Why I’m brewing 99 beers in 99 weeks
Your corny kegs are getting lighter. You’ve got a free afternoon coming up this weekend. Clearly, it’s time to think about the next brew day. Only one problem.
What to brew next?
With all the hundreds of potential beer styles out in the world, what on earth should you pick? Perhaps stick to an old favorite like a treasured pale ale recipe? Go big and bold with an Imperial Russian Stout? Or try something completely new, finally taking a crack at a Brut IPA?
As an avid home brewer this became my dilemma every couple of weeks. And then I hit upon an idea. What if I didn’t have to choose, but instead something chose for me? That something was the Beer Judge Certification Program Beer Style Guidelines. 99 beer styles, all wonderfully defined, categorized, and sequenced. Beer styles from across the spectrum, from light German lagers and malty British bitters all the way through to hoppy American IPAs and strong Belgian ales.
Now somebody else could decide what I should brew. I’d start at the top of the list, and work my way through until I’d made everything. And heck, why not make this a bit more interesting and challenge myself to brew one style per week. 99 beers in 99 weeks.
So that’s what I did.
Introducing The Homebrew Challenge
The moment I started, reality hit hard. The first beer style was American Light Lager. This wonderful journey had begun with brewing, of all things, a Bud Light. And because I’m brewing in sequence many beers drew a remarkable similarity to the style I’d brewed the week before. Czech Pale Lager was followed by Czech Premium Pale Lager. I brewed four German light lagers in a row – a month of pilsner beers.
There were other issues too. I brewed a German smoke beer (a rauchbier) with far too much smoked cherrywood malt and effectively made a bonfire beer that I can still taste in the back of my throat to this day. And one issue eclipsed all others. An issue that has, and continues to, haunt me every week. Something there’s just no getting around.
What to do with all this beer?
A 5 gallon batch of beer equates to about 40 pints of beer. And I’m making that every week. To get through it all I need to find a home for 5-6 pints of beer per day. Every day. For nearly two years. I find myself handing out beers at every occasion – to friends, family, neighbors, any random person I can find.
As I write this, I’ve brewed 35 of the beers. 64 more beer styles to go – well over a year of weekly brewing ahead of me. And the obvious question, dear reader, is why continue? With all the dodgy styles, the similarity of beers, the gallons and gallons of beer that needs a home, the fact that my favorite beer styles are strong Belgian ales that are the very last thing in the BJCP guidelines. Why keep doing it?
Why? Because taking on this challenge has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
First and foremost, