It’s been a while since I shared a cellar update, actually more than 8 months have passed since the last one! Time sure flies. And we have been busy.
On the production front Margot and I have shepherded a number of 2011 wines/ciders/meads into the bottle since November, including:
- Cellar Craft Amarone (made in early 2011)
- Cellar Craft Red Mountain Cab (also made in early 2011)
- Mosti Fresco Zin
- Mosti Fresco Riesling
- Mosti Fresco Guewurztraminer
- Apple/Cinnamon Cyser
- Cherry/Currant Mead
- Maple Cider
- Maple Dessert Wine
- Still Cider
- Sparkling Cider
Several of the newest wines are offering some excitement, but over the years we have gotten more patient both from experience AND from having some aged supply to drink while new wines are aging. The still and sparkling ciders have been a bit underwhelming, but the group of us who bought the cider were a little suspect of the quality of it after getting it home and going. The feedback on the finished product has been similar from the others in the group. I’ll figure out how to turn them into punch or something so it doesn’t go to waste!
The brewing schedule (to the right is a pic of Margot and I making the Hefeweizen in March) is also in full swing and by the end of 2012 we will have likely made more beer this year than in any prior year since we started in 2003. Here is what we’ve made so far this year:
- Pliny the Braggot (hopped malt/honey beverage)
- Dark & Hoppy (American Stout, dry hopped)
- English Mild
- Cherry Saison
- Big Belgian
- Oaked Red Ale
- Honey Brown
- Lime Ale
- Summer Shandy
Most of the beers have been shared around with friends and the feedback has been a huge honor. The simpler beers, the mild and the Hefe in particular, have been big hits at parties. The Big Belgian (big as in 8.5% ABV) just created some fans this past weekend. This might be an annual beer for me. The more specific beers like the Saison and Dark & Hoppy have plenty of appeal, but do need some background for drinkers new to the styles. The Lime Ale and Summer Shandy are awaiting their debut at a summer party in a little over a week. If we are lucky to get a great summer day I predict these beers will kill it with the guests!
We’ve also been in the ring against the other contenders from the homemade beer and wine communities several times since last November. The results have been mixed but no less exciting.
We picked up nine medals from the annual WineMaker Magazine Annual Competition including:
- Concord Rosé (G)
- Strawberry (G)
- Purple Plum (S)
- Dandelion/Chamomile (B)
- Maple Dessert (B)
- Gewurztraminer (B)
- Raspberry Fortified (B)
- Apple/Cinnamon Cyser (B)
- Orange Vanilla Mead (B)
From homebrew competitions we also took Third Place for our English Mild and Second Places for our Maple Cider and Orange/Vanilla Mead.
( Margot picking up one of the medals at the WineMaker Magazine Conference. )
The competition feedback has been phenomenal. Several beers have garnered positive judging comments about their fit to the style and suggestions for us to consider in attempting to make them again. With feedback we have been given we’ve already amped up our meads with more honey and more fruits, herbs or spices depending on what we are making. Some of the feedback has also been pretty quirky, like being told a hopped braggot isn’t stylistically accurate. Really? The style category is wide open on this. The only requirement is that it be equal parts malt and honey. Most people go brown or black with it, but I went pale ale and hoppy. Deal with it!
So that brings us to what is on deck for the rest of the year. I’m on a mead tear that started last year. This year I have gone big and have 15+ styles planned. Most of the batches will be small, 1 gallon, but that is more because I am going nutty with herbs and spices most of which I haven’t used this way before. Margot is about a week away from embarking on Stout and Porter experiments, both of which will result in three styles of beer and some with flavors. I expect I will make some more beer in the Fall, I’m just not sure what yet. Maybe another Belgian and another IPA to use some of the wonderful American hops I have been able to acquire. Wine is likely going to take a back seat for 2012, but the basement is so full of stuff that will be drinkable over the next year I doubt I will miss making more!
With all of that I am staying plenty busy. I will take a break next month to travel out to Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference where I hope to learn more about the regions wines, beers, distilled spirits AND food!