2014 – My year without buying a beer
Preamble: I started home brewing in late 2012 and got serious about it in 2013. Before then I enjoyed (some would say collected) hundreds of different beers.
When 2013 came to a close I thought to myself it would be a good idea to try a New Year’s resolution; to not buy a beer in 2014. For many years I was buying craft beer. On the social app Untappd I had clocked in something north of 430 beers. That’s a lot of beer & a lot of money. I had set up a few rules for myself in 2014:
- Try to drink a beer every day
- Purchase of a beer at a bar was OK. (That happened about once a month…I don’t get out much.)
- Make your own beer
On New Year’s Eve I went out and bought about 15-20 12oz beers and a few 22oz beers to help me try something new for my homebrew inspiration as the year went by. I also had a number of home-brewed beers left over from “Holiday 6-Packs” I had been making and handing out to fellow craft beer lovers. Yes, I was trying to convert them. With the beer I “collected” I was able to create a pipeline so I could make it during the dry-times when I didn’t have a homebrew ready to drink.
My strategy was pretty simple on the production front. I would bottle the beers that would last in bottles (high gravity beers, malt-forward beers, etc) and keg the other beers. The kegged beers became my everyday brews. The bottle beers were used while the legged beer was carving. I would also hand out the bottle beers to friends as the year went by as I was still trying to convert them.
The Double Brew Day
Making 2 beers in one day may seem like a big task but when you take a look at it, it’s not really that bad. When you make 2 beers you only have to lug out your equipment once. I don’t know about you but taking out your pots, getting out your stand, and all that other stuff is cumbersome. Why not just do it once?
To make the double brew day easier I would measure out all my grain (I am an all grain brewer), hops, water and other ingredients the day before. That makes thing move faster on brew day. There were times I spent an hour measuring everything out. That would eat into some serious time, especially since the double brew day I would be there for 6 or 7 hours.
Get friendly with the Partigyle Method of Brewing
I want to lay out as close to this headline as possible that I cheat a partigyles and I am not ashamed of it. Here’s my method:
- Do a mash and sparge as you normally would with a beer that has a fairly big grain bill like a barleywine, IIPA, or “big” stout.
- Add some other grains/ingredients to make the 2nd beer.
- Mash & sparge the “2nd runnings”
- Add adjucnts during the boil (usually it was a combo of LME and some type of sugar)
I was able to make a variety of beers AND save money in the process. My second beer would cost me as little as $13 for 5 gallons. I made a few combos like a barleywine/porter, IIPA/brown ale, IIPA/Pale Ale, Imperial Stout/Porter, and others.
Since I was drinking a beer a day I usually did a double brew day about once a month and had to stick to that schedule. As I was finishing the beer in my keg another batch was about done fermenting. When I was force carbing the new beer or waiting for it to finish fermenting I was drinking a bottled beer.
There were times where things got really hairy. During the summer I had a few bottle bombs (boy that wasn’t fun) and as the fall came around I got my second infection in two years. The next brew day I did my first 10-gallon batch.
YOU CAN DO THIS! For you to go an entire year without buying a beer and more importantly enjoying your home made beer you need only one thing; discipline. There is little room for a Saturday where you say, “I just don’t feel like brewing today”.
You’ll also learn a lot about brewing. As I mentioned before my second infection is forcing my way into sour beers. Because of that infection, I did my first 10-gallon batch.
You also save a ton of money. Craft beer is more than likely one of the things that got you into home brewing. Craft beer is good, but it’s expensive. I recently figured out that averaging out all my ingredients and hardware I am making a beer for $.67 a pint. Compare that to a $10 6-pack. I know, I know I’m not making craft caliber beer, but’s it’s mine, it’s homemade, and it’s damn good.
The main benefit of homebrewing (besides costs) IMO is that I can make beers that commercial breweries around me don’t make. In San Diego that usually means session (non IPA) beers and lagers. I love me a good Mild, but good luck finding that commercially!