2021 Homebrew Highlights

2021....what a year! This year was a big year for my brewing - I started studying for and passed my General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD).

Institute of Brewing and Distilling

The course was a lot more intense than I originally thought it would be, and as it is intended for commercial brewing, some of the topics really pushed my knowledge of brewing. It is very theoretical and definitely something worth exploring if you are looking to grow your brewing knowledge.

Last year I compiled a list of my homebrewing highlights and the things I've learnt along this awesome journey. It's a pretty cool feeling to look back over time and see how far you've come as well as see how many brews you have under your belt.

Favourite Batch

One of my favourite brews during 2021 had to be a Biere de Miel - aka Honey Saison.

Humebrew - Biere de Miel

I brewed this batch with all British ingredients (minus the yeast). This beer was brewed with Crisp Chevalier Heritage malts, English Wildflower honey and my own homegrown hops. It turned out perfectly...the only downside is that I didn't brew enough of it! Crisp and dry, it was perfect for the warm summer days.

Least Favorite Batch

Early in 2021, a new hop burst onto the brewing scene - Talus. I am always eager to give new hops and try and this one was no exception. I brewed an almost single hop Pale Ale with Talus (and a touch of Citra). I'm sure many people like this hop, but it was not for me! All that I got was a herbal / Sage flavour with a touch of pine. Just to check it wasn't just my brewing, I tried a Talus hopped beer from one of my favourite Breweries, and I had the same reaction.

Most Fun New Style/Recipe to Try

I am happy to say that I finally nailed a Lager. Over the past few years, I have had a few failed attempts at making a decent lager. This was my third time lucky and I managed to produce a great beer using a decoction mash.

Lager - Decoction Mash

Best Technique Added to Repertoire

Decoction mashing. As mentioned above, one of the big factors that contributed to the success of this Lager was using a decoction mash. A decoction mash is a step mash that is performed by removing a portion of the mash, boiling it and returning it to the main mash. It is said that this technique isn't really needed these days with the well modified malts that we have, but I could definitely notice the difference in the final product. This beer had a rich, malty flavour with an amazing fluffy head that stuck around in the glass for ages!

Re-using yeast. During the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, it could sometimes be tricky to obtain ingredients from homebrew stores here in the U.K. I started saving and reusing yeast as an insurance plan, but as time has gone on, it has turned into a regular occurence. I now reuse yeast for multiple generations before starting again. I've found that not only has it helped me cut costs, but also that the yeast is hungry and takes off like a rocket from generation to generation.

I have also started to do this for Brettanomyces yeast. I've found that with a decent jar stored well, Brettanomyces is very easy to repitch again and again.

Best Ingredients Added to Repertoire

Maltodextrin This is a sugar that I was less familiar with and have never really thought of using, up until now. Maltodextrin can be used to increase the specific gravity of a beer. It can improve the mouthfeel of the beer, increase head retention and reduce the dryness of the beer. Maltodextrin is not fermented by yeast, so it does not increase the alcohol content of the brew. I have also successfully used this to brew low alcohol beers.

Favourite Book(s)

A Year in Beer – a beer lover’s guide to the seasons - I was lucky enough to get this book for Christmas and I would thoroughly recommend it. A Year in Beer dives into why drinking seasonally might just teach us more about what we drink. It's a really beautiful book with mouth watering images. Regardless of whether or not you are into brewing, this is definitely a book for beer lovers.

Book - A year in beer Jonny Garrett

While it doesn't necessarily fit under the "book" category, I have been reading a lot of Craft Beer & Brewing magazines. I subscribed recently and all I can say is the content is amazing. So much to learn and a great way to keep up with all things brewing.

Lessons Learnt

  • Pay attention to the mash - with a few stirs and some recirculation, you can ensure that you hit your intended gravity every time. I started to miss my intended recipe gravity and by giving the mash more love, I definitely noticed an improvement.
  • Decoction mashing is easier than it seems. I was able to produce an amazing lager using this technique.
  • Brettanomyces is such a wonderful yeast to work with, it produces such complex beers with time and love.

Overall Stats

This year I brewed around 22 batches of beer - slightly down on last year, but I am very happy with the quality of beers that were produced.

Cheers to another year of homebrewing. I am looking forward to seeing how 2022 turns out!