Thursday, January 1, 2009


Forgive a bit of self-reflection in this post but; What a year!

My blog of tasting notes and brewery equipment has had over 2000 visitors, from 6 continents, 53 countries and every state in the US except South Dakota.

I have tasted hundreds of beers for the first time, and have started to develop a sense of the beer industry both here in San Diego County, on the west coast and in the US in general.

Here in San Diego, we started to receive more variety of beers as local distributors picked up some east coast brands like Dogfish Head that were not available last year. We have a vibrant beer culture here that does not exist for hundreds of miles until you get to the Bay area to the north. I will spend some time this year thinking about what factors aid in development of an appreciation of craft beer among its residents. The most obvious answer is to have a large successful craft brewery because brewers refine their skill there and then launch out on their own.

On the west coast, there are 5 major brewing centers:
  • Portland stands tall above the rest on the west coast. With some 30 breweries, the brewing scene there is perhaps the most dynamic in the world. Widmer, Bridgeport and McMenamins are the key factors here, as well as the original Henry Wienhard's.
  • Seattle also has a rich and dynamic brewing industry, and developed earlier with RedHook and Pyramid forming the foundation.
  • The Bay Area is more disbursed geographically, but Anchor is the major brewery with several stellar smaller breweries sprinkled in wine country and the east bay.
  • Bend now has 8 breweries, which works out to roughly one brewery for every 8000 people! The obvious source there, and my current favorite brewery, is Deschutes.
I was able to take tasting notes on 52 different beers. This is harder than I thought since I really just want to enjoy the beer, not shoot a photo and take notes, but it has proved valuable. The notes in addition to the other tasting I have done and reading have allowed me to develop internal expectations for what a beer should taste like. I have gained a basic expectation of what the following styles should taste like this year.

Amber Ale, Stout, Porter, IPA, Octoberfest style Lager, Czech Style Pilsner, Dopplebock, Brown Ale, Barleywine, Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Belgian Style Ale (double, and tripple), Irish Red Ale.

The main, stated goal of this site was to develop my brewing skills as I considered starting my own brewery. In the last year, I have completed 10 brews:
  • 6 pale Ales, 1 was bad, 4 were OK, 1 was good.
  • Disaster Porter - Amazing
  • Winter Warmer - Very Good
  • American Wheat - Good
  • Belgian Tripple - Not great
  • Czech-style Pilsner - Not great
  • Stout - ??
I also got to work as a brewer's assistant at a small brewery for a couple evenings. I hope to help out a couple more times this year.

I hope to brew more lagers this year, I think that lagers are a huge gaping hole in the American brewing industry. We have millions of gallons of crap lager marketed and sold to an ignorant public and almost no great lagers being brewed here. I think lager has gotten a bad name in the US and craft brewers (at least on the west coast) are not interested in tackling it. The brewers that do offer lagers primarily brew Ales and don't have the proper brewing equipment to extract the malty flavors that the Germans and Czech brewers are so skilled at producing.

Full Sail is a great example of this. Their Pale Ale is one of the best I have had, and their Wassail was my favorite seasonal beer this year. But their Dopplebock was not remarkable. It lacked the rich malt tones that the German brewers offer.

There is an area in Oregon that has some of the best tasting water I have ever had. If I could hone my lager brewing skills and have a brewery built there that has the necessary equipment to specialize on lagers it may work out pretty well.

No major goals for 2009, just more of the same, brew a dozen times or so, taste another 50 beers, and increase my lager brewing skills. I would also really like to brew a great pale ale.

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