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100 Batches or Bust

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rippajak

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First, a bit of background on me:
I started homebrewing in 2012. A friend of mine had started doing extract batches on his stovetop, and I had sampled his beers on a few occasions. It blew my naive mind to realize that beer was a product that could be made at home. He and I ended up being roommates for a time in Ohio, and we brewed a handful of batches together. When I moved back to Indiana, I immediately cobbled together my own kit, making the leap into all-grain brewing, and thus began an obsession.
As 2016, my 4th year of brewing, came to a close, I started to look toward 2017. How would I advance in this hobby in the coming year? What would I do differently than I had in the past? Part of this pondering led me to take inventory of my previous batches. As best as I could account for, considering my poor (non-existent) note-taking in the early days, I came to a total of 50 batches.
Somehow I had expected more. It was a reality check for my estimation of my own homebrewing experience. A realization that I am still a novice of this craft. And that realization led to my resolution.

100 batches. I believe that to be the point at which I can call myself an experienced homebrewer. Not a master, by any means. Nor even an expert. But at least a journeyman who has fully cut his teeth.

And I will hit that goal this year. 50 batches in 2017. :rockin: As a kicker, I am challenging myself not to buy any new brewing equipment until that goal is met. I feel that I should put aside my gadget fever and focus on skill, knowledge, and technique. I don't believe that you can buy your way to better beer, and I don't want to try anymore.

I am starting this thread in the hopes of recruiting some accountabili-buddies from the HBT community. For those who choose to follow this endeavor, I will try to make regular updates with my progress. And maybe some of you can talk smack to me about 50 batches in a year being child's play. I'm sure there are people here who have knocked that out of the park.

So far I have (3/50) in. Two weeks ago I did my first ever BIAB batch, a peat-smoked porter. I'm really looking forward to sampling it another few weeks. This week I did a double brew day (another first) with an American Strong Ale on the BIAB setup and a London Brown Ale as a no-sparge batch in my cooler MLT. Efficiency on the brown ale came out atrocious. I actually added 12 oz of DME to the fermenter to try to bring the gravity back in line. 2017 has already been full of firsts.
 

max384

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Good luck getting 50 batches in this year!

That being said, I don't think a specific number of batches brings you from a novice to experienced. I think it depends upon the person, and how they brew. For example, if we take two brewers. Brewer 1 has brewed 100 batches of kit beer. He doesn't read about brewing and he doesn't try to innovate. He likes his beer, so he doesn't change a thing. Brewer 2 has brewed 30 batches of all grain, mostly his own recipes. He spends his time reading about brewing, upgrading his equipment, and trying to get better each time.

In this examle, I'd call brewer 2 a more experienced brewer.
 
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rippajak

rippajak

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Good luck getting 50 batches in this year!

That being said, I don't think a specific number of batches brings you from a novice to experienced. I think it depends upon the person, and how they brew. For example, if we take two brewers. Brewer 1 has brewed 100 batches of kit beer. He doesn't read about brewing and he doesn't try to innovate. He likes his beer, so he doesn't change a thing. Brewer 2 has brewed 30 batches of all grain, mostly his own recipes. He spends his time reading about brewing, upgrading his equipment, and trying to get better each time.

In this examle, I'd call brewer 2 a more experienced brewer.
Totally agree. Any hobby or skill is about quality over quantity. Unless you consider binge drinking a skill, I guess.

I have definitely brewed according to both of the philosophies you described. The early days were kind of a dark age. Hell, the first dozen or so batches that I brewed were never written down anywhere. I don't think I even owned a hydrometer at the time... Now I spend time out of just about every day reading or studying something about the brewing process. The line between hobby and compulsion gets a bit hazy.

I'll be the first to admit that 100 batches is a fairly arbitrary number. But we humans like nice, round numbers that fit nicely in our base ten number system. And having a concrete goal gives me something to work toward.
 

ChelisHubby

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I find the pursuit of good tasting beer much more rewarding than how fast I can drink it up. When I get a good recipe I can do well then I consider doing something much different. there is maybe 6 styles that I like but I can only do 2 of them well. Good luck with your brews and may you get good feed back from those who drink with you.:mug:
 
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rippajak

rippajak

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As of today I'm sitting at 5/50. Moving right along track, so far!

Last week's brew was a slight rework of a rye IPA recipe that I've brewed twice before. It is now sitting in the fermentation chamber, the yeast tidying up after themselves. It will get dry-hopped this Sunday, then bottled up next week.

