While not having posted in a while, but still brewing quite consistently, I’ve been evolving a bit in my approach to this homebrewing hobby. Previously, I would consider myself very OCD. When I re-brew a recipe, it had to be done the exact same way with the exact same ingredients (minus any purposeful changes I wanted to make to improve the recipe). If my LHBS was out of a particular yeast or hop I needed, I felt this angst inside me as I dealt with the unexpected disappointment and tried to gather myself in trying to decide on a subsitute. I work 4 days a week, Monday through Thursday. So my Fridays are my brewing/bottling days, which left my weekends open to spend time with the kids, work around the house and do otherwise fun things. I would lay out my yearly brewing schedule well in advance of the New Year and I felt compelled to brew certain recipes each year, even though they weren’t exactly my favorites (such as wee heavy). I felt compelled to brew a wide array of styles in order to pad my self perceived confidence as a well rounded brewer. Plus I also just enjoyed variety. But then as 2018 rolled on, I started to feel a bit exhausted. I would brew once or twice a month and it felt like every Friday I HAD to brew or bottle a batch. And I didn’t always really want to. I had 16 batches on my schedule this year, which also meant I couldn’t brew every recipe that I wanted to this year (I have about 30 recipes), and that kind of bugged me. I was a slave to the homebrewing grind and I felt I needed a change. I asked myself a simple question. Instead of brewing what I think I NEED to brew (I gotta squeeze that hefeweizen in this year or I’ve gotta plan for this party I’m having), why aren’t I just brewing styles that I ENJOY the most and WANT to drink? Seems like a trick question in its simplicity. But remember, I was battling some level of OCD in my psyche that was making me a bit irrational.
Then I decided to try brulosophy.com’s short & shoddy brewing method with an altbier recipe I had on hand. Essentially it involves reducing the mash to 20 or 30 minutes and reducing the boil to 30 minutes (hop amounts/time additions adjusted accordingly). I also coupled this with reducing my batch size to 3 gallons. Despite a drop in efficiency, it worked really well. The altbier tasted pretty dang good. And this follows what Brulosopher has found. Efficiency takes a ding, but it produces pretty good beer.
Couple all of this with the fact I was trying to cut back on beer consumption to lose a few pounds and a light bulb went off. Instead of brewing 16 times a year or more, why don’t I brew just 12 times a year (once a month)? Brewing less, check! Why don’t I incorporate some 3 gal short & shoddy brews throughout the year? Brew less beer, check! Shorten my brew day, bonus! Hey, let’s go a step further and do half of my 12 brew days as short & shoddys but do two 3 gallon batches on those days, two different recipes. I’ll save the full 5 gallon brew days for my top favorite recipes. Those double brew days will still be shorter than a full brew day since I will be brewing them concurrently but with a bit of time staggering. The net effect over the year will be less time brewing, more styles being brewed to satiate my craving for variety and less overall beer being produced, which will make it a bit easier for me to drink less beer.
As far as the whole brewing OCD thing goes, brewing short & shoddy has allowed me to realize that it will all be beer in the end. I still treat my water, control fermentation temp and pitch two packs of yeast. But right now, I’m just brewing for myself and my wife. I’m not in it to impress my friends and family as much anymore. Only a couple of them are into craft beer anyway. And I’m not interested in entering any more competitions. I just want to brew, enjoy the finished product and zen out without sacrificing or neglecting other parts of my life. Homebrewing should complement my life, not dominate it. We’ll see how this works out.