Beer: an art as old as agriculture, and a science as advanced as… well, modern agriculture.
In many facets of modern life, you can hear people bemoan modern advancements, particularly in the world of food and drink. We see it at a charcuterie shop in Brooklyn or the latest beer made from “historical” recipe. “We need to get back to the way it used to be”, they say, reminiscing about the good old days. This is not the case with beer. We are tremendously lucky, as beer lovers, to be alive right now. You are certainly aware of the beer renaissance happening all around you, but you might not realize that beer has never been better. Ever.
As everything old is new again, beer lovers are buying large stock pots, 6.5 gallon buckets and a myriad of other equipment to make beer at home. In the small but growing home-brewing segment, there are absolutely no limits on what we can produce. The very best, and the very worst beers I have ever tasted have been made by a home-brewer. And that fact really describes home-brewing today.
As a brewer, I have grown tremendously in the short five years I have been brewing. I started with extract kits, like everyone else. I eventually bought all grain equipment, fermentation fridges, kegs and too many books to list. I have probably brewed well over 60 beers. But I have yet to take that final step, to bridge the enormous gap between good and great. And that is where this blog comes in.
The purpose of this blog is primarily selfish: I want to brew every beer in the BJCP Guidelines to improve both my brewing skill and overall beer knowledge. I want these beers to be impartially judged by an experienced and credentialed judge, to fully test if what I’m doing is hitting or missing the mark. I wanted to write about this experience purely as an exercise in knowledge retention, but I realized that perhaps others may find this endeavor useful. I have read the usual home brewing blogs, but I haven’t found one (I’m sure one exists) that offers the full “grain to judge” experience. Many good home brewing blogs fail to offer the reader a true critique of their work, which I think does a disservice to both the brewer and the reader.
I will brew to style, every beer in the 2008 BJCP guidelines (I will stay away from meads and ciders). There are 80 beers in these guidelines. This will take years to accomplish. Of course this blog will evolve during the journey, but I promise to offer, as best I can, the full grain-to-judge process of brewing each beer with as much integrity as I can muster.
I will write this blog for people who have a basic understanding of all-grain brewing or who desire to begin all-grain brewing, and who have an attention span. If you’re a new extract brewer, or not even a brewer at all, this may not be the place for you, as I will not explain basic brewing tenants, but you’re welcome anyway. I will include the BeerSmith recipe file for each beer, allowing readers with BeerSmith software to really dig into the specifics of my recipe.
I have brewed many beers outside the BJCP guidelines, but after 5+ years of home brewing, I am now of the opinion that in order to brew outside the lines, I should fully understand what exists inside the lines. What makes a great beer? What nuances should it offer the drinker? What about my current equipment, procedure or experience fails to offer a great example of that beer? Today I feel that I make good beer, but I want to make great beer.
So that is the ultimate goal of this exercise. I hope that as the reader, you will find this pursuit interesting and informative. I hope it helps contribute to your overall home brewing knowledge in some way. I hope it inspires you to improve your own procedures, to tackle new recipes and to push the boundaries of your equipment and skill.