At the beginning of each year, it’s good to generally take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we’re going. Seeing as though we’re
halfway almost through February, I’ve pretty much missed out on the usual timeframe for such musings, but said timeframes are mostly arbitrary anyway, so why not do a belated year-in-review? I mean, sure, hundreds of reasons, but nothing that’s convincing me not to, so let’s hop to it, shall we?
- The Decline of Blogging – After that intro, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It’s a long term-trend that continued to accelerate in 2019. In my most prolific years, I’d put out 3-4 posts a week. That tapered down to about 3-4 a month, and is now at 1-2 a month, if that. There are a few things driving this trend. Firstly, this blog has never really garnered a huge readership and blogs in general are in decline. Sure, I post semi-regularly over on Twitter and less-so on other social media platforms, but it’s just not the same. Also of note: Google’s ranking of blogs appears to have dwindled. I used to get a pretty healthy amount of traffic from natural search, but that’s declined dramatically (there could be other reasons for this, including the aging infrastructure of my blogging software/templates). In any case, it’s hard to justify spending a lot of time writing stuff no one is reading. It’s true that a good amount of the reason for the blog is to better myself, but it’s also nice to have some sort of interaction with readers. Secondly, after nearly ten years of maintaining the blog, there isn’t as much to say. At least, not in my tried and true format of tasting notes surrounded by (hopefully) more interesting context. That being said, it might be time to shake things up a bit, stop relying so heavily on tasting notes, and maybe do a little more blue-sky thinking. Easier said than done, but we’ll see. Thirdly, other responsibilities crop up that limit time for this sort of thing. For instance, I have a new role at work that is more fulfilling and rewarding than my previous role, but which also takes up more time and mindshare (not a complaint!) In short, you can expect blogging to continue, but it will remain on this more leisurely schedule, with perhaps the occasional spike (or lull) in activity.
- The Continued Rise of Lagers – Another long-term trend, lagers have become something of a mainstay in my beer fridge. Perhaps even moreso than IPAs. It might be difficult to notice if you’re just looking at the blog, which tends to be more focused on barrel-aged stouts/barleywines, saisons/sours, and IPAs, but that’s the weird thing about lagers: There often isn’t that much to say about them. This isn’t to say that they’re all bland or uninteresting to drink, just that they tend to be staid affairs with little in the way of hype or innovation or weird ingredients. Indeed, that’s part of their appeal! And to be sure, there’s plenty of interest behind the craft of lagers, so maybe I just need to dig deeper. This is probably something worth exploring in more detail, especially since I seem to be drinking more of these.
- The Decline of Drinking and Taking a Break – As I get older, the appeal of drinking quite so much in a given session has lessened. Oh sure, I still drink plenty, but left to my own devices, I have tended more towards moderation in the last few years (the whole “Rise of Lagers” thing mentioned above also helps, given that they tend to be lower ABV). Social situations and travel still result in some longer sessions, for sure, but they’re not as frequent as they used to be. Indeed, we’re coming up on my seventh annual beer slowdown, a Lenten tradition wherein I (mostly) avoid drinking beer. It’s an exercise I always find valuable, and it sorta resets my tastes and perspectives (not to mention, ahem, my waistline).
- Aging Beer – In general, my thoughts on aging beer have shifted more towards just drinking it as soon as possible. It’s still occasionally fun to age beer and see what happens, but for the most part, it’s not really worth the hassle. However, I’ve often noted that my eyes are bigger than my liver, so there are plenty of times when I buy too much beer and must age some of it by necessity. And in my experience, aging something (at least something that’s a good candidate for aging) a year is usually still pretty interesting. However, one experience I had this year has me drinking down my cellar at a higher rate than usual. I had a bunch of friends over on my birthday to “drink my beer” and went through a bunch of beer that I had broken out for the occasion. Some fresh, but some really old stuff too, and results were typical: they were all different than they were fresh, but not necessarily better, and some were downright atrocious (in particular, I had a 2012 Parabola that really fell off dramatically and wasn’t particularly good.) The sole exception was lambic, which was arguably more complex and comparable (if still different) to the experience from 8 years earlier, so experiments in the lambic realm will probably continue. We’ll see how well I can do this year. Maintaining a cellar is definitely fun, but I like the idea of shrinking it down a tad.
- Homebrewing Limbo – It’s been a couple of years since my last batch of homebrew, and I keep finding excuses not to brew (some of which, like having the flu, are actually good, but most of which come down to pure laziness). I still find it an interesting process and have been itching to try a couple of things, so maybe I’ll figure something out in the coming weeks…
At this point, I usually do a top “new to me” beers of the year list, but the decline in blogging will result in a smaller list. Standard disclaimers apply: this is a list of beers that were new to me this year and which I reviewed on the blog. It’s not an all time favorites list, so if you don’t see something on here, then maybe I didn’t try it this year or perhaps I had it in a previous year. Or you have bad taste and are a bad person. It could be that too. This is a naturally arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with it and enjoy making lists like this. Lists are American! So let’s do this thing:
- Bottle Logic Sight and Mind (Barleywine)
- Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star (Imperial Stout)
- Cycle Rare DOS 1 (Imperial Stout)
- Plan Bee Precious (American Wild Ale)
- Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6 (DIPA)
- Odd Breed Fresh Off the Farm With Peaches (Saison)
- Foam Wavvves (DIPA)
- Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton (American Wild Ale)
- Gigantic Massive! (Barleywine)
- Mother of All Storms (barleywine)
- Side Project Merci (Saison)
- Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation (Imperial Stout)
- Fremont Barrel Aged B-Bomb Coconut Edition (American Strong Ale)
- Tree House Treat (DIPA)
- Suarez Family Brewery Parlance (Saison)
- The Alchemist Luscious (Imperial Stout)
- Frost Research Series IPA (IPA)
- Suarez Family Brewing Qualify Pils (Pilsner)
- Cycle Roadtrip – Fresh Blacktop (Imperial Stout)
- Free Will Maple Ralphius (Imperial Stout)
Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.
- Weldworks and Perennial MamaNoche (Imperial Stout)
- Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze (American Wild Ale) (GABF)
- Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #25 (Saison)
- Russian River Beatification (American Wild Ale) (GABF)
- Weldworks Single Barrel Medianoche (Imperial Stout) (GABF)
- Bruery Black Tuesday Reserve (2015) (Imperial Stout)
- Bruery Brandy Barrel Aged Bois (Old Ale)
- Bierstadt Lagerhaus Slow Pour Pils (Pilsner) (GABF)
- Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight (Imperial Stout) (GABF)
- Liberati Oximonstrum (Oenobeer) (GABF)
I’m a sucker for the Bruery’s Anniversary beers, and managed to acquire some of the variants aged in other barrels. The best of those was this Brandy barrel treatment. The Brandy complements the base and is just different enough from the normal Bourbon barrel aged version to make the whole enterprise worthwhile (Scotch and Wine barrel treatments are still good, to be sure, but only the Brandy rivals the Bourbon). The Bruery isn’t quite at the vanguard of beer nerdery these days, but I still love their Belgian inflected takes on barrel aged beers, and you’ll be seeing some more about them on the blog soon enough…
This just about wraps things up. I’ve got a bit of a backlog of reviews to plow through, so keep your eyes peeled, more coming soon…