2013 was definitely a down year at Rowdy Reptile. Life was exceedingly busy during my residency, add 2 kids on top of that, and there's very little time to drink beer, let alone brew it. As a result, we brewed less than half the volume we've done in the previous 3 years. A total of 9 beers were made in 2013, most being very standard beers: 3 Pale Ales, 3 IPAs, and 3 dark beers; no experimental brews, no seasonal brews, and no Barleywine. Including ingredients and supplies (minus the chest freezer upgrade), our cost per bottle this year was $1.12 or $6.72/6-pack; not bad when you compare that to the $9-11/6-packs you see in the store.
As for the quality of the beers, there were definitely some highs and lows. Our Schwarzbier came out fantastic. It was dark, malty, and very very smooth, and probably my favorite beer of the year. Cody's Panda Watch Pale Ale was another very good beer that we've re-brewed as the first beer of 2014. Unfortunately, not everything was great, and for the first time in 3 years we had to dump a batch of beer for taste reasons. The aluminum monster (aka our boil kettle) built up a scorch/grime over time and since I was under the impression to not scrub aluminum for fear of scratching and ruining the surface, the build up grew enough to eventually impart off flavors into our beer. Darker brews could hide the flavors, but a simple beer, like the SMaSH, was overpowered with an unbearable bitterness rendering it undrinkable.
It seems like every year we also make major equipment upgrades, and this year was no different. Our first year we ugraded to all grain, the 2nd year saw the original kegerator, which we've now ugraded again in year 3. In the Summer we sold our old kegerator and upgraded to an indoor chest freezer, added a 4-tap tower, and tiled the lid to complete the look. More importantly (probably), we got rid of the aluminum monster and are now using a keg as our boil kettle. The stainless steel allows me to scrub as much as I want, and the large capacity (15.5 gallons) will allow me to have the option for 10-gallons batches if needed. It was a very easy switch because the keg was free, and I used the money from the kettle sale to go towards the conversion (i.e., making a hole in the top and drilling/welding fittings near the bottom), so it cost $0 to make a very needed upgrade. Compare that with at least $300 for a 10-gallon stainless steel brewpot, and you can see why I jumped at the opportunity as fast as I did. Also, we finally started buying hops in bulk. The savings are incredible (up to $1/oz less than from the homebrew store) and definitely make brewing hoppy beers easier as I am not afraid to add a lot of hops. Already having a Food Saver helped too, because all we needed to buy were some mason jars and a lid attachment and we were set to go.
Looking ahead in 2014, I have a few goals in mind:
1. Brew more
2. Keep all 4 taps full of beer as much as possible
4. Experiment more (another Brett beer at least)
5. Join a homebrew club
Thanks to anyone who is reading this. Looking forward to another interesting year at Rowdy with hopefully more up's than down's in 2014.