Belated 2019 Year End Musings

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:

  1. Bottle Logic Sight and Mind (Barleywine)
  2. Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star (Imperial Stout)
  3. Cycle Rare DOS 1 (Imperial Stout)
  4. Plan Bee Precious (American Wild Ale)
  5. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #6 (DIPA)
  6. Odd Breed Fresh Off the Farm With Peaches (Saison)
  7. Foam Wavvves (DIPA)
  8. Jester King Montmorency vs. Balaton (American Wild Ale)
  9. Gigantic Massive! (Barleywine)
  10. Mother of All Storms (barleywine)
  11. Side Project Merci (Saison)
  12. Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation (Imperial Stout)
  13. Fremont Barrel Aged B-Bomb Coconut Edition (American Strong Ale)
  14. Tree House Treat (DIPA)
  15. Suarez Family Brewery Parlance (Saison)
  16. The Alchemist Luscious (Imperial Stout)
  17. Frost Research Series IPA (IPA)
  18. Suarez Family Brewing Qualify Pils (Pilsner)
  19. Cycle Roadtrip – Fresh Blacktop (Imperial Stout)
  20. Free Will Maple Ralphius (Imperial Stout)

The Unreviewed

Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. Weldworks and Perennial MamaNoche (Imperial Stout)
  2. Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze (American Wild Ale) (GABF)
  3. Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #25 (Saison)
  4. Russian River Beatification (American Wild Ale) (GABF)
  5. Weldworks Single Barrel Medianoche (Imperial Stout) (GABF)
  6. Bruery Black Tuesday Reserve (2015) (Imperial Stout)
  7. Bruery Brandy Barrel Aged Bois (Old Ale)
  8. Bierstadt Lagerhaus Slow Pour Pils (Pilsner) (GABF)
  9. Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight (Imperial Stout) (GABF)
  10. Liberati Oximonstrum (Oenobeer) (GABF)

Bruery Brandy Barrel Aged Bois

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…

3 thoughts on “Belated 2019 Year End Musings”

  1. Hey, happy belated New Year, and happy Lent! My wife and I both grew up very Catholic but are not practicing Catholics as adults, and tried to explain Lent to our 8 year old son. He was confused.

    For your annual Lenten beer semi-abstinence, let me take a moment to plug CT made Athletic Brewing Company. It’s from Stratford, CT, right on the shore (my parents both grew up there and I still have tons of family there), and its…drum roll, non-alcoholic craft beer that tastes like good beer.

    I read an article online about it a few weeks back, and it happened to coincide with my own desire to slash my alcohol intake, due to waistline encroachment and some difficulty sleeping (not all beer but it probablywasn’thelping). I stopped by my local packy, thinking they’d never have it, and boom, they had the Pilsner. And two weeks later, the stout.

    It tastes good enough and scratches that itch for weeknight beer or two, with no alcohol and a fraction of the calories of “true” beer. I’d say I’ve shifted 75% of my beer consumption to non-alcoholic, at least for the foreseeable future.

    Not sure about local distribution outside New England or even within all of New England, but you can get it online and it can be easily shipped since it’s less than 0.5% ABV. Thought it might be of minor interest for the annual Lenten adventures.

    Re: blogging, as you and i have jawed about before, old-school blogs are rare these days, and I’m sad for their loss. I still read this one =) though I don’t comment as often as I should. I popped up a minor resurgence in the old Tempest blog a year or two ago when Upton Teas found the old blog and offered a free sample (unexpected after all these years), and it was fun for a few weeks but ultimately I found the same thing I’ve been saying for a while: not much left to say about tea.

    I’ve been meaning for a while to put together a light blog to Chronicle the hikes and camping I do with my son, but never get around to it. Thatd be sort if a trip report with pictures, and I think it’d be fun, but you hit the nail on the head with “mindshare.” I’m blissfully out of consulting for a corporate gig these days, but it’s still a lot of mental energy leaving me with less desire in my limited free time to sit in front of a keyboard.

    Oops, sorry for the novel, hope all is well in PA, happy non-beer drinking!

  2. Haha, I imagine if you didn’t grow up with it, Lent would be confusing.

    I checked the Athletic website and most of the options were sold out, but I’ll check em again at some point. I’m not sure how well that fits the spirit of the lenten pledge, but then, I’m going to a share tonight, so I shouldn’t be casting stones. At myself? Whatever, you know what I mean.

    I miss blogs. Some were a cesspool, but they’re all somewhat isolated, so they were a lot easier to avoid. And when you found a good one, it was great and you could dig into the archives and so on.

    Social Media only occasionally scratches that itch, and it’s too easy to mix garbage into your feed (or to have an algorithm insert garbage into your feed despite explicitly rejecting to follow somone, etc…). It’s a signal vs noise problem, and the algorithms find that noise actually increases engagement, so it’s encouraged. It reminds me of that scene in Private Parts where they’re going over the ratings and they’re like “His fans listen for 2.5 hours on average” and they’re like “That’s amazing, but what about the people that hate him?” and the response is “Good point, the people who hate him listen for 4 hours on average.” People like to be angry I guess.

    Anyways, I’m enough of a creature of habit that I’ll probably keep both of me blogs going for a while, but I’m no longer as strict with the scheduling and don’t stress when I miss a week (or two, or a month). Sometimes when it seems like I don’t have anything to say, I look deep within myself and, like, add a fart joke to a post and it just gives that post an extra something, *chef’s kiss*

    (So, uh, yeah, thanks for reading and checking in! I see you post your pictures from your hikes, which look like a lot of fun and make me think I should do some of that once the weather turns less frigid… Cheers!)

  3. Do keep me posted if you manage to score some Athletic Brewing Co beer, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help if it’s of any real interest. I know it’s a bit afield of your usual stomping grounds but don’t hesitate to let me know if you’re ever up in that area, would be awesome for a meetup — it’s not that far of a drive for me with some notice.

    SNR is the best way to describe modern media usage. Lordy but there’s a bunch of crap out there! Would never of guessed 20 years ago that this would be our obstacle.

    Definitely get outside at any and all opportunity. I’m convinced it’s what keeps us alive and young. Glad my pics are enjoyable, I mostly post them for family and friends that I know will get some pleasure from them. And keep on keeping on blogging for as long as its meaningful, I still like reading!


Leave a Comment