Monday 20 January 2014

Tasting : English IPA (Reid 1839 IPA clone)

I'm beginning to think that I was never meant to brew English-style beers flawlessly. Let's review my last few attempts:
  • Extra Special Bitter - This was my second attempt at this style (the first was an extract, partial boil beer that really wasn't very bitter); the beer itself tasted pretty good, nicely bitter, good hop presence, but the FG stuck at 1.019, and then the yeast must have got going again at bottling, because after a month or so I had a bunch of gushers on my hands.
  • Southern English Brown - Second time brewing this style as well, my OG was too low and FG too high. Even then, with 35% specialty malt in the grist and a mash temp of 156 F, the beer came out too thin.
  • Standard/Ordinary Bitter - This one came out ok at first, but over time it developed a bit of phenolic character, pointing towards some form of infection (wild yeast, maybe?).
Those are just the most recent English beers, before this English IPA - a Reid 1839 clone - that I brewed last month. It's not that any of my English beers have been TERRIBLE; they just haven't been very good examples of the style, with at least one noticeable flaw in each beer. I've had far better luck brewing American, German, and Belgian beers (crap, did I just jinx myself?).
With this beer, it seemed that everything was going well. Brew day went fine, the recipe looked good - lots of Fuggle hops - etc., etc. I was a little hesitant about using Nottingham dry yeast (based on some opinions on its general neutral flavor I've read about), but figured it wouldn't matter too much, considering the amount of hops in the beer. Aerated with a good amount of pure oxygen, pitched the rehydrated yeast....

And bam, another stuck fermentation, this time at 1.020 (target was 1.014). What the..? I have two theories as to why this possibly happened, but neither is very sound:
  1. The very high mash temp (158 F) produced too many unfermentables, so 1.020 is just the result of low attenuation by the yeast. I dunno, though... I've brewed beers with high mash temps before, and the beer has reached its target FG with no issues.
  2. The beer was fermenting during an extremely cold time of year, and even though my house is, of course, heated, maybe the temp dropped at night, causing the yeast to stall? I doubt it, though, as Nottingham is supposed to work as low as 57 F, and being indoors, I can't see the temperature plummeting THAT much.
On the bright side, so far there haven't been any bottle gushers. And while the FG was 6 points above my target, it's only a couple of points above the high end of the BJCP range. The bitterness of the beer isn't quite as high as I expected, but of course, with a higher FG, that's not unusual. I like the earthiness in the beer from the Fuggles, but if I ever brewed this again I would definitely plan ahead and make sure I had a liquid English yeast to pitch... English beers really do benefit from some yeast character, and I'm not getting much from the Nottingham at all.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, long-lasting thick white head. Great retention. Body is golden-colored with pretty good clarity.

Aroma: Some bready malt with a background of earthy hop aroma. Not overly sweet. No diacetyl, no flaws that I can detect.

Taste: Nice bready, biscuity character from the malt, with some earthy and floral flavors from the hops. Medium bitterness in the finish that lasts for a couple of minutes.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Despite the problems with the FG, I do like the beer. Yes, it could definitely be drier and a little less sweet, maybe a bit lighter in the body, but the earthy hop flavor from the Fuggles comes through well. Using a liquid English yeast with more character, and better attenuation, is all I would really change.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Brewing an Alpine Duet clone - Version 2.0

Two years ago, I returned to brewing after an almost two-month absence due to an unexpected surgery. The previous fall, I had taken my first beer trip to San Diego, and was (of course) blown away by the beers that were pouring there, mostly from local breweries. My favorite beer of the trip was Duet, an excellent, low-IBU (~45) American IPA from Alpine Beer Company. I was lucky enough to have the beer on tap at a beer bar in the city, and I even found a bottle to take home... at the time, I didn't realize quite HOW lucky I had been, because when I went back in September of 2013, I couldn't find Duet anywhere!

Picture courtesy of
Well, I figured my first homebrew after my short hiatus should be a clone attempt of Duet. All the info on that beer (including an email from Pat, Alpine's owner/brewer) is here. After a couple months of blogging - with very few pageviews - my post on this clone attempt finally started bringing in a few people. Two years later, it's still by far the most-viewed post on this blog in terms of homebrew recipes, and more people have found this blog through Googling the words "Alpine Duet clone" than any other search.

