Was progress made toward an eventual launch? Yes. Enough to satisfy my entrepreneurial hunger? Not really, but I'll take what I can get.
To me, 2011 was extremely valuable for GrassLands in the development and word-of-mouth marketing sense. There seems to be at least somewhat of a sustained interest in the GrassLands Brewery plans - at least judging by the average daily traffic to this Web site (thank you!) - so that's something I'm proud of. However, I think back to my experience with BrewFest Tallahassee and a couple of conversations I had with its attendees. As it turns out, some people had already made themselves well aware of the GrassLands adventure and wanted to know more and more about when this whole thing will finish fermenting and come to fruition. Though I've got no definitive answers for those folks, it's awesome to hear people voice their interest and actually have a working knowledge and enthusiasm for what I'm doing. It's even better when people ask me if I had this beer or that beer from earlier events as they thought it was particularly good. All in all, I've had a bunch of "aw shucks" moments in 2011.
Which brings me to my next point. It's absolutely awesome to hear direct feedback from your average craft beer drinker who's drinking the beer you made right in front of you. However, it's quite another thing to experience validation in the professional sense. All homebrewers, at one time or another, begin to think: "People like my beer...I should start a brewery!" Obviously, I've had that thought once or twice or... Anyways, as you go through the process of what it takes to open said brewery, you also begin to think: "Well, how good is my beer...really?" With that said, I've really started to pay close attention to the results of the competitions I've entered. As previously stated, I entered a few competitions and posted the results (which were average to above average). What I didn't relay to you, my dear readers, is how much I've taken the comments/suggestions of those entered beers to heart. I know that sometimes, it's a crapshoot - I've heard stories about a medal-winning beer in one competition scoring in the 20s and 30s in another competition. What I'm trying to say is that beer competitions can be highly subjective. But overall, these judges are professionals who put in the time and effort for each individual beer to give you feedback. That's incredible.
So what am I getting at? In my quest to become my own boss through GrassLands Brewery, I've had an itch in my side to make beer that is enjoyable by average beer drinkers and professional beer drinkers alike. I feel like that, above most other things in relation to the GrassLands adventure (aside from absorbing all things small business and finance schtuff), has been the biggest step GrassLands has taken in 2011. Modifying my brewing/fermenting practices and watching my beers evolve has been highly rewarding. You get to a point in homebrewing where you can almost do everything with your eyes shut. I know my system like the back of my hand, (and how well do we all know the back of our hands? Could you pick yours out in a lineup?) and in my attempt in taking steps to improve my brewing, it feels almost like I've started all over again from scratch. Reworking recipes, modifying procedures, upgrading equipment...these are all things that have helped. And with that...Enter Secale Cereale Saison.
I've mentioned my latest brew before, but this one has taken the cake with feedback (both general and professional). A saison is an emerging style in the US - but has its history in Europe. Belgian and French farm owners wanted to provide a beverage for their workers during the hot summer months. However, beers typically need colder environments to ferment. Saisons are one of the few exceptions. Saisons take a look at hotter temperatures and say: "Bring it on!" As a result, they're very unique and difficult to explain to your average beer drinker. No two saisons are alike even though they often have similar attributes - phenols, esters, fruity/floral aromas, etc. Living in hot & humid Florida, I wanted to brew a flagship saison that had traditional qualities yet exemplified GrassLands' unique approach to brewing. Secale Cereale Saison, while still a work in progress, is that to a "t". For those of you who are
still reading paying attention, secale cereale is the scientific term for rye. If you've been following along on GrassLands' journey you know that I like two things in most of my beers: Caramel and Rye. With Secale Cereale, you get all the great qualities of a traditional saison with a fun and spicy twist. The mouthfeel is extremely silky as I use flaked oats, raw rye malt and a specific type of yeast to bring out these qualities. Just recently, I received my results back from the 2nd competition to which I entered Secale Cereale Saison. The results are listed below:
In the Sunshine Challenge, Secale Cereale made it to the 2nd round and scored a 42/50 (though no medal awarded - which really says something about the other beers in the same category!). Previous scores for this saison had been in the low-to-mid 30s...so after making modifications here & there, I'm satisfied with the progress being made. With regard to Secale Cereale, I understand that with the introduction of Rye and oats, it may never be exactly to "style" of a traditional saison. However, I'm happy to see that it got high marks from the judge on its technical merit and intangibles. I believe that those are key components in satisfying my desire to brew beer that will be enjoyed by craft beer enthusiasts (both experienced and inexperienced alike). It's my belief that GrassLands' flagship beers will be Daisy Pusher Caramel Pale and Secale Cereale Saison...with Fiery Plains IPA bringing up the rear. Yum a dum dum.
So, in a completely long-winded way of going about things, I'm proud of the intangible progress GrassLands has made since this whole thing got started. What the future holds and when it starts revealing itself, well...hopefully that becomes much more clear in 2012. Regardless, you should know that GrassLands isn't satisfied with the status quo - it is committed to brewing high quality ales in accordance with its mission and vision. That I can absolutely promise.
Now, dear readers, have a wonderful holiday season filled with cheer, food and most importantly, great beer!
Here's looking forward to an awesome 2012! Prost!!!