Thursday, January 2, 2014

One Man's Perspective: Reflecting on the Past Year

As you may know, Low Dive started out as four guys excited about brewing beer. We got this crazy idea to take it to another level, and pursue a brewery venture. Near the end of 2012, those ideas came to a halt, and we agreed to bring our focus back to just brewing beer. At that time, it was also agreed to build two separate brewing systems so that we each could individually brew at our own leisure and avoid transporting equipment from location to location. Before then, we were transporting our equipment between Matt's house and Tim & Sean's house—not exactly ideal. As fair as we possibly could be, we divvied up the existing equipment, and whatever equipment each half lost, it was that half's responsibility to find replacements in order to make their build complete; Tim & Sean were gonna build their own setup, while Matt and I built ours.

There were 3 batches brewed in the first quarter of 2013 before the divvying took place. After that, the changes began. By June 1, Matt and I mashed in the first beer on our new setup, a Farmhouse style ale appropriately named Farmhouse 001. 001 because we plan on playing around with this style often. On our next batch, we began experimenting more with Brettanomyces. This is a type of yeast that has gained popularity in recent years. Mostly known for either it's funky or sour aromas and flavors, we set out to see for ourselves what can be accomplished with this species. So far, the results have been rather amusing. For example, the first Brett batch brewed on June 23rd remains in it's primary fermenters (with the exception of some blended in our Gueuze, Hirschfeld, in September), while a different Brett beer brewed in late September is nearly all consumed. The result was 35th Ward Pale Ale. With the use of Brettanomyces, we're giving ourselves more options. And interesting one's at that.

To date, since June 1st, Matt and I have brewed 26 different beers, some the result of split batches and one parti-gyle. In addition to the Farmhouse and Brett beers during that time, we also brewed styles like Gose, Roggenbier, multiple Lambic style ales, Stouts, IPAs and even cider fermented with a SCOBY (Sembiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), which normally is used to ferment tea known as kombucha.

On the same day we brewed our Roggenbier in mid-August, Tim and Sean had their first brew day on their new setup, brewing a split Saison batch. The best part of it all? They took first place in the Saison category at Brixtoberfest in October with the French half.

In November, our friends at Spiteful Brewing handed us some small bourbon casks. Literally within the time I wrote this, Matt and I pulled a sample that finally showed progress in the development between the barrel and Oatmeal Stout we filled them with. It won't be long now before we're enjoying this beer with friends.

Also that month, I brewed a beer with Tara Zanzig. We've been together for a couple years now, but this was our first homebrew together (her first ever), and she chose English Barleywine. There were a couple "first's" for me that brew day too, however: we eliminated the sparge entirely and caramelized the first 2 gallons of wort down to less than a gallon before adding it back to the main boil kettle. We started with 15 gallons of water at the beginning of the day, and ended with about five and a half gallons of beer at the time of bottling!

As we close the year, I'm enjoying the best IPA Matt and I have brewed. Also, there are a few different beers currently in fermenters, some of which we'll be bringing to the upcoming Brew Hahahahahahahahahaha later this month. And we're planning an experiment with yet another new strain of Brett in conjunction with wine yeast before January expires.

2013 was a fun year, especially the second half. I can't necessarily speak for anyone else, but I plan on keeping the current pace, experimenting and learning as I go. There are a lot of good ideas in the pipeline, so I'm excited to see how this new year unfolds. I suspect there will be surprises, but for now, I'm happy with what was accomplished during the last year, and I'm determined to make 2014 the best yet.

Cheers and happy new year.

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