I like to call it Survival Mode.
The phrase has more than a few applications in this surreal reality we call 2020. There are definitely some asshole jerks that fill their carts with toilet paper, soap, wipes, and disinfectant.
I've generally used Survival Mode to describe the cloudy thoughts I see regularly - people who have trouble driving their cars, those who are looking for EVERYTHING to stay sane when stuck at home, and potentially a total lack of interest in the reality of someone other than their own. I totally understand, we are all anxious and stressed.
Survival mode also describes how small businesses pushed to continue in 2020 despite this reality. I can't imagine managing the day-to-day operations of running a business during a pandemic AND keeping your employees safe AND overcoming the constant changes in COVID protocols, all of which require so many pivots.
Welcome to the psychological landscape in which this end-of-year series resides. It's something that I wanted to write for months, even though I struggled to find the context. It all seems a little clearer now as we have reached yet another high in this pandemic and conclude a year teeming with a multitude of quirks that suit our reality of dumpster fires perfectly.
The headliner: Mash anyone?
If 2020 was a beer, it would be Smoothie Sour ...
… Or a pie-inspired Sour with graham crackers, cherries / lime / banana cream, marshmallow fluff and lactose…
… Or a hard fruit smoothie.
We have entered fruit country and I blame 2020. Honestly, it has been a thing for a few years (see “Berliner Weisse super-fruity”), but we haven't seen as many distinctly non-beer events as we have. have this year. Beer Brewed with Birthday Cake and Frosting, Sour Pickle Beer, Candy Bar Beer, Ice Cream Beer, Flamboyant Cheetos Beer, Gelatinous Cranberry Sauce Beer, Cheese Popcorn Beer, Mustard Beer , peanut butter and jelly beer, Chex Mix beer, Stuffing Beer, Sour Patch children's beer, etc.
From what I understand, the sweet add-on phenomenon started in the East as the hype for Milkshake IPAs and Fruit Hares converged on sour IPAs and baking sour. On top of that, you've got the popularity of Pastry Stouts - sweet, elevated Imperial Stouts that don't require barrel time or extra space to produce, and an enthusiastic young audience raised on Fruit Stripe Gum, Monster Energy Drinks, 4 -Loko, and Frappuccinos… what were we expecting?
So indulgent sweet beers aren't anything new, although marshallow-infused pulp sugar bombs were a whole different story in 2020. Take a look at the top rated Sour - Fruited categories / Fruite Berliner Weisse on Untappd and you 'I'll find the hottest breweries in America right now - Mortalis (Hydra), Burley Oak (JREAM), The Answer (3 Scoops), HOMES (Deep Depths), 450 North ( Slushy XL), Drekker (Braaaaaaaains) and The Brewing Projekt (Puff Tart XL).
Although the same can be said of the creations that put Great Notion (immediately) on the map in 2016. Yes, from the start they had regularly flown the New England IPA flag, while simultaneously creating “culinary-inspired” pastry beers and sour before most others. Double Stack and Blueberry Muffin were pioneers when they were released in February 2016 - the latter definitely being a sour pastry (lactose or vanilla free) before the term existed.
Here in Oregon, Great Notion has created at least 13 variations of their popular Jammy Pants (an over-fruited Berliner) since the start of the pandemic. More so, Eugene's Claim 52 has apparently spent about half of his production, if not more, on Fruited Sours, creating at least 18 of them since March with their THICC and Splash series.
Either way, the point is, if 2020 was a beer, it's okay for it to be a hot mess of fruit pulp, vanilla, lactose, and every other indulgent supplement you can think of. Tough times for breweries call for hyped beers that fly off the shelves.
Ultimately, a convergence of forgiving and marketed suspensions in Survival mode. "You know, for children ..."
Under the radar: Thriving lager
On the other end of the spectrum, the popularity and growth of Lager has become undeniably clear. I mean, even the fruit vendors have canned American Lagers and well-executed Italian Pilsners.
Additionally, two of Oregon's newly opened breweries, Hammer & Stitch Brewing and Foreland Beer, each launched a West Coast lager and IPA as initial canned offerings. While those in Portland and the greater PNW reside in one of the country's most mature beer markets, it's also true that breweries across the country that have established themselves as Houses of Hazy can now offer beer. space to Lager, choosing to do so. instead of adding wooden containers. And given the success of the Fruited Berliners and the Pastry Stouts, barrels may well go the bedtime route.
