The new year is upon us: a time to look back and a time to look forward. It is a bit shameful to say, but as someone who works making WordPress I will be the first to admit that in the past I was not a good blogger. Though I “started” this site almost two years ago, it was only until my experiences at the 2014 Beer Blogger’s Conferences in Dublin and San Diego that I finally got the moxie to start writing and publishing real articles. I have been inspired by the large group of really great bloggers out there and feel challenged to step up my game for 2015. So here they are, my reflections and resolutions for 2015.
I spent a lot of time in 2014 trying to figure out what I was trying to do with this blog. Is this a site for publishing recipes? Reviewing equipment and processes? A place to discuss commercial beers? The answer, as far as I can tell, is to write about the things I love and everything will sort itself out in the end. I love designing and dissecting recipes, so that will absolutely remain a feature, but I will keep experimenting with the format to see where it takes me. I also love discussing techniques and equipment and I think there is a lot of value there for readers, so that will be a big feature as well. I am not a big fan of doing commercial beer reviews (with the occasional exception), as I think there are already plenty of beer bloggers doing a far better job of it than I can do.
I really see myself focusing solely on homebrewing and sticking to three main categories: 1) recipes; 2) techniques; and 3) “special interest.” Some folks say “write for yourself first,” but I do not think that is 100% the way to go. I would say, write 80% for yourself and 20% for the folks coming to read your stuff. I like this approach because it will encourage me to perhaps write something I otherwise would not be writing.
Brewing and Recipe Reviews
Due to a number of illnesses and a bunch of traveling, I did not brew as often as I had hoped in 2014. The optimal amount of brewing (read: production vs consumption) for me would be once every three weeks or so, but it ended up being closer to once every five or six weeks this past year. I am happy to report I continued to have no (unintentional) infections and for better or worse most of my beers turned out pretty close to how I designed them. I did not get the chance to enter as many competitions as I was intending to this year, but I am proud of the 1st place for Barleywines/IIPA and 3rd place for Ciders in the Maltose Falcons Mayfaire competition.
Since starting this blog I wrote four reviews (published three) and I am content with the format for now. I am still debating if I should get more into process in the recipe reviews or separate the process into their own posts. Though I like the format of first half is preamble (whatever I want to talk about) and the second half is beer dissection.
This was an idea that I had that never quite panned out the way I hoped. I cranked out one article for WLP540, which I liked, but I discovered that these are a lot of work to put together. The idea is on the shelf for the moment as I focus on other topics that are interesting me, but as my search traffic indicates: there are quite a few folks that are interested in in-depth reviews of yeast strains. Perhaps I will get back to it next year as I after I knock a few more articles out and get into a groove.
My first bona fide success with this blog and I am still just getting started! Writing about this hop has been a lot of fun and has really encouraged me to keep writing in-depth, researched articles; it is very exciting to be on the frontier of this new native American hop variety. I consider this to be my standard for “special interest” type articles going forward.
I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a good year. The National Homebrewers Conference is in my back yard and I already have quite a few ideas for articles to work on. I am a fan of writing aspirations down and sharing them with the world; it does a great job of holding you accountable and making them “real.” To that end, here are my goals for the year.
I know it is pretty hand-wavy to say I want to “blog more” or “brew more” so I am going to challenge myself to two key components: 1) average at least one article a week and 2) write about every time I brew; Michael Tonsmeire is a great inspiration in this regard. I do not know if he writes about every single beer he brews, but it sure seems that way. I have even noticed that in the few short months I have been posting each article is easier to write than the last. More writing begets more writing which will encourage me to brew more to have subjects to write about. It is the best kind virtuous circle: one where I end up with more beer. 🙂
Year of the Sour Mash
If you have come across my presentation on sour mashing or my Berliner Weisse recipe you know I have a special fondness for lactobacillus soured beers. I am excited to announce that I have been selected to speak at the at the NHC this year about sour mashing/kettling. At the moment my talk is titled Berliner and Beyond: Sour Mashing and its Applications and my plan is to provide an illustrated guide to the sour mash process including equipment, starters, alternate/hybrid techniques, and ways to cheat. I will also discuss how to apply a sour mash to a number of different styles including Berliner, classic sours, and a few styles folks might have never considered.
My plan in the next six months is to do a lot of experimentation on sour mash techniques so I can present some novel data. Off the top of my head I would like to do some experiments with creating lacto starters and varying levels of soured mash percentage vs straight kettle souring. Keep an eye out in the few months for articles related to the topic.
Finally Finish My BJCP Training
I have been taking classes for the last year and a half or so and have stewarded a number of competitions. It is time for me to finally get off my butt and take the online and written exams. I am fairly confident I have this in the bag, there is no real reason I have not done it already.
Go Big At NHC
NHC is in San Diego this year (where I live) so I would like to go all-out. My club is already working to make a big showing, so between my speaking gig and club night this should be an event to remember.
Help Organize And Encourage Other Homebrew Bloggers
“A rising tide lifts all boats.” As part of my job I spent this past summer traveling all over the US and Europe speaking to bloggers on how they can supercharge their blogging using WordPress. I realized that there are a lot of super-simple things that folks can do to make their posts really impressive, but are not well known. For instance, did you know you can embed tweets with summaries in your posts?
— Five Blades Brewing (@FiveBlades) December 28, 2014
There seems to be quite a few of us churning out quality homebrew articles, my dream is that we try to organize and encourage each other. If you are interested in starting a blog or stepping up your game, please just let me know, I am happy to help!
So, there it is: 2014 and 2015 in the once and future nutshell. Please feel free to share your own Brew Years Resolutions, I would love to read them and I follow just about every single homebrew blog I come across. I look forward to reading your posts and hope to share a pint or six at NHC this year 🙂