Let’s talk about 2021 Brewing Goals. It is now the middle of March. Is it too late for me to set my 2021 Brew-Years resolutions? I am getting over my brewing funk of 2020, so better late than never! You have goals for your brewing, right?
Looking Forward to 2020?
As 2020 started, I was on a brewing high note. During 2019 I stepped up my brewing game. I pulled in improvements like fermentation temp control, water chemistry, closed keg transfers. 2019 included many investigative batches. Overall, I had adopted a focus on improvement and it appeared to be paying off.
One plan for 2019 was to nail down “house recipe” versions of a Porter, IPA, and Pale Ale. I got close on the Porter and IPA, where I just needed another round or two. Time ran out and the Pale Ale fell to the wayside. 2020 was going to include a deep dive into Belgians, with the idea I could make progress on beers like a Saison, Dubbel, and Quad. Heck, I might even be able to fit in a Triple or Golden Strong. That did not quite happen.
In 2019, I ended up 3rd in the Wort Hogs Brewer of the Year competition behind some good brewers. Some respected friends and brewers commented on the improvement in my beers. I started off 2020 strong as far a club competitions. I placed in the first 3 club competitions with an American IPA, a Porter and a NEIPA. The IPA and Porter were the recipes I had been working on. I registered for a local competition and had 4 beers ready to enter. Then…
The Realities of 2020
If you have not seen the news, there was a pandemic in 2020. My homebrew clubs stopped meeting and local competitions were canceled. 2020 make me realize how much I brew beer to share with others, especially my investigative batches. That aspect of the hobby was on hold. I did have more time to brew beer, and I also had more time/reason to drink beer. I had to step back from the brewing and drinking cycle before I gained 40 lbs!
Note, I was very fortunate personally in 2020. I was able to work full time from home with full salary. While some close friends and relatives had COVID-19, they all recovered. My girlfriend lost her job in the medical field, but she has been able to get by financially. Overall, my COVID-19 issues were trivial compared to many.
In 2020, I did make some steps toward my Belgian deep dive goal. I brewed decent versions of a Single and a Belgian Pale Ale. The primary goal with these beers was to get a better feel for coaxing flavors out of the Westmalle yeast strain. Some flavorful, moderate ABV beers was a bonus! I made a nice Quad from a brewery wort share event. I brewed 2 batches of a Rye Saison, that still needs some work. That NEIPA from early in 2020 was pretty solid, and I also brewed a few other nice beers in 2020.
During the second half of 2020, my brewing slowed down considerably. I filled my time with two other longtime hobbies: flower gardening/landscaping, and woodworking. While I am good at gardening, I have a lot to learn to be a proficient woodworker. I am optimistic to see my landscape come back to life in spring 2021!
What about 2021 Brewing Goals?
Finally, back to the point of this article! As I entered 2021, I put all my brewing goals on hold. Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, I just did not want to plan around club meetings, club competitions or regional competitions. I wanted to brew beer, but without the ability to share my beers with others, my motivation was low.
Well, the thought of competitions opening up in 2021, some cautious optimism for the pandemic’s waning, and launching Cascades Homebrew has injected some motivation into me. I have lots of ideas to keep my kettles busy. Let’s jump into my 2021 Brewing Goals.
Core Recipes / Belgian Beers
My next brew is planned to be a Kveik Pale Ale to start my focus on building a modern Pale Ale to my recipe book (see: Building A Modern Pale Ale, with Kveik?).
Nailing down a Saison is high on my priority list. I just kegged a batch with a Pilsner + Rye grain bill, fermented with the DuPont strain. While I can see progress, I am already thinking of ideas for my next batch. Moving forward, I way to play around with different Saison ingredients, yeasts, and fermentation temperatures.
As far as that Dubbel that I wanted to brew in 2020, I was able to get in a batch in January 2021. It is a very nice beer, but I have ideas to make it better. Another iteration or two should get me very close. Then I can apply some lessons toward a Quad in the future.
I just wanted to note that brewing 2.5 gallon batches via Stovetop BIAB has been great for working on recipes. It is just about the right amount to enjoy and share, before moving on to brewing another batch. Be sure to check out my articles on the topic (see: Stovetop BIAB: The Best All-Grain Batch Size!)
I am cautiously optimistic that some local competitions will happen this year and that my homebrew club competitions will ramp up. I have reached out to a few competitions, and at least one was thinking about pushing back their competition a few months. Hopefully the timing works out for me to get a few quality beers into competitions.
I have lots of ideas for investigative brewing (see: Investigative Brewing: Improve Your Homebrew). Not being able to share them with club members has taken away some of my motivation for these. I am optimistic, again cautiously, that my club will start holding outdoor gatherings in the coming months opening up more options to share my results. Launching Cascades Homebrew has given me motivation to share my investigative brewing online. Some thoughts:
- Hop Addition Timing: the impact of hop additions at 30, 20, 10 and 0 minutes.
- Bittering Hop Impact: the impact of different bittering hops (like Columbus, Warrior, Chinook, Citra, or Northern Brewer).
- Steep vs Partial Mash: steeping grains like Oatmeal or Golden Naked Oats vs a partial mash.
- Building Body: different methods to build body in beers, such as Carapils vs Carafoam, Wheat vs Oats, or adding Maltodextrin.
- Dry Yeasts: using various dry yeast to brew beers like Saison, Dubbel or NEIPA.
- Extract NEIPA: testing ideas around brewing a good NEIPA using extract.
I know I won’t be able to get to all, or even half, of these in 2021. The ingredients for the Hop Addition Timing trial are ordered. I am debating about what hop to use and how much, but I am leaning towards either Mosaic or Lemondrop.
Leave a note in the comments if you have other ideas or investigative batches that you would like me to tackle or if you have 2021 Brewing Goals that you set for yourself. Do you have some investigative batches planned?