First off an update on my home brewing endeavors. I am vigorously reading and practicing this exciting hobby. Therefore, many of the methods I have employed may look (and probably were) very foolish, I am learning as I go. This is a very simple update of my recent home brewing activities. Please feel free to provide suggestions or recount experiences of your own.
My first batch (ever) was an Imperial Stout kit from Northern Brewer, of which, I added some Madagascar vanilla beans. This turned out horribly oxidized. I believe it spent way to much time in a secondary fermentation (a month) that did not actually have any fermentation going on and I did nothing to account for the head space in the fermenter, giving the beer plenty of time to oxidize (it tasted pretty good going into the secondary fermenter). Sadly this beer turned out simply undrinkable. (I will still post some pictures of the process and my awesome “brewing shoes” (clog slippers Nadia purchased for me in Amsterdam, as they look ridiculous and amuse me) once I locate them…
Fortunately, my second attempt at home brewing was much, much more successful. I started with the 2008 Zymurgy Bell’s Two Hearted Ale clone recipe, which was very difficult to find. I found a picture of it here http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/two-hearted-ale-first-time-258674/ and used the extract version. I also did not follow it perfectly. I added a little more light liquid malt extract, centennial hops and golden light dry malt extract (essentially all the ingredients). My methods were not exact either. I dry hopped this beer with Centennial Hops several times, it spent an extra week in primary fermentation at around 68 degrees and I put it in a very short secondary fermentation, largely to add a little bit of spring water (as the beer level was low for some reason). I also sacrificed some beer in the interest of clarity (I do not have a filtering system and the local home brew store is on the exact opposite end of town). Still, I am very, very happy with the results. I think this beer is pretty good. Of course it is no Two Hearted (but what is?), still it is fairly close to what I consider to be the gold standard of IPA’s (Two Hearted of course). My brew clocked in at around 7.2% abv with a nice citrusy aroma, lots of citrus flavors, a few complimenting esters and a few biscuity malt flavors. I consider it a huge success and with the absolutely amazing spring Springfield is enjoying can not wait to drink more!
On a different note, according to this guy beer helps foster creativity. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203370604577265632205015846.html
I imagine most of these laws are passively enforced as it is, but home brewers are seeking to change some antiquated legal hurdles to home brewing. http://news.yahoo.com/home-beer-brewers-seek-changes-alcohol-laws-071259451.html
Here are a few highlights of the German beer market. I found nothing surprising, but interesting never the less. http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/6a5afd53/beer_in_germany
Here is a craft beer growth for 2011 infographic, published by the Brewers Association. http://beerpulse.com/2012/03/craft-beer-growth-in-2011-the-infographic/