This was a great year in beer. There isn’t a single area of this hobby where I feel too many shortcomings remain at least when it comes to taking on beer. My personal shortcomings and issues of “gotta catch them all” continues to be something I battle with but in my efforts to spend less money on this hobby, the money and the ticker in me clash more often than I’d like to admit. So for that, I’m doing much better but let’s let the data speak for itself.
My goal of simplifying beer buying in 2013 was a success. I’ve dropped my trading and I’m buying and drinking more beer from 3 breweries, Bruery, Crooked Stave and Hill Farmstead. I attended very few Lawson’s farmers markets in 2013 and was very limited on what beer I brought back with me on business trips. I went to Florida last week and didn’t bring a single beer back with me. I’ve also shifted some spending over the Bourbon and Wine. These are not areas I’ll touch on in this blog post though. This year I also divested myself of a few regular trading partners and it was a mutual split and my home brewing is to a point where I’m marginally happy with every batch. I won’t brew much in 2014 for reasons I’ll touch on in this post. Finally, rating beer has remained on track but slightly slower than it was because half-way through the year, a shift happened in that as well and not a shift I plan on recovering from.
All of this will be touched on in the post and a bit more.
Beer Trading in 2013:
I traded a lot in 2012 after starting in the spring and trading throughout the year. I primarily sent out Vermont beers in exchange for “quality locals” and the trading partners I developed in that year sent quality beers, many of which are still in the cellar. A few of these one-off trades ended up being regular trading partners and at the end of 2012, I started instituting no-trade periods because the amount of requests outweighed my budget. This continued in 2013. I don’t really trade with strangers unless they have something I want and regular trading partners get the most of what I pick up. But trading is down. Let’s look at the stats:
I averaged 5 less trades per month in 2013 versus 2012. The cost however remained roughly the same because I didn’t break out UPS cost between trades and beer societies where trustees will send me my beer. That cost kept my UPS bill consistently high in 2013 so I’m looking for ways to reduce this next year.
I’m happy with the total trades per month but Inext year, an average of 5 per month would be ideal for me and keeping the cost in shipping around $75 a month and that includes $30 per month in Bruery beer and $15 a month in Crooked Stave shipments. More in person trades would be nice but difficult where I am in Vermont. At some point this year, I created a Tumblr account to track my trades and money spent. Here’s the link – http://www.tumblr.com/blog/adamsbeertrades which I’ll continue maintaining next year.
- 96 Beer shipments (126 last year)
- $1655 Spent on Shipping ($2100 last year)
- 48 Trade feedbacks logged on BeerTrading and RateBeer
Homebrewing in 2013:
Brewing my own beer has been a lot of fun and will continue to be. With the traveling in 2014, I’ll have less time to plan batches and that means less time managing fermenting beers and sanitizing kegs and all of that stuff. I’ll still brew but, for the first half of 2014 I’ll likely not touch a brew kettle. It’s not a lack of excitement for the hobby but instead the fact that I have a beer cellar that’s frankly too much to handle, 4-6 kegs that are full of beer and 8 carboys downstairs that are full of sour beer that will be done between March & August of 2014. This means my pipeline is full and I can’t really brew more beer until I drink down the current load. I brewed 20 unique beers in 2013 and some were rebreeds of batches that happened in 2012. I’d say 80% of the beer I brewed was consumed with 20% being dumped out.
I was convinced at one point that I should get good at every style of beer. These days, I’m only brewing styles I like to drink and getting to where I can brew something that’s good enough that I actually choose it over commercial beers and one day, I can drink just Vermont beers + what I brew. That would be ideal from a cost perspective as I wouldn’t need to do any more beer trading or ordering. So my kegs and carboys are full of sour beers, stouts and barley wine. I’m interested in seeing how these beers evolve in 2014.
Beer Rating (aka ticking) in 2013:
Something happened this year when I started drinking growlers of Hill Farmstead Abner and Heady Topper or drinking the beer I brewed where ticking new beers fell by the wayside. The ticking is fun and I still do it at beer festivals or with friends but day to day, ticking is very limited. Luckily this year, 3 beer festivals, a wedding in Seattle / Portland, a road trip to Chicago and visiting Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Denmark helped me try a lot of new beers. Without those travels, my 2013 total would be far less. When I’m at home, drinking on a regular Tuesday, it’s Hill Farmstead IPAs and as you’ll notice below, my 2013 IPA / DIPA rates was way lower than 2012 because I’m just not buying shelf IPAs anymore and drinking locally. I’ll let the graphs speak for themselves:
This year, I was more critical of beers and handed out more ratings in the 2-3 range than last year but I also consumed more beers that were in line with what kind of brews I like such as Imperial Stouts so 3.5-4 was still my average score given because a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout is likely going to be enjoyed by me.
