This post is intended to summarize my last 12 months in beer. I’ve been drinking beer since age 21 but, only in the last 18 months have I taken things a step further and jumped into a community of beer lovers who discuss it, trade it and review it. It has been just another one of my little fun experiments and learning about the ins and outs of this sub-culture has been the best part about the entire experience.

There’s no need to go over what has already been said about how I got into beer. I’ve been using beer review sites as a reference since mid-2011 but finally joined the community BeerAdvocate on January 5th, 2012. Two weeks later I was banned. After joining RateBeer, it wasn’t the community that was a draw. It’s clear to any passers-by that RB is smaller at least in the discussions part of things. If you have a question, expect to wait many times over what it would take on BA to get an answer. For someone like me who values data and contributions, RB was a better choice. Their review statistics and open API make tracking what I do on the site much easier than on BeerAdvocate. The review counter underneath my avatar catered to the narcissist in me. Reaching review milestones would auto-post news to your public feed so your friends could see it. I joined RateBeer with just over 100 beer reviews and am just short of 900 after a year. I prefer RateBeer to BeerAdvocate at this point. However, i’m guilty of following BA discussions for news and beer release information. The forums on RB are just not as active.

Tickers Gotta Tick:

Rating Beer is not easy. It’s easy to write what you think but not easy to really pick out what is going on with the aroma and taste. I still will admit that I have a long way to go on rating beers but looking at my reviews today versus earlier this year, it’s clear that my reviews are improving and this is a good thing. Beer lovers take the rating of beer very seriously. I have received private notes on a few occasions indicating I reviewed the wrong beer or that what I tastes is simply not possible and other great helpful advice. A lot of guys who stick around long enough eventually come to a place of defense of their reviews. I’ve seen it happen a few times. In August, I hit 600 reviews.

It was clear of the contention with friends and family over rating beer. My beer notebook went with me everywhere and I’d intentionally steer off course on road trips to get reviews at brew pubs and the entire month of August was filled with beer events and travel. In May, while in Belgium every moment not spent at work, I was traveling around the country getting more reviews in. It was an outstanding feeling but also one that kept me detracted from the day to day. I’m the kind of person who can’t stand red notifications on my iPhone and having any more than 0 unread emails will force me to pull all nighters and obsess over knocking out every to-do on my list until it’s empty. This sort of obsession appeals greatly to beer reviewers. When a brewery releases a series of beers or a vintage with different color labels and makes it feel as if the recipe is different this year, there’s a very big desire to acquire the bottle and review it. It’s not about exclusivity, it’s really the driving factor of I simply won’t be okay with not having and trying this beer. I’m not alone in this obsessive mentality in the beer community but I am the most forthcoming on the subject and thus pointed out often for what’s wrong with beer reviewers. That’s fine. I’m vocal so I get that end of things but there are guys on RateBeer approaching 30,000 reviews. You don’t reach that point without obsessing over every tick.

Over the last 12 months, I have lost a bit of that steam. Weight gain paired with a more controlled budget and the realization that I can’t review multiple 750MLs of beer every night by myself at home has lead me to actually give away / trade away beers that I didn’t get to tick but know that I’m not really that excited about them nor do I want to drink a 750ML of simply “decent” saison just to get a review. Maybe if I had a local tasting group, I would have more reviews but I don’t. I drink by myself unless it’s a beer my girlfriend likes and doing 1,000 reviews a year by yourself with large format bottles isn’t sustainable financially or health-wise.

At first, I would rate everything. If I got a 750ML in a trade and the reviews were’t that great, I’d still drink it and sometimes drain pour it just to get the rating. I don’t do that anymore. I trade it away to someone who would enjoy it more instead of do damage myself just to get one extra rating. Most of what I rate now are quality beers or beers on tap at brew pubs. I think my rating style will evolve a lot in 2013 and I expect it to continue.

Here are some stats via RateBeer of my reviews this year:

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Travel:

I tend to be a homebody. I’m not a shut-in but I like my privacy. The farm work in 2012 kept me busy and the natural serenity of thousands of acres of woods out my back yard. It also helps that there is not a lot happening where I live so I would usually spend free time at home doing things like cooking, brewing beer and writing. Beer was a savior for me in 2012 because I enjoyed it so much, it got me to leave the house very often. The travel and events section of this blog has seen quite a few updates this year. Having something that gets me out of the house is a very good thing.

One of the best beer events of the year was Ommegang’s BCTC festival which was a 1 day festival that allowed camping on-site and had thousands of beer geeks from all over the country in attendance. The treks I make once a month to Hill Farmstead are some of the best times to clear my head on long stretches of road free of cars and gorgeous scenery. My once a year trip to Belgium was a remarkable and exciting trip. I’ve been before but never with such an appreciation of beer and I’ll be going again this year and plan on seeing even more amazing sights and tasting unique beer with a ton of old and new friends. Zwanze day in Portland Maine was a great time to see some friends and enjoy delicious Lambic! It made me sick to be in Belgium again. I have an opportunity in 2013 to spend 2-3 months in Belgium for work. If I do, expect many more travel updates to this blog.

