Happy New Year from Beer Simple, everyone! Since last year's list was highly constructive (and at least 8/10 items on it were actually completed), I thought I'd start this year by resolving another ten beer-and-brewing-related things to do by the end of 2017. Join me, if you will - maybe not for all of these, but just a few. And for anyone who might care, 2016's recapped list and feedback are at the end.
So off we go, into 2017...
1. Drink all unique beers in 2017
This is a big one, and it came to me when I realized that I drink almost exactly 365 pints a year (I was curious, so I kept track of how much overall, and when). I thought, "what if I didn't repeat any beers at all next year?" and once a thought like that gets into my head it's hard to shake. The downside is that I get only one can/bottle of a lot of beers that I love, but the upside is that I have a built-in reason to try lots of new things. With the continued growth in the craft brewing sector (we're over 5,000 breweries now, and at times it feels like 3,000 of them are in the Philadelphia area), the timing couldn't be better. What's going to be weird is how I deal with my own beer - the current plan is to only brew a) beer for parties that I'll put in kegs, and b) age-able beers. There's a lot of Old Ale, Barleywine, and Baltic Porter in my future. Maybe a lot of sours, too!
So - no repeats. Already off the list following yesterday's New Year's dinner are Lagunitas Stoopid Wit, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Short's Brown, Goose Island Fulton Street Blend, and Heavy Seas Winter Storm.
2. Make a perry
I've never made perry, but I have pear trees, and someday I might even use my own pears for it! For the first time, though, I'll probably get some reliably good pressings from a local purveyor. But everyone should brew something new every year, if only to avoid ruts.
3. Revisit my least favorite brewery and drink at least four of their beers
Sometimes we write off a brewery, and it becomes an article of faith that their beers suck. This year I'm going to revisit my least-favorite brewery - and it's the clear frontrunner - and drink four of their offerings. If nothing else, it keeps me honest and gives them another shot, and even if they still make beer that should just be called "IPAcac" at least I'll know that I'm correct in continuing to steer people away from them.
4. Replace my Better Bottles - all of them
I'll likely just replace them with new Better Bottles (they've done very well by me), but it's been several years since I've replaced my fermenting vessels, and I get the feeling I'm mostly coasting on luck these days - there might be some bug in there waiting to bite my brewing ass. I want to get ahead of him.
5. Visit more beer bars, and fewer breweries
For some reason it seems easy to get people pumped to visit a brewery - probably because the presumption is that the beer is better right at the source - but I find it harder to get psyched to visit a new (or new to me) bar, even though they're all over the place. The power of habit, I guess: you find some comfortable places to drink at, with great beer lists and excellent food, and you start to get lazy. I want to break that paradigm this year - get out there and try out some new places.
6. Convince a friend to give their child a beer-related name
Preferably without them knowing it. "Porter" is too easy, but I'll take it. I'd much rather talk them into Vorlauf or Citra, though. "Citra's a nice name - she's the Greek goddess of the orange harvest!" I can sell that.
7. Use honey as a flavorful adjunct
I'm not talking about making more Braggot or Mead - I just mean using a pound of buckwheat honey in an ESB, or a pound of Raspberry honey to add some light honey sweetness to a wheat beer. I feel like it's being overlooked as a secondary or tertiary ingredient.
8. Find a pair of brewery-branded pants
I already own lots of brewery t-shirts and sweatshirts. I've seen and can get brewery underwear and socks. If I find a pair of brewery pants, I can actually dress head-to-toe in brewing merchandise. Not sweatpants, either - some kind of jean or trouser. It seems like an odd ambition, but I've always wanted to, just for a day.
9. Read at least three new beer and brewing books
It's an odd side-effect of doing a lot of beer writing: I don't spend nearly as much time reading other people's writing. I'll hit articles that touch on old topics in new ways or seem to introduce genuinely novel ideas (I like to keep current), but whereas I used to read new brewing books as much for pleasure as for education, I find I just don't do it much anymore. I'd like to correct that this year.
10. Support pro-beer legislation at the local, state, and federal levels of government
There are still laws in place that breweries and beer drinkers have to contend with that are either illogical, ineffective, or create inefficiencies. I've been content to let the AHA lobby on this stuff, but I'd like to set aside time this year to more personally get involved in it. I'm a political scientist, after all...
And, of course, I'd like to keep writing Beer Simple. Thank you to everyone for reading this year, whether you just stop in occasionally or read every week. It means a lot to me that you spend your time here, and every week I try to put something up for you that is worth that sacrifice. Best wishes in 2017, keep brewing and drinking good beer, and as always...
Keep it simple.
RECAP OF THE 2016 RESOLUTIONS!
10. BUY A HIGH-QUALITY THERMOMETER – OR AT LEAST CALIBRATE THE ONE YOU ALREADY HAVE - Done and done. My new Thermapen has been incredible. FAST and accurate.
9. MAKE A POINT OF ATTENDING EITHER THE GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL OR NATIONAL HOMEBREWERS CONFERENCE - NHC 2016 ("Homebrewcon" - but I still have trouble with that) in Baltimore was a blast, and the dozen or so members of our club that went all had a remarkable time.
8. FIND A NEW APPRECIATION FOR A PASSÉ OR OVERLOOKED BEER STYLE – I’M THINKING WITBIER - Oddly enough, it ended up being American Pale Ale. They're everywhere, but it's amazing how often people (me included) gloss over them en route to looking for something more interesting, using the logic of "I can always go back to it..." This time I started with them. Really fun.
7. GIVE UP BEER FOR LENT, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT CATHOLIC - It was no alcohol for 40 days, and it yielded some interesting conclusions. I may do something similar this year, but I haven't really thought about it yet.
6. WRITE A LETTER TO A BREWERY THAT IS MAKING YOUR FAVORITE BEER AND THANK THEM - Burial Brewing in NC got an e-mail, and they were super grateful for it. Keep up the great work, guys! And if you readers are in a position to try their Shadowclock Pilsner, it's incredible - but it for the artwork, drink it for the flavor.
5. LEARN ONE SCIENTIFIC LESSON THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR BREWING - I spent some time on presentation of essential oils in hops, reading through the academic literature. I can't pretend to have understood it all, but one thing was abundantly clear: we need to know more about this. They're quite the black box.
4. ATTEND A HOMEBREW CLUB MEETING – OTHER THAN YOUR OWN - Done. Actually, I attended three! Always neat to see what everyone else is up to.
3. TEACH A WILLING PERSON TO HOMEBREW, AND BREW WITH THEM AT LEAST THREE TIMES - this is one I didn't get to follow through on. I'll try better next year.
2. STAND UP FOR ONE NEWBIE THAT IS BEING RAZZED BY AN ALEHOLE - got to do this at NHC actually. Sad that it was necessary, but glad to have been there to do it. And the alehole in question had some bizarre beliefs about what an IBU was.
1. CONTRIBUTE IN A MEANINGFUL WAY TO THE BREWING WORLD – HOWEVER YOU CAN - I hope I did this, but if not I'll do better next year.
Happy New Year, all!