But, what did I think of the beer? The original tasting notes are posted here; originally, I was disappointed with the results. Of course, I wasn't able to compare it to the real thing, but I felt that the hop punch just wasn't as big as I was expecting... or hoping, anyway. However, over the next week or two, the flavors really started coming together, and in the end it came out as a really tasty beer. I submitted it to the Canadian NHC 1st-round qualifier (back in the good ol' days when we had one), and won a Bronze medal in the IPA category. I brewed a different IPA for the final round of the NHC, because I felt the Duet clone wouldn't be fresh enough by then; unfortunately, the beer I ended up sending in was inferior to the original.

Just some of the trub filtered out of the wort post-boil.
Sooo... long story short, I've always wanted to brew this beer again, with a few minor changes to see if I could make something even better. Finally, that day has come! The recipe I decided on really isn't TOO different from my original; more hops of course, but it's still equal amounts of Amarillo and Simcoe, as made clear by Alpine. If you compare the hop schedule to my last attempt, this recipe drops the 5 min addition, but doubles the flameout addition (cut in two, with a hop steep for 20 minutes, and the other half added when I started chilling). The dry-hop now has two additions of 1.5 oz of each hop, effectively doubling the last recipe's dry-hop as well.

As for the grist, again, pretty similar to last time: a slightly higher percentage of 2-row, with the Wheat malt, Carapils, Acid malt and table sugar all being equal to before. The only big change was that I dropped the Victory malt, and subbed with Crystal 30 L (a bit smaller amount than the Victory). Why? Well, the original suggestion from Pat included "Amber malt"; the Amber malt at my LHBS is quite dark, so I knew he couldn't mean this. Some people interchange the term Amber for Victory, which is why I originally chose Victory. However, recently I came across a thread at where someone noted that when they've toured the brewery, they've come across labelled sacks of CaraAmber, and not Amber or Victory. Makes sense... unfortunately, I don't have access to CaraAmber, and Crystal 30 L was the closest substitute.

I also adjusted the water chemistry slightly this time around. Just a bit of calcium chloride and Gypsum, which is what I've been doing for most of my hoppy beers lately. Nothing severe, just bumping up the calcium, sulfate, and chloride levels for taste purposes; the mash pH also comes down a bit as a result (also from the addition of the Acid malt to the mash). Same yeast as before, too, clean and neutral US-05 Safale.

Hoping for great results like last time... but, hoppier. Looking over the recipe, it occurs to me how very close it is to the Maine Beer Co. MO clone I brewed last week. Similar grist, almost-identical hop schedule, with Amarillo replacing Falconer's Flight. Should be pouring both beers at about the same time... and I MAY even have kegging equipment here in time as well, which I'm hoping will further allow the hop flavors to really pop. No trips to California planned; however, a couple of people have mentioned that they'd be willing to send some Duet my way, so hoping that pans out!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 72% efficiency) OG 1.065, FG ~1.012, IBU ~35 (calculated; actual closer to 45-50), SRM ~6.5, ABV ~7%


4.65 kg (77.4%) Canadian 2-row
454 g (7.6%) Wheat malt
340 g (5.7%) Crystal 30 L
227 g (3.8%) Carapils
113 g (1.9%) Acid malt

Magnum - 8 g (10.8% AA) @ 60 min
Amarillo - 28 g (8% AA) @ 10 min
Simcoe - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min
Amarillo, Simcoe - 42 g each @ flameout, 20-minute hop steep
Amarillo, Simcoe - 42 g each when started chiller
Amarillo, Simcoe - 42 g each dry-hop for 4 days
Amarillo, Simcoe - 42 g each dry-hop for 3 more days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05, 1 package, re-hydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 6 g Gypsum, 4 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on January 13th, 2014, by myself. 60-minute mash with 17.85 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 148 F. Sparged with ~4.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of slightly over 6.75 gallons

- SG on target of 1.049. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.75 gallons. Chilled down to 62 F, then poured/filtered (lots of hop sludge, as seen in picture) into Better Bottle. OG a bit high at 1.060 (with sugar addition later, final OG will be 1.066). Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry room, ambient temp 67 F. 

- 14/1/14 - 18/1/14 - Lots of active fermentation over this period; the temp never got above 70 F. 

- 28/1/14 - Racked to secondary carboy after purging with CO2. Added 1st dry-hop addition, and purged with CO2 again. FG 1.010.

- 31/1/14 - Second dry-hop addition.

- 4/2/14 - Bottled ~1 gallon with 25 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2. Kegged the rest of the beer, set in temperature-controlled room at 46 F, and set PSI to 14.

- 12/3/14 - Tasting notes... great IPA, lots of tropical fruit hop aromas and flavors... but still needs a bit more hop punch to approach the real thing. 

