, in excel format...


    ...where cell I41 is the lager indicator and cell D32 is the OG minus 1.
    Note this is dialed in for my normal 5.1 gallon batches, so the formula itself does not include a term for batch size.
  34. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    So in English... 75% more O2 (by time) for lagers than ales and you use a minute as a starting point and add / subtract based on OG from there (add a second for every point above 1.048, take away one for each below is what it appears to me).

    How did you settle on this?
    inchrisin likes this.
  35. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,453) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Thanks. I understand the excel mechanics and I get the generality of the underlying theory (lager yeast needs more than ales, bigger beers need more than smaller), but how did you zero in on the specifics, e.g., base rate, lager multiplier, and gravity requirement?
    I would think batch size would scale in direct proportion.
  36. pweis909

    pweis909 Meyvn (1,453) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    kjyost beat me to my question!
  37. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,416) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Your understanding is keen.

    A combination of...
    - liking the results from one minute in a 1.048 wort
    - wanting to adjust up/down based on gravity (and thus higher/lower cell counts)
    - looking at high/low time recommendations others have used (as a sanity check)
    - getting what seems to be pretty consistent fermentations with this version of the formula, and no apparent over-oxygenation problems

    I would assume so.
  38. jmich24

    jmich24 Zealot (553) Jan 28, 2010 Michigan

    2012: The year of the Wild Ale. (Plus IPA and Extra Hoppy Pales)

    I started my sour/wild program back in the start of 2012.
    1st: Flemish Red with Roeselare and Dregs.
    2nd: GI Sofie clone with Belgian Saison and Brett B + Brett Dregs.
    3rd: Lambic.
    4th: re-pitchch of the Saison and Brett Dregs on to a similar wort with fresh peaches added.
    5th: RR Consecration wort inoculated with the 2nd generation Roeselare Cake + Dregs.

    The only beer kegged so far is the 1st Sofie Clone( Turned out well bit more acidic than expected). I am going to remake a Flemish Red every six months and the Lambic once a year until the end of time...

    2013: More of the same!
    inchrisin likes this.
  39. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (268) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    After a couple of less than stellar beers in 2011 I got back to basics and just worked on technique. I had gotten sloppy about measuring(still am but less so), water volume, etc. Teaching a couple of friends to brew(10 gallon all grain batches from Day 1) forced me to take a closer look at everything I did in the brewhouse. I've brewed about 180 gallons this year and not a single batch I wasn't proud of.
    I also brewed a lot more of styles I never got into-IPA's and rye beers in particular. My IPA's could use a little tweaking, but my last rye IPA was a real success, according to my IPA/DIPA swilling daughter.
    Next year I hope to focus on German styles, everything from roggenbier(order more rye) to rauchbiers(the malt smoking season is here and I have about 500 pounds of pecan wood).
  40. tngolfer

    tngolfer Initiate (75) Feb 16, 2012 Tennessee

    As the initiator of one of those posts, I learned asking about kegs is more polarizing than what is going on up in D.C. regarding the fiscal cliff.

    Vikeman, I thought you would be happy to know you (and others) convinced me not to steal a keg that I rented. You can chalk that up to learning people can be taught.
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