Prior to appreciating beer, I never took a vacation or traveled anywhere unless it was for work. Almost all travel is business trips for meetings, conferences or training. The only “vacations” I’d have were to visit family once a year. Beer got me to take tons of road trips and that was a lot of fun! The trip to San Francisco for my birthday in August where I went to Lagunitas, Russian River and Toronado were great! I hope to do more of these next year.

Trades:

I completed 129 Trades in 2012. This is a lot more than I thought before running the numbers on my UPS account. I figured this year was around 75 trades. To do 50+ more than that is surprising but, looking at my cellar, it’s not all that surprising. In a previous post, I indicated that a growing number of my beer hauls are not trading but having friends send me things. With that said, the 129 trades is actually not accurate. 129 shipments were performed specifically related to beer in 2012 on my UPS account. Maybe it was 75 trades. I honestly can’t remember.

Overall:

  • 129 Beer shipments
  • $2,191.78 Spent on Shipping
  •  250-300 Bottles in the Cellar
  • 890 Beer Reviews
  • 38 Trade Feedbacks Received out of an estimate of 75 trades or about 50% of traders leave feedback
When it comes to feedback, I should mention, most repeat traders I work with don’t leave a second feedback. In addition, there are a growing amount of trades that happen on this blog with readers who aren’t on any beer community. Some trades happen with Facebook friends, etc. So I’d say the 50% trade feedback on RateBeer is actually a pretty good number.
I charted out some of my trade volume and spending throughout 2012:

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I don’t reveal these sort of stats to get any unwanted attention. This is more of a cautionary tale. If someone trades as much as they want in a single year while still holding a full time job, this is about on par with what trading will cost. I don’t have the time to track raw beer spending for 2012 but, if the UPS bill and amount of trades is any indication, I think you could imagine what I spent in beer.

The trade summary is the one thing I felt embarrassed about while writing this one year in beer post. I aim to do less trades in 2013. I have enough beer in my cellar to drink at this point. Trading will be more with regular partners and I’ll go after specific beers I want instead of being just a locals trader. Locals trades are fun for getting new reviews but you spend a lot of money on shipping for a few duds and doing this math makes me realize what a waste that can be. I have plenty of shelf duds locally I’ve yet to rate. Shipping my shelf duds for someone else’s shelf duds seems like a waste of time.

Homebrewing:

2013 will have for me more home brewing. This past year, I brewed 18 uniquely different beers and rebrewed 3 beers for a total of 21 batches from May to December. You can see the list of beers I brewed on Untappd. In 2013, I plan on doing more longer term fermentations using wild yeast and doing more big beers like Barleywines and Stout that can spend a significant amount of time maturing.

Since I don’t drink alcohol in January and I have 5 kegs full of beer, those will not be consumed quickly which is fine because all of them can be aged a bit. The next beers I brew will probably be in January but not consumed until Mid-Summer. This will give me a chance to drink down my cellar, what’s on tap currently and plan brews that truly are longer term aging or fermentation.

My Berliner Weisse is delicious. I’ll be brewing another one of those and my first Flanders Red and Lambic. I’m still shopping around for 10 gallon oak barrels and will get a small platform for barrels / carboys in my basement. A solera project perhaps? I honestly don’t know what’s in store but I know it’s another step in this awesome hobby.

The Blog (Stats):

What a great year!

254 Blog posts and thousands of visitors. Here’s a screenshot of the blog stats:

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This beer blog is still my smallest blog in terms of traffic compared to my other bogs but I find it rewarding and fun. I still continue to post a lot of photos to Flickr but it’s unfortunate that I can’t see just 2012 stats. Either way, I mostly posted beer photos to Flickr this year and saw close to 700,000 views of my photos which is a raw figure but about right. To find that number, i looked at views per day once per week (Wednesday) for the last 52 weeks. Then, I got the average and multiplied by 365.  Flickr Stats:

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I’ll continue to blog in 2013 and share my beer adventures with those who read this blog.

What’s next?

In 2013, less trades, less rates, more travel, more whales (I’m not a whale hunter but they’re nice to enjoy) and possibly getting a local tasting group going. I’ll focus more on regular trading partners and not buy beer just to get a tick / review. It’s a refinement of this hobby so it doesn’t control my life like it did in 2012. That’s my goal.

Thanks for reading this long post. I’ve enjoyed going through everything accomplished this year. Many many thanks to everyone who read this blog, traded with me and met up with me virtually and in person. So many new friends were made this year in beer.