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Brewing a Maine Beer Company MO clone (No. 4 in the Maine Beer Clone series)

While I've been brewing clone recipes left, right and center the last year, it's been quite a while (about 8 months) since I last brewed one for my Maine Beer Clone series. It's not that I ran out of ideas of beers from Maine to try to clone; on the contrary, it seems that every time I go back to Portland, I discover a new Maine beer/brewery that really impresses me. That being said, now that I'm taking the time to brew another entry in the series, I just can't help but attempt another beer from my favorite Maine brewery, Maine Beer Company.

Back in May, I brewed my first beer from MBC, a clone attempt of Zoe, their excellent hoppy American Amber Ale. I put together the recipe based on notes from their website, tasting experience on my part, and some help from brewer/owner Dan Kleban. I was very happy with how the beer came out; it's still up there with some of the best beers I've brewed. I've always been a big fan of Zoe, but now that MBC has a larger selection of beers, it takes a back seat to a couple of their other products.

I'd have to say my all-time-favorite beer from MBC is MO, an American Pale Ale that comes in at 6% ABV. I'd even go so far as to say it may be my current favorite APA of all the ones I've tried so far. If you think their Peeper is a fresh, hoppy beer, you'll be blown away by MO - it's a super-hoppy, delicious beer that you could drink pint after pint. Here's the more-eloquent description by the brewery:

"Flavors and aromas of zesty citrus, passionfruit, and pine present themselves throughout. A very subtle malt sweetness for balance, but this is intended to finish dry." 
Photo courtesy of
I've wanted to try to brew something along the lines of MO for awhile now. When I looked at the ingredients for the beer (MBC lists these for each of their beers on their website), the grist looked completely doable; it consists of "American 2-row, Carapils, Caramel 40 L, and Red Wheat". However, when I looked at the hops, one of them stood out as unrecognizable to me - the hops listed are Warrior, Falconer's Flight, and Simcoe. Any guess as to which one I didn't recognize?

Looking into it a little more, Falconer's Flight has only been around commercially for a few years. Developed by Hopunion, FF is a high-alpha acid aroma hop described as having an aroma of "distinct tropical, floral, lemon and grapefruit characteristics". Apparently it's actually a blend of hops from the Pacific Northwest, including experimental hops. Does this mean that what you buy as FF hops will differ from year to year? Not sure, but it sounds interesting, if a little inconsistent. Either way, I know they work fantastic in MO, and I finally bought a half pound of them, specifically for use in brewing this beer.

Ok, so, finally time to approach how to put the recipe together for this beer. As with the Zoe clone, I took the ingredients that I knew were in the beer, and plugged them into my brewing software (Beersmith), playing around with the percentages and such until it "looked right". In this case, my main concern was the hopping... obviously, Warrior was most-likely to be used for bittering. I knew that it probably wasn't a large amount at that; I've seen a homebrew Peeper recipe from Dan Kleban that is extremely detailed, and he said then that half the IBUs for that beer were from the flameout addition. I assume this would apply to MO, and maybe even more so. The IBUs for MO aren't listed on the MBC website, but with a 6% beer that isn't painfully bitter to me, I assumed about 60. Therefore, I initially went with a small addition of Magnum at the beginning of the boil, to about 30 IBUs.

As for the aroma and flavor hops, I knew they were FF and Simcoe, but how much of each? Equal amounts? Or is it more FF, or more Simcoe? For the Simcoe, Centennial and CTZ of Zoe, I went with equal amounts, but I really wasn't sure this time if it would work as well for a MO clone. So, I ASSUMED equal amounts for the recipe, going with a flavor addition at 10 and 5 minutes, and then a big flameout and dry-hop addition.

I then took this recipe and emailed Dan Kleban again, as I did for the Zoe clone. This is what I told him I'd probably be going with:

"~88% 2-row, 5% wheat malt, 3.5% each Carapils and Crystal 40 L. Mash in the high 140s. 60-minute boil, Warrior at the beginning to about 30 IBUs, then equal amounts Falconer's Flight and Simcoe at 10 and 5 minutes to bring the IBUs to a total of ~60. Lots of equal amounts of FF and Simcoe at flameout for a hop-steep, then lots in the dry-hop (maybe even a 2-stage DH). Ferment with a neutral American strain at ~68 F. Not sure if you use equal amounts of FF and Simcoe, or if one is higher than the other...?"