Today was a dry Irish stout, one of two beers that I am getting ready for St. Patrick's Day. I'm starting to really enjoy the convenience of doing smaller batches and the BIAB process. I stepped into my brewspace at about 11:45 this morning, and before 4:00 I was sitting at a bar with a beer in front of me. It cuts a solid two hours of off brew day versus doing a full 3-vessel brew.
 

shortyz

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I enjoy my beers without guns and/or snakes. thanks.
 

worlddivides

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Wow. 50 batches is a TON in a year. If they are all 5 gallon batches, that's 250 gallons. If you're doing smaller batches, that's still a lot, but maybe not quite as insane (for example, 50 1-gallon batches in a year would be about how much I imagine the average homebrewer does, just more like 50 gallons spread across 5 gallon batches).

I'm sure it'll give you a ton of variety, and it sounds like a great learning experience. Albeit potentially stressful after a while of 4-5 batches a month.


ALSO, I would hardly call someone who has done 50 batches a "novice." I wouldn't call you a brewmaster either, but you're pretty much as far from a "novice" as possible.
 

Kent88

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Good luck!

Makes me wonder how many batches I've made. I know I've completely lost my notes for a few brews, and I don't know if I would count Mr. Beer kits.

I brew small batches and try to share a lot, so it wouldn't surprise me if I was 50 batches in.
 

Kampenken

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Good luck mate!! First time I got into brewing my brothers were as well, all 3 of us are today too, and I recall making a police siren noise to my one brother for crossing the 20 batch "limit". At 5gal/batch that met the "legal" level of 100 gal in a yr (well at least here in PA as I was told then). Today I brew about 15 or so 5.5-6 gal batches/yr. So 50 is quite impressive!

2017 I've dedicated to the year of yeast (2016 was water, 2015 was nothing special, 2014 was getting back into brewing and going AG). So I'm brewing my std 5.5-6g and splitting into 2 fermenters (mini brew buckets from SS) on different yeasts so I learn what they impart to my palate. I brew on the Grainfather, and I've begun to think about doing a small 2-2.5g BIAB batch on the stove top at the same time. Possibly I'd split yeast on these and ferment in my 1g jugs (bought awhile back when I thought about dry hop experimentation in 2014). Or I may just brew different styles or even slight variations on a few of my now house beers I've created / modified from other recipes. No matter what looking forward to more simple practices with BIAB. I'm liking simplicity! Very interested in how this will work out as I plan to maintain mash temp in my oven and do a full volume BIAB.

This is a great hobby and enjoying the fun of learning / "perfecting" (at least to me) my beers. I will be following along, so post your progress and if you'd like I'll share mine too. Gotta have a brewing goal!:mug:
 

IslandLizard

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Yeah, why the rush to hit 100 batches this year?

You'll end up dumping beer or giving it to the homeless, unless you throw beer parties every few weeks to kill kegs for the next batches awaiting packaging.

In the meantime, wishing you all the best with your endeavor! It surely takes dedication.
 

MVKTR2

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Everyone knows 200 batches is the demarcation line for achieving 'experienced brewer' status. You're just a wuss whose afraid to brew 150 batches this year!

Others have laid out the logic pretty well, it takes practice of the skill, study, and familiarity with a set of equipment to reach your potential. You hit on something in my opinion when you spoke of quitting your equipment pursuits and focusing on process. That will move you along nicely. The thing that molds successful professional brewers is study and practice along with generally brewing the same beer over and over and over sometimes day after day. Think of the learning opportunity in getting to know a process and raw materials so well you're able to reproduce the same beer even as raw materials change. Good luck and have fun, it's a hobby!
 

MVKTR2

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Yeah, why the rush to hit 100 batches this year?

You'll end up dumping beer or giving it to the homeless, unless you throw beer parties every few weeks to kill kegs for the next batches awaiting packaging.

In the meantime, wishing you all the best with your endeavor! It surely takes dedication.
Yea I'm wondering about batch size myself. This could produce something between 100 and 1000 gallons of beer. Also at $20 per 5 gallons that could get expensive.
 

worlddivides

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Yea I'm wondering about batch size myself. This could produce something between 100 and 1000 gallons of beer. Also at $20 per 5 gallons that could get expensive.
Or if he starts making more complicated batches with expensive ingredients (for example, tons of hop additions, more expensive malts, rare ingredients, just adjuncts in general whether coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, etc. etc.). It could get into the thousands of dollars.
 

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I started brewing a bit over 9 months ago and just put batch 57 into the fermentor. So yeah, what you are aiming for can totally be done, but it's not easy.

