Author Bio: Today's blog post comes from dedicated locavore and passionate diy'er Jon Spee. Jon has been homebrewing for two-and-a-half years, and has been writing about it ever since on his fantastic blog, localkitchener.ca. In addition to beer talk, check out his site for information about everything from gardening to meal plans. Before moving to the area, Jon taught high school science and Spanish for seven years.
As the days grow shorter and colder the allure of several hours of brewing outdoors fades for me. My friends and I brew in my garage in the winter but since it’s unheated it doesn’t always make for the most enjoyable afternoon or evening.
Brewing smaller batches, ranging from 1-3 gallons has allowed me to take my brewing back to the kitchen where it began a couple years ago with a Brewer’s Best kit. However, it’s not just the logistics that make me choose smaller batches in the winter but the chance to go out on a limb more with ingredient choices without worrying about being stuck with too much of a potentially strange beer.
In addition to homebrewing, one of my passions is cooking and eating locally. I often try to incorporate as many local ingredients as I can in my brews. For malts and hops the options are limited but growing. I find though that the small experimental batches I make offer a great opportunity to incorporate less conventional ingredients chosen from the incredible agricultural variety that our local farmers produce.
I’ve made a beet beer (it turned out that 3 gallons was too much for that one…). I’ve also used a few different types of winter squash as well in hopes that they’d have more pumpkin flavour than pumpkin itself. For this coming winter brewing season one idea that has been floating around my head has been a beer brewed with apple cider as the brewing liquor, and a smaller batch size would be ideal for that. I also would like to play around with some of the different fruits that I froze during the season’s peak this past summer. Thus winter is my chance to play around with brewing and hopefully create some beers that are not only unique but delicious.
Unique beers definitely exist outside of homebrewing, and our local craft beer scene in the Waterloo Region has a number of brewers—remember Innocente’s “Mudder Shucker”?—who are willing to push the limits when it comes to tradition.
I still think though that the most exciting beers are the ones made at home by homebrewers who don’t have to answer to anyone other than themselves. We have the freedom to brew whatever we can possibly think of and share those trials and errors, successes and failures with our beer-loving friends.
One last great thing about brewing small batches is that it is a nice way of introducing others to the hobby of homebrewing. While huge homebrewing setups are awesome and fun to show off to others they rarely convey a sense of simplicity to people who might be interested in learning how to brew beer. Doing a simple 1 gallon brew-in-a-bag on your stove can seem a lot more accessible, and requires only a few specialized pieces of equipment for fermenting and bottling.
So, winter is almost here, what do you think about trying some smaller batches? Will you stop brewing during the cold months or take the opportunity to play around with some experimental recipes in your kitchen? It might be a chance to refine a few of your favourite recipes, or a chance try something you’d never be willing to brew 5 gallons of. Whatever the case, I highly recommend brewing a few small batches this winter.
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