I waited for a few weeks for a response, and then shamelessly emailed him again, swearing to myself I wouldn't bug the poor man; if he didn't reply, I'd just go with it as-is. He did respond, however, with the following:

"Hey, Shawn - Grain looks good.  I would stick to equal amounts FF and Sim. Also, way less IBU from Warrior and more from late hop additions (don’t forget, you get isomerization at whirlpool too)."

The obligatory hop photo shoot
As with the Zoe clone, basically very few changes to make. From his advice, I decided to decrease the 60-minute hop addition in half to ~15 IBUs (I also had to sub Magnum for Warrior based on what I had on-hand). I also dropped the 5-minute addition and bumped the flameout hops even more. The calculated IBUs come to 43, but with the large flameout addition, it should be closer to my target of ~60. In the end, I'll be using 13 oz of flavor/aroma hops in this beer... quite a lot for an APA. But, I know that Peeper calls for a lot of hops, and MO is definitely hoppier than Peeper, so I don't think I'm overdoing it.

A word about the grist for this recipe. I aimed for an OG of 1.057, even though MBC lists their OG for MO at 1.051. I discussed this in the post for the Zoe clone; MBC obviously has crazy-high attenuation to be able to get a 6% ABV beer with an OG of 1.051... that would put their FG at about 1.005. That ain't gonna happen for me, even with using US-05 Safale for my yeast, and mashing low (about 148 F). I'd be happy seeing a beer of this size finishing at about 1.010-1.011, so 1.057 would put me in the range of 6% ABV. Your system may be different than mine, so adjust accordingly. I also added a bit of acid malt to drop the mash pH, as I've been doing lately for pale beers.

I unfortunately don't have any plans to be in Portland in the near future, but I'm hoping I'll somehow be able to get a bottle of fresh MO to compare to this beer when it's ALSO fresh.  

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.011, IBU ~43 (calculated), SRM 6, ABV ~6%

4.54 kg (86.1%) Canadian 2-row

254 g (4.8%) Wheat malt
191 g (3.6%) Carapils
191 g (3.6%) Crystal 40 L
100 g (1.9%) Acid malt

Magnum - 11 g (10.8% AA) @ 60 min

Falconer's Flight - 28 g (10% AA) @ 10 min
Simcoe - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min
FF, Simcoe - 42 g each @ flameout, 20-minute hop steep
FF, Simcoe - 42 g each when started chiller
FF, Simcoe - 35 g each dry-hop for 4 days
FF, Simcoe - 35 g each dry-hop for 3 more days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05, 1 package, re-hydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum added to the mash

- Brewed on January 7th, 2014, by myself. 60-minute mash with 17.5 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 148 F. Sparged with ~4.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- SG 1.045, a bit below target of 1.047. 60-minute boil. Final volume 5.5 gallons. Chilled down to 62 F, then poured/filtered (lots of hop sludge) into Better Bottle. OG low at 1.055. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry room, ambient temp about 68 F.

- 8/1/14 - 11/1/14 - Lots of activity over the first few days, temp rising from 64 F to 70 F over 4 days. By the 11th, activity had pretty much stopped in the airlock.

- 13/1/14 - Gravity reading of 1.010.

- 19/1/14 - Racked to secondary, added first dry-hops.

- 22/1/14 - Second dry-hop addition.

- 26/1/14 - After cold-crashing in beer-freezer for one day, bottled about 1 gallon with 25 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 with max temp of 70 F reached. Racked the rest into a keg, purged with CO2, and set at 14 PSI (set in cellar, temp 46 F).

- 25/2/14 - Tasting notes... despite being a very tasty APA, the beer isn't near as hoppy or tasty as the real thing. Dang.

Monday 6 January 2014

Tasting : Mosaic Session IPA

Well, I've been drinking my first stab at a Session IPA (I still think I prefer this term over "India Session Ale") for a couple of weeks now, and one of the first things that pops into my mind is, "I told you so". "I" meaning me, and "you" also meaning me.

I'm often a glass-half-empty kind of guy when it comes to my own homebrews, so let's start with what I'm getting at. I was originally worried that I put together this recipe too quickly, and mashed the beer too low (149 F). I like my APAs and American IPAs finishing dry, but in this case, I thought AFTER I had brewed the beer that the mash temp should have been higher to give this 4.4% ABV beer more body... it's just too thin. Oddly enough, the carbonation is also a bit lower than I'd like - I had to give the bottles a few weeks to carbonate, probably due to lower ambient temps in my house (it's been damn cold here lately), but I think they've reached where they're going to stay, and I'd prefer just a bit more carbonation.

