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Thoughts on New Year’s Brewing Resolutions

With mild autumn slowly retracting into frozen winter, I find myself stuck with an accomplished dilemma. I've accomplished this past year's resolution of a yeast starter for every batch I brew, and the tasty results I've sown have been a delight. I can attest to the cause & effect mechanism at play in an adequate yeast cell count through a noticeable lack of mediocre homebrew batches left squatting in my kegs. The benefits of starting my brewing process a couple of days early have easily melded with the overall value of subsistence brewing. It's no longer a crap shoot to call what the character of my finished beer will be. If any defects can be found after fermentation, the glorious thick sludge of yeast cells at the bottom of my fermentors has confidently waved me towards other suspects in my brewery.

For 2012 I'd rather not resolve to expand my batch sizes or capacity. One might think such to be the logical course of action now that yeast starters have greatly improved the consistency of my recipes. If times are so good I should want to multiply their quantity, right? In all practicality, such a thought isn't a feasible resolution, mainly with the forthcoming birth of my first child (diapers consume cash faster than beer ingredients). In truth, I like my yearly resolutions to be more philosophical than purchase-based, so a great deal of thought is going to have to be committed to next year's resolution. Right?

Perhaps not... What I didn't expect from this year's resolution was the simplicity of the yeast starter process. I've talked with many a brewer that grumbles or looks upon the thought of creating a yeast starter with apprehension over the steps involved & whether or not their newfound hobby will stand up to the additional procedure involved. Being that a starter is nothing more than a small batch of extract-based beer, the transition into becoming a yeast grower was elegantly simple.

Maybe next year's goal should share the element of simplicity? A few trade magazine articles got me interested in brewing with single malt recipes. In all-grain lingo, that would imply brewing a recipe utilizing only one type of base malt. Wanting to get my feet wet I utilized 6.75 pounds of Golden Promise malt, that sweet & nutty Scottish barley, for a 60 schilling ale. Bending the rules a tad, I added a quarter pound of roaster barley to grow the beer's backbone a tad so I could use some mid-high alpha acid Horizon hops as the sole bittering addition.

Perhaps I was bending the rules, but that's why it's a resolution - not a law. Most resolutions are little more than an aberration of media coverage surrounding the first & final weeks of the calendar year. My results from this year suggest that self-improvement resolutions can't hold a pint glass in front of a candle to beer-improvement resolutions. With adequate yeast cells in my starter flasks I'm eagerly anticipating batches of Maris Otter IPA mashed at 155 degrees, Belgian Dubbels made from pale malt & complex dark candi syrup, and the challenge of sparging a 100% wheat Hefeweizen on a scorching summer afternoon.

Think about what you could introduce into your brewing routine to improve your favorite beverages & hold yourself to the execution of it throughout 2012. But relax & don't consider it daunting! After all, this is beer we're talking about.

Single Inspiration 60 Schilling Ale
OG: 1.034 FG: 1.010

6.75 lbs. Golden Promise Malt
0.25 lbs. Roasted Barley
Mash for 60 min @ 153 degrees F. Sparge to collect 6.5 gallons of wort

Boil 60 minutes, adding 0.4 oz. Horizon hop pellets at the beginning of the boil.

Chill to 66 degrees, collect 5.5 gallons wort in fermentor & add one pack Y1728 Scottish Ale yeast, or half of one Safale S-33 dry yeast pack.

Ferment in primary for two weeks, keg/bottle condition to 1.75 vols. CO2 & enjoy.