I brew 1 gallon mostly, most recipes 2-4 times dialing in small changes before scaling up to 5 gallons. I drink the 1 gallon brews myself and make good notes then give away much of the 5 gallon brews, knowing they are high quality.

My goal is not so much about batch numbers - I want to bring 10 of my own recipes to a level where they compete with commercial craft beer. I feel I'm there now with German pilsners, oatmeal stouts, APAs, brown porters, schwarzbier and Munich helles. Still working on the doppelbock, DIPA, Belgian blond, Belgian dubbel. I may well get there in my first year, it's the long lagering time in between each version of a recipe that makes it tricky. I'm going to enter my first comp in 9 months time and will see how that goes.

Anyway, good luck on your quest. Make sure you are taking good notes and actively tweaking little things every batch, and don't forget to have some fun and try a few SMaSH beers or weird additions.
 

Singletrack

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Based on my old HBT posts, I was some kind of expert after only 13 batches. Yep, "some kind" of expert. Like a dump trumk in a nitroglycerin plant.
 

stevedasleeve

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I put a number in front of every beer I brew. Yesterday it was 185. I've been brewing since '06? Most 5, some 7.5 and a few 10 gallon batches. I figure it was around #30 when I had it all worked out and could consistently brew decent beer.
 

garzlok

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I too started in 2012, and I have 49 batches under my belt.

I don't know if I feel like a novice, but, to a certain point, it does feel like the hobby is just beginning. Personally, I couldn't put a moratorium on purchasing new equipment. As I look back on my homebrewing history, equipment and process improvement is at the heart of my evolution as a homebrewer.

We tend to want to associate numbers to our growth level. I'm not completely sold on the philosophy. Sometimes people are successful in spite of themselves. More importantly as Judas Priest sang, " you don't have to be old, to be wise."

In the end, it's your journey and you get to choose the path. "May the road rise up to meet you."
 

jcav

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Good luck in your quest to hit 100. That is a lot in a year. One thing about numbers though, it's not always about how many batches you have brewed that makes you a great brewer. You can brew 200 batches and they can produce mediocre beer. Or you can in a 10 batch span change things as you learn something new in your process and get better, like controlling fermentation temp, making yeast starters, adding yeast nutrient with zinc, just to name a few and take your beers to the next level. Good brewing to you! :mug:

John
 
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rippajak

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Thank you all for the encouraging words. I love having enablers...err, friends who support me.

Yea I'm wondering about batch size myself. This could produce something between 100 and 1000 gallons of beer. Also at $20 per 5 gallons that could get expensive.
I've been brewing a lot of 2.5 gallon batches both to save on expense and bottling effort, and to stave off the "drowning in beer" phenomenon. The full 5-gallon, 3-tier set-up I've been reserving for proven recipes that I want to have on draft. So far that has just been the London Brown Ale and the Irish Red (6/50) that I brewed this last weekend.

As far as cost, I figure it will average out to something like $20 a batch between the various batch sizes, gravities, hopping rates, etc. It adds up to a lot if I think about it in terms of the yearly expense, but, on the other hand, $20 a week for something that I enjoy doing is cheap entertainment.

@Kampenken
That quest for perfection is both thrilling and maddening, isn't it? I like the idea of honing in on one element of the brewing process at a time. That seems like a really good way to develop rock solid fundamentals. I'd love to hear more about your split fermentation experiments.
 

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Best of luck my man!

I second Sadu's suggestion of doing a few SMaSH beers too. I plan on doing some to help me understand grains and hops better. You can make a single wort and split it off with different hops (if you got a few pots for this). I'd also suggest (if you don't already) to buy some base grains in bulk, but if you are like me and don't have a mill, then perhaps not. :p

I have been thinking of doing a few small batches to do some learning, but I find I try and 'treasure' a few brews so my friends can try my stuff too. I should just take a different approach.. I'm sure someday I will give it a go.

I'm sure you probably did the math already, but you'll have to brew 4.4 brews from today onward/per month in order to hit your goal. Doing small batches, I think you got this.
 

brewcat

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I'm just hoping to do two 5 gallon batches a month this year. And develop a couple new recipes.

No need to put a number on brews. An experienced homebrewer has a consistent process and consistently makes good beer.
 
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rippajak

rippajak

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I'd also suggest (if you don't already) to buy some base grains in bulk, but if you are like me and don't have a mill, then perhaps not. :p
Way ahead of you there.