Hill Farmstead continues to be my favorite brewery. Toppling Goliath is a new brewery to me and so is Peg’s Cantina. the biggest surprise of this year is Big Elm and Cambridge Brewing, two great Mass breweries making awesome beers. For 2013, the most rated breweries were Bruery, Cascade and then Mikkeller (following my visit to Denmark where I ticked a lot of the danish beers). My visit to Cascade and ordering of their beer contributed greatly and Bruery’s RS program meant I ordered and drank a lot of their beers this year.
In an effort to save money, you’ll see that my USA and Belgium drinking were pretty much all I drank this year. I really focused on price throughout the year and drank far less beers made in Europe unless I was actually in Europe.
The style categories also became far more “geeky” versus last year. My top 5 styles are Imperial Stout, Sour, Saison, IPA and Belgian Strong Ale. I reviewed very little regular beers like Brown, Porter, Quads or Witbiers. I’ve certainly shifted to the point where if a normal beer drinker asks me what’s good and what they should buy, I’m unable to make good recommendations. I haven’t bought beer from the grocery store in a very long time.
These are my favorite beers of 2013. Earthmonk was mind blowing and Armand & Tommy was my favorite gueuze of the year while Kentucky Brunch totally blew me away. Looking at this list, I’m happy with every beer up here and very happy that Reuben’s and Boneyard brewery made the cut. My trip to Portland to try these beers was well worth it. Boneyard is doing great stuff!
Finally, comparing my 2012 to 2013 numbers, it’s clear travel and beer festivals kept my averages up. March, August and October were very high months for me. December was high because of my trip to Chicago. I certainly slacked off with a 50 ratings per month average when not traveling.
I did not hit my 2,000 beer mark this year although I could have had I did a few dozen mix-6-packs like I did last year. I’m done with numbers though and will rate every beer I drink but am not ashamed to grab a Hill Farmsted Abner and drink that 3-4 nights a week versus the feeling to crush new beer every time I sit down.
Cellaring Beer in 2013:
There’s not much to say on this subject versus last. The first big 2013 change was the move to a real cellar that keeps at 55-60F year-round and is pitch dark and needs no maintenance from me. The second is I became more cautious in what is stored down there. Like my beer rating in general, the cellar has moved from high ABV anything to 5 main categories: Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, Saisons, American Wild and Lambic. I probably now have 400 bottles of beer in the cellar and now that I”m out of shelf space, a lot of bottles are just kept in boxes. I drink from the cellar daily and with the drop in trading, some spots in the shelves are opening up.
I still have no regular drinking buddies. The nearest guy I drink with is 2 hours away. I’ll keep working on that next year in finding new people to drink with.
Beer Blogging in 2013:
Comparing 2012 to 2013, I didn’t have that huge 2012 month where the eBay thing happened and my page views show up but the year was consistent and despite any press that linked to me (a good thing in my opinion), the page views in both years were almost identical.
I posted 200 posts this year versus 254 last year.
I’ll begin adding Bourbon & Wine reviews sparingly to the blog this year. I’ve stopped doing beer hauls each month and home brewing will be talked about less simply because I’m not home brewing much this year given the pipeline explanation given earlier.
My aspirations for 2014:
This is going to be a busy year because it’s possible that I’ll be living in California for most of the year. It means moving a lot of my beer to another cellar that’s more secure and getting a roommate but the biggest thing is buying & trading less beer next year. Relying on just what’s on tap or mailing myself boxes from New Hampshire to California so I have beer to drink there.
I’d like to buy less and trade less, even less than I did in 2013. It also means my beer ratings are going to become more boring as time goes on. I’ll just be drinking a small bit of breweries but traveling will still happen so I’ll still continue going to Belgium often enough to try new things in Europe. Homebrewing will continue with high ABV beers and wild ales and I’m trying to maintain the bottles I have downstairs and not add more. Lots of goals, many of which I’ll break 🙂
Thanks for 2013 to all of my readers, drinking buddies and the people who opened their homes to me while traveling and to the craft brewers who continue to push the envelope.