Ok, but on to the positives! Despite the too-thin body, this is one fine-smelling and tasting beer. The Mosaic hops REALLY came through, and what a delicious hop it is! While I don't think I can pick out the blueberry character that you hear about with Mosaic, there's still a really big berry presence in the aroma and flavor. After only a few weeks, however, I find that the hop character is shifting to another level... sometimes I'd swear I can smell and taste pine in this beer. That's not a character that you normally see described with the Mosaic hop, so I don't know if it's just me, or if I overhopped the beer (mainly in the dry hop), which is something else I was worried about after the fact. Again, with the low ABV, some feel that too-high hop additions (especially in the dry hop) can lead to increased grassy flavors in the beer.

Luckily, I don't find the beer overly-grassy at all, so if I got a bit of pine from a large Mosaic addition, so be it! In a nutshell, I really enjoy the beer; if you ever decide to do something similar, just increase your mash temp to 152-154 F, and I think you'll be very happy with the results.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, creamy white head that eventually fades to a thin film on the beer. Body is a burnished-gold color, with pretty good clarity.

Aroma: Big hop aroma... fruity berries. A touch of caramel sweetness in there backing it up, but the hops easily dominate. A bit of pine. No diacetyl.

Taste: Again, a very hop-forward beer. The hop flavor is almost sweet due to the high berry presence; maybe some caramel malt character, but again, lots of hop presence. Seems to get a bit grassy towards the end. Moderate-high bitterness in the finish; dry.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied... too thin. Moderate-low carbonation.

Overall: Love the hop aroma and flavor, but the beer needs more body and carbonation. Easy to fix next time; I’d be happy to brew another all-Mosaic beer again.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Homebrewing in 2013 - Thoughts on the Last Year

With the start of a new year, I figured I should do a look-back similar to what I posted in November of 2012, a year after I started this blog. When I initially started blogging, I don't think I really considered that I would continue this long. While my posting has been a bit off-and-on, I think I've been fairly consistent with writing up notes on my brew days within a couple of weeks, and tastings within... well, maybe not that consistent, but I'm almost caught up!

I've been brewing just over 4 years now, and the 2 years the blog has been active has definitely encouraged me to try to improve as a brewer. Have I done that? Well, I've certainly learned a lot, from experience and from meeting lots of other helpful homebrewers. While I've had some batches in 2013 that I haven't been crazy about, I've had some that I've felt were my best beers ever. Let's look at that a little closer, actually, when scrutinizing beers I've brewed since November, 2012...

My favorite homebrews of the last year:

James clone
Hill Farmstead James clone - It had been a couple of years, at least, since I actually tried the commercial version of this clone, but I was anxious to test the recipe from Mitch Steele's IPA book, and it was a real winner. I had to make several changes to the grist based on what I had available to me, but the combination of healthy amounts of Columbus and Centennial hops came through fantastic in the final product. Most likely not up to the God-like status of Hill Farmstead beers, but it really was quite delicious.

Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone - This is one of the few clone recipes I've brewed where I can actually get the commercial version fairly easily, since it's not that far away. I put the recipe together on my own, and had a bit of helpful guidance from Maine Beer Co. owner/brewer Dan Kleban. While I've found Zoe to be maltier than it used to be, the clone came out - in my opinion - very similar to the earlier, more-hoppy version. Probably the best Amber I've brewed to-date.

Modern Times Fortunate Islands clone - Another clone recipe that was conveniently provided for me, by The Mad Fermentationist... naturally, since he developed the recipe for the brewery back before they opened. I even got to try the real thing (and drop off a clone to Jacob McKean, owner of Modern Times) not too long after I started drinking my homebrewed version; both beers were excellent, with huge citrus/mango/etc. aroma and flavors, thanks to copious amounts of Citra hops, with some Amarillo thrown in. Anyone who can get their hands on these hops should give this recipe a try.

'Merica clone vs. the real thing
Prairie Artisan Ales 'Merica clone - I only recently posted the tasting notes for this beer, and I can say without a doubt this clone came out damned delicious, and quite similar to the real thing. A SMaSH Saison with pilsner malt and Nelson Sauvin hops, this beer has an amazing aroma akin to burying your nose in a patch full of berries. Although it was my first brew using Nelson hops, it's cemented them as one of my favorite varieties, by far.