I'm sure you probably did the math already, but you'll have to brew 4.4 brews from today onward/per month in order to hit your goal. Doing small batches, I think you got this.
Yup, right around one brew day per week. It's ambitious, but I think it's manageable. I just have to keep up with the packaging end of things, or find myself completely buried. I bottled three 2.5gal batches today. Made for kind of a long day in the brewery, but it's a great feeling of accomplishment!

Two of the batches that I've bottled in the last week have showed a fusel aroma that's been eating at my mind. The Rye IPA and American Strong Ale, both fermented with US-05, had a noticeable acetone-like smell when I pulled hydrometer samples, but in neither case did it seem to carry over into the flavor. I suspect that misuse of my temperature controller, combined with pointing the space heater in my ferm. chamber directly at the bucket fermenters (woops), caused the fermentation temperature on these batches to rise into the high 60's, possibly low 70's. Has anyone else experienced this kind of effect from US-05 in that temperature range?
 

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Ahhh fermentation space, it's the only thing that we share with the big dogs, there are never enough fing fermentors when we need them. I say you need to go for it!

I also expect that you will know your house yeast and beers when you've completed your scheduled brews. It about experience
 

Calder

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Good luck with your quest.

I think I'm around batch 350, but I started 20 years ago. I don't have the actual number as I lost my hard-drive last September and all my records in the process.

Make sure you keep detailed notes. Especially since you are brewing so often. Problem with brewing so often, is that you brew several beers before you taste the one, so you may be repeating errors, or errors may be more difficult to isolate.

I find I learn something from almost every batch ..... sometimes good, and sometimes bad.
 
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I'll second Calder here. I've brewed 227 All Grain batches since September of 2011. My biggest year was 2014 when I brewed 63 All Grain batches. These have all been mixes of 2.5, 4, and 5 Gallon batches.

Just make sure you learn something from each batch. It's easy to just put your head down and brew brew brew. I love the process, and I have a lot of thirsty friends, but don't put quantity over quality.
 

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Good luck on that quest - I was also wondering about batch size and so forth - even at 2.5 gallons that still adds up to a lot of beer.
I guess you also have a bunch of fermenters - cycling in and out every couple weeks I presume?
I've been brewing about 10 years now, somewhere around 35 batches, I think. I have a few notebooks that I keep stuff in, and haven't added them all up lately. I want to brew more - I was in a small apartment for a good chunk of that time, and not I have a little guy coming up to 2 years old, so that takes a lot of time that would go to brewing. I will be brewing a batch for his birthday party though - a good excuse to dust off the ol' gear...
 

steveoatley

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Good Luck rippajak

I started in 2003 with a Christmas gift from my wife. ( 13 yrs )
Not a lot by comparison of others here.....on HBT
My wife thinks its a mistake she can never take back..... see pick

Yesterday I knocked out my batch # 125 ( not counting all the wine & mead i have made as well )

My spring release - Oberon - in tribute to Bells & Solsun.

I have almost finished my Basement brewery - probably never will !

That's the real problem with this "hobby"

Keep up the good work - Fight the good Fight !

There is A LOT of crap in our world, but there is always room for another beer (tm)

Steve

pana.jpg
 

Bauzer

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Way ahead of you there.




Yup, right around one brew day per week. It's ambitious, but I think it's manageable. I just have to keep up with the packaging end of things, or find myself completely buried. I bottled three 2.5gal batches today. Made for kind of a long day in the brewery, but it's a great feeling of accomplishment!

Two of the batches that I've bottled in the last week have showed a fusel aroma that's been eating at my mind. The Rye IPA and American Strong Ale, both fermented with US-05, had a noticeable acetone-like smell when I pulled hydrometer samples, but in neither case did it seem to carry over into the flavor. I suspect that misuse of my temperature controller, combined with pointing the space heater in my ferm. chamber directly at the bucket fermenters (woops), caused the fermentation temperature on these batches to rise into the high 60's, possibly low 70's. Has anyone else experienced this kind of effect from US-05 in that temperature range?
Nice! Big ol' sacks of grains.

Sounds like you have an idea why you got those fusel tones. I would think the changes in temp may have stressed out the yeast. But the Saison I just bottled tasted a bit 'boozy' or 'hot' though at bottling, but 3 days later (and refrigerated a bit) it disappeared. So I would give it time, and hopefully it could settle out.

No I don't always drink my beers 3 days after bottling btw. It was actually about 5 weeks old by then, and I had a homebrewing club tasting meeting, and another guy said he was going to bring his only 4 days old after bottle. Interesting test to see how much a beer changes in a matter of days! I'm stoked on how its going to be next week when fully carbed!
 
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