Monday, November 5, 2012

Guest Blogger: Getting Out of the Brewing Rut

by Mike Micalone

Its official, I'm in a brewing rut. Not sure when I hit that rut but I've learned that the first step of getting past anything is acceptance. I always knew I got fairly busy in the fall which would slow down my brewing but even when I have free time I find I'd rather pop on a movie than brew a batch of beer. I did a thorough analysis as to why I'm in said rut and I've come up with a few things:

Time: The nemesis of any normal adult, I find I can't commit to 4-5 hours brew sessions like I used to be able to. Maybe it's a matter of brewing some partial grain/extract brews (which only take a few hours) or finding a way to streamline my process to shave some time off. Anyway I shake it I always say if it's something you really care about you make the time for it.

Getting Ingredients: I love my local brew shop but seeing as it's only open for 9 hours a week it's made it tough to get the fresh ingredients I need. I've been known to buy stuff and let it sit for a few weeks but I rather not let it hangout in my basement. I've looked at other brew shops but I feel like I'm cheating on my wife when I go to another brew shop (what can I say, I'm loyal to a fault). I mean, I went to another brew shop that let me grind my own grains, gather my own stuff, I didn't have to wait in line and the prices were reasonable and yet I missed the social aspect that going to my local shop brings. I equate it to a guy going to a barber shop. You give them your list, wait while they gather everything, and talk about brewing while enjoying what they have on tap. They offer up sage advice on all kinds of brewing techniques. I guess 9 hours a week will have to do!

What to Brew: I know it sounds like a silly problem to have but I honestly struggle with figuring out what style of beer to brew. Should I try a new style or work on master a particular style? Do I make another run at a brew my friends all loved? Do I experiment with weird foods (I have a friend who wants a honey jalapeƱo) knowing that it very well may come out bad, forcing me to dump a batch of beer? I have piles of recipes from brewing magazines and forums I'm part of yet I never can come up with what I want to brew next.

To Keg or Not to Keg: Ever since I setup my kegerator last Christmas I find that beer doesn't seem to be consumed fast enough (short of my nightly valiant efforts) and so I have tons of beer that I can't get into the hands of my friend. Sure, I could just throw a party after every batch of beer if I'm really looking to kick the keg but at the same time I have friends from work and other places who probably wouldn't make it over and would love to try my beer. This past weekend I filled my first growler off my keg. I think I'll have to refine my technique but this might be my only option to help with this problem.

Against all the problems people are having in this country I know this whole things sounds contrite but what else am I supposed to complain about in a beer blog? So the big question for all of you out in the blogging world is what should I brew next to get out of my brewing rut?

**This was originally drafted a year ago, but after hanging out with Mike over the weekend, it seems like he's fallen into the same rut. Let's see if we can snap him out of it!?


Jim L said...

I've been brewing for almost 2 years, all-grain for about a year and a half.

Got two young girls, a home to maintain, elderly parents, etc, so like you, a brew day can be very hard to justify. However, I have vowed that I don't give it up... it's my one thing. I rarely play guitar anymore (the band thing became impossible after baby #2), the golf clubs have been in the basement all but one day in 2 years, and I spend the vast majority of my time when not at my job working on my family (be it coaching sports, playing the handy man around the house and yard, etc). Right now I've been brewing about once every 6 weeks. If I allow myself to feel so guilty as to stop, I know I won't start back up.

Finances are tight until my wife can go back to work, so I've been trying to pull back on the craft beer purchases... augmenting my homebrew with the High Life. (sometimes it's good 'nuff!) If a batch costs me $40 between grain, hops, yeast, etc, I figure that's better than $10-13 per 6-pack of the beers I'm trying to replicate.

Sipping my (2nd batch) of rye IPA recently, and honestly, there aren't many commercial rye beers I'd prefer. Fun to share the homebrew with friends, and continue to see the improvement of my results.

I still bottle. Would LOVE to keg, but can't invest in the equipment right now. Thankfully, I did snag an older, but working, fridge for the basement, which I could eventually mount taps to the door of. I don't seem to have any issues with my beer lasting too long. ;)

Cheers and keep at it!

BrewEngland said...

Hey Jim,

Life definitely gets in the way, but it's great when you can get a few hours in to brew some tasty beer!

It's a good thing to keep it going. I know when I was brewing somewhat regularly, I was brewing every 6-8 weeks. It's a lot of fun, and I miss it. I have the ingredients for a few batches at home too, so I should just get my butt in gear and do it!