The rise of the Lager appeared to be initially driven by the popularity of the Italian Pilsner, the slow return of six packs of 12oz cans, and a reaction to the surge in Hazy IPA. It could now be argued that falling prices and their modifiable nature fueled Lager's resurgence during the pandemic. Add to that the decline of the large-format bottle, the dominance of the 16oz can, greater shelf-life stability, and the brewers' inherent love for all things low in alcohol, and it only has sense.
We are seeing more and more new breweries that focus only on clear beers and classic styles. Their stubborn attachment to fundamental European styles is not only something to admire, but a welcome breath of fresh air for those of us looking for lighter, yet still complex options.
The juice persists: IPA for all tastes
While hot India Pale Ale takes, such as CDA / Black IPA and Brut IPA, have indeed come and gone, the novelty of Hazy, Milkshake and Sour IPAs has yet to wane. If only watching the scenery here in Portland, you might think the Hazy style has waned, although many local breweries continue to be successful with this Hazy approach that has put a lot on the map. Not to mention the continued popularity of Milkshake and Sour IPAs in the east.
Plus, as I've noticed with East Coast breweries, many still produce a TON of DIPA Hazy and Hazy Triple IPA, even during the summer months. Reminiscent of the IBU wars of yore, today's Hazy or New England IPA brewers are seemingly more focused on packing them with as much aroma and tropical juice flavor as possible, with some often downplaying or even rejecting the additions of bitter hops.
The most exciting development of IPA I've seen this year has been greater use of those same tropical hops, but applied to cleaner hybrids or to the West Coast. While not new, it looks like a number of breweries that have experimented with this approach more have stuck with this juicy but cleaner approach, perhaps in place of another new Hazy.
In the end, 2020 will likely be remembered as the year we lived in Survival mode, at all costs. Do what sells, put it in a shiny 16oz box and adjust accordingly. With home delivery, on-site cans, and chain store sales changing the way small brewers succeed in the midst of a pandemic, they have also been forced to create new versions to stay relevant. Ultimately, despite the disruption of fruit beers and an increase in lager production, IPA remains king, something shouldn't change anytime soon.
click here to discover more
Extract packs have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent packs in shops and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.
If you’re making beer, then you need to be rigorous about cleanliness during the brew. VWP is an absolutely no-nonsense cleaner and steriliser for getting everything ready beforehand. During the brew, a no-rinse sanitiser is invaluable. Between the two, spoilt and infected beer shouldn’t be a problem. You can buy cleaning products online from Brew Store and The Malt Miller.
Invest in some airtight plastic conteneurs. Malt, kept dry and cool, should be fine for six months, but get rid of it after that – you’re only going to get stale flavours if you use stale malt. Likewise, dried yeast will keep, if sealed and chilled, but it will lose potency and reliability. Hops do not improve with age. Be doubtful of any before last year’s harvest, however cheap.
While a good book is an invaluable reference, there will be a time you come across something that flummoxes you. It’s very unlikely you will be the first, and just as unlikely someone else hasn’t discussed it. From the magisterial, if dense, How tera Brew by John Palmer to the uncountable forums and blogs discussing minutiae, such as Brewer’s Friend, there’ll be something to help.
Avoid large amounts of table sugar, cane sugar or dextrose as fermentable sugars in your homebrew. They will ferment out completely and leave a very dry, almost ‘cidery’ flavour to your beer. This is what is recognized by many as the ‘homebrew’ taste. If you are looking for an easy way to improve this, swap these sugars with dry malt extract.
Most coffret beers are designed to appeal to a wide range of people and therefore have a fairly simple flavour that it not very bitter. They are also generally bittered by using hop extract that adds bitterness but little hop flavour or aroma. Boil some water and add ½ an ounce ( 14 grams ) of any hop variety known for their flavour and aroma characteristics for 20 minutes. This will add a much improved change to the flavour of the beer. Add another ½ ounce ( 14g ) for the last 5 minutes of the boil to add a pleasant hoppy aroma. Simply strain the ‘hop soup’ into your fermenter with the rest of the top-up water. These simple hops additions will make a remarkable difference to your pack beers.
tera wake a packet of dry yeast up and ensure that it is ready to start work as soon as it is pitched, try rehydrating it. Boil a cup ( 250mls ) of water for 5 minutes and then pour it into a sterilized conteneur. Wait for the water to cool down to at least 80°F/27°C and sprinkle your packet of yeast over the top. Leave this for about 15-30 minutes, when you should start to see it get nice and foamy. Once your wort has cooled enough, pitch this and it will start fermentation much earlier.
If you would really like to get things started, follow the process above but add a tablespoon of dry malt extract to the water before boiling it. After pouring the water to a jar, add your yeast when cool enough and place cling wrap over the top to protect from the environment. Leave for at least 45 minutes at room temperature and you should start to see fermentation activity.
The length of time for fermentation on the side of your pack beer can is almost definitely not long enough. The manufacturers are in the business of selling product and these instructions will make beer, but it won’t be great beer. This should be extended out to 10-14 days.
Although your beer will be carbonated after about a week in the bottle, leave it for a few more to allow for the flavors to settle. This is especially relevant for beer made from packs as it will help remove some of the bite found in young/’green’ beer.
In order to efficiently multiply and get to the business of converting sugar to alcohol, yeast needs a sufficient amount of oxygen in your wort. If brewing using malt extract this can be reached a few ways including by shaking the water you are using to top up your wort, or by pouring it from a great height into your fermenter.
Don’t be too worried about removing your beer from the primary fermenter as soon as fermentation has finished. The Autolysis that you are seeking to avoid will take well over a month and in most cases a single stage fermentation is fine.
If you are looking to control fermentation temperature, place the fermenter in a large container of water to cool it and prevent temperature fluctuations. Wrapping a wet towel around it and pointing a fou at it cools it even more through evaporative cooling. A few frozen plastic bottles of water are also perfect for cooling the water and your fermenting beer.
If you insist on using a two stage fermentation, use a bottling bucket ( or something else with a spigot ) for a primary. That way you only need a length of hose to rack into the secondary. The spigot will also be far enough off the bottom that the trub will get left in the primary with little extra effort – just tilt the fermenter forward at the end.
The activity of your airlock should only be seen as one indication that something is happening. There are many others indications and a faulty seal on your fermenter could stop anything from happening in the airlock.
The starting cell count is usually quite low with liquid yeast cultures. If you make a yeast starter about a day before brewing, you can avoid some potential issues from under-pitching the yeast.
If you are trying to cool a partial boil, place the whole brew bocal into a sink or tub of cold water. You may need to change this water a few times but it is far easier to cool a small pot of wort in a temperature conductive container ( i. e. your brew bocal ) than a grande amount of liquid in a fermenter. Adding your cooled wort to even colder water ( or ice ) in the fermenter will serve to cool it even further and should hopefully get you close to yeast pitching temperatures.
Dry yeast packets are perfect for new homebrewers. They have a nice high cell count and are very easy to use. Hydrating these takes very little time and will help get fermentation working earlier.
Get into the habit of sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your wort or beer after the boil.
Extract kits have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.
Use a no-rinse sanitiser… This shouldn’t need an explanation and I am yet to hear of a real reason not to
Following on from above – Don’t use bleach as a sanitizer…ever. It is to rinse out and if any comes in contact with the maltose in your wort it has the potential to completely ruin your batch. There are so many better products available that this shouldn’t even be a consideration
Whatever sanitizer you use, put some of it in a spray bottle for quick sanitation during brew time.
Make sure you read and understand the recipe before you start brewing. Also make sure that you have all the ingredients handy before you start. These seem like simple things but the last 15 minutes can get a little crazy… especially if you started drinking while sanitizing
Beer is very resilient so don’t be too worried if you make a mistake while brewing. Although it may not be exactly the beer you were after, you will probably still have something tasty and worth drinking.
Leave the lid off your brew bocal while it is boiling. The process of boiling actually vaporises chemicals that are not wanted in the beer and they evaporate out. The lid doesn’t need to be completely off if you are having trouble maintaining a rolling boil but should at least be enough for the steam to escape.
Keep a record of every beer that you make, no matter how simple the recipe. This record will allow you to recall and tweak your brews when all that remains in the future is a couple of stray bottles and a desire for more
Especially when starting out, keep your ingredients and brews as simple as possible. It is much easier to add to a simple recipe that is missing something than it is to remove from something complex
Start by getting a solid grasp of the sanitization, fermentation and bottling processes and work from there.
If you have a choice, choose a fermenter or bottling bucket with a spigot/tap over one without. The siphoning required otherwise isn’t but it is still one more unnecessary step.
Bulk priming your beer is a simple addition to your bottling process that will add much greater control and consistency in the amount of priming sugar in your bottles.
The quality of your beer will be to the quality of the ingredients used. Always go for the freshest and best quality possible. Always make sure that extract is within any specified dates, yeast is fresh and that hops are nice and green
But most importantly… just relax and remember that you probably aren’t going to ruin your beer – It isn’t as delicate as you think