I haven't been making beer... at all. The last batch I made was the red ale that I got on the cheap. Since then (mid October), I have acquired more and more equipment with the purpose of making better beer and soon stepping up to all-grain batches. Really, the biggest obstacle has been of the financial variety. There are always the usual expenses in my life like food, rent, bills, etc. However, with the added cost of replacing the coolant pump, hoses, and thermostat on a suburban it doesn't leave a whole lot of spending money.
Secondly, I worked more last month than I have in a very long time. I did at least have a lot of fun doing it. I work for a photo booth company that mostly does wedding, birthdays, and the like. I recently worked a few conventions as well. These are more stressful than most as far as setting up and loading/unloading go.
The benefit of doing them is a lot of down time. Normally I just have to check on the thing every fifteen minutes or so to make sure the paper doesn't get jammed up or run out. This leaves me with a lot of time to read... something that even feels odd for me to say. I finally finished a the biggest book I have ever read, 1001 Beers to Try Before You Die. From this I learned that there are so many awesome beers of the world that I really don't care about. And yes, the United States makes some great beers, so does Germany, so does England, and so does Belgium. Surprised? No. It is rather annoying to read about these supposedly majestic brews that I am likely to never come across. For instance one of them is only served one day a week for only a couple of hours in a remote village in Germany. It was really cool to read about the brewery histories and see the dates of the recipe formulation for most of the beers though. I was happy to see that Rogue, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Dogfish, and numerous others from the U.S. had several that made the cut.
I also finished Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. This is one of my favorite brewing books. Full of historic references, recipes, and outlandish ideas, it is a very motivating book. I'd have to make a beer every week for a year to do all that I have book-marked. Convention centers have some nice quiet hiding spots to make all of this brew-book reading possible.
I recently acquired a few new books as well:
The Homebrewers Companion by Charlie Papazian
Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels
Brewing with Wheat by Stan Hieronymus
The major reason I haven't made anything in a while is that I need to get a propane burner. I have a new 10 gallon kettle. I can't imagine trying to get 6 or 7 gallons of wort to boil on a stove top. It would likely take half a day while straddling two burners. I don't want to pay the gas bill after a month of that.
I will be getting a burner soon, and have mentally planned out the first batches I will make on it:
1. English Imperial IPA modeled after Stone's Emperial IPA
2. Vanilla Cream Ale (using organic grains, hops, and vanilla beans)
3. Lavender Red Rye Ale
4. American Barleywine
5. Oatmeal Stout
This isn't necessarily the order, but you get the idea.
In closing: Random Pictures!
In order: Realtor convention, Red Ale keg set-up for Halloween in costume, Exploded Pumpkin Ale, What happens to a book shelf when beer explodes?, Bottle Tree!