My biggest homebrew disappointments of the last year:

Extra Special Bitter - One of two extra brews I managed to squeeze in late last 2012, I had been looking forward to this one. It was my first attempt doing a first wort hop (FWH) addition, and was also the first time I had "Burtonized" my water, adding lots of gypsum to the mash to mimic the famous, highly-mineralized Burton-on-Trent water supply. Unfortunately, the fermentation of the beer got stuck at a FG of 1.019. While I liked the flavor of the beer, despite the fact that it was less-attenuated than planned, eventual bottle gushing (and one bomb) ruined the beer towards the end.

Witbier - My second attempt at this style, the beer was brewed with 100% Belma hops, which I don't think ended up adding anything special. While the beer actually tasted and smelled pretty good, I had some sort of yeast problem which resulted in a stuck fermentation at 1.019 (my unlucky number?). I then bottled it, aiming for a lower-than-usual carbonation... but after a short period of time, still ended up with major gushing whenever I tried to open a bottle.

Imperial IPA (Russian River Pliny the Younger clone) - A major disappointment! I had really looked forward to brewing this beer, but even though it had more hops (including FOUR dry hop additions) than any beer I've ever brewed... it wasn't as hoppy as the four beers that were my favorites of the year. Not sure if it was due to oxidation problems, or what, but it hurt to be so let-down by this beer! Some other beer geeks thought the beer actually came out quite well, which softened the blow a little... but will I ever attempt it again? Maybe sometime, but definitely not for awhile.

All-in-all, though, all the beers I brewed over the last year came out at least decent (although I haven't yet tried my English IPA). I don't think I had any obviously-infected batches or any other complete duds, so that's a plus. It's pretty obvious that I've been spending a lot of time brewing clone attempts of beers (8 of the 15 batches in 2013), but I've been enjoying the challenge, to be honest. I find that brewing clones about half the time blends well with coming up with my own recipes.

So, how has the blog been doing, stats-wise? Well, there has been significant improvements in the number of page views it received by its 2nd "birthday"...

Page views for November, 2012 - 1,530
Page views for November, 2013 - 5,246

While this is still far below what the really good homebrew blogs get, I'm still happy with these numbers, especially considering limitations in my writing skills, posting regularity, and family members.

Most-viewed Posts - Dry-hopping Tips (5,565 page views), Alpine Duet clone (2,907), Brewing a Hill Farmstead James clone (1,212)

This is pretty similar to last year, except the James clone post hadn't been written yet. The Kern River Citra DIPA clone post and Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone post are quickly catching up in popularity.

At the end of last year's 1st-birthday post, I listed a few things I'd like to tackle for 2013... did I live up to them?
  • "Other things on the horizon for the next year include more sour beers (a Lambic and Oude Bruin, specifically)..." - Uh, nope. I was terrible, didn't brew one sour beer all year. Maybe the time needed for most beers to sour threw me off? Maybe it was the Berliner Weisse from late 2012 that never ended up getting sour that frustrated me?
  • "...a session IPA of around 3.5% ABV..." - Yes, just in the nick of time, a Session IPA featuring all Mosaic hops.
  • "a re-brew of my Oktoberfest and Sweet Stout from 2 years ago..." - Not exactly, but I DID brew a Vienna Lager, a style very similar to Oktoberfest. Missed the Sweet Stout, unfortunately.
  • "...and, of course, a few more new clone beers (including Smuttynose Finestkind IPA and Russian River Blind Pig IPA)." - Done and done, here and here, respectively... and they both turned out really tasty.
So, let's be generous and give me a 2.5/4 for hitting my homebrewing goals. I had also intended on posting more how-to articles, but unfortunately I neglected to do that, for the most part. I aim to do more of that over the next year; I'm currently in the process of trying to put together a post on figuring out how many IBUs you get from flame-out additions.
What's in store (hopefully) for 2014? I'll definitely be continuing my trend of attempting to clone some hoppy, commercial beers... I'll be brewing another Maine Beer Co. beer to start the new year - their delicious American Pale Ale, MO - followed eventually by a shot at The Pupil from the amazing San Diego brewery, Societe Brewing. I'll also soon be taking another crack at Alpine's Duet, the IPA clone that started bringing my first real numbers in terms of readers. Throw in a lager or two (I'm thinking a Classic American Pilsner and a Traditional Bock), a sour beer (I mean it this time... maybe a Flanders Brown Ale)... and, of course, more clones (TBD). Hopefully 2014 will also finally bring me into the world of kegging; I think it's necessary with all the hoppy beers I have planned.

As always, looking forward to more brewing! Thanks to everyone who reads this blog... there seems to be a large percentage of Americans checking in, so I know for a fact it's not just my family that's reading! Keep the comments and suggestions coming; I'm always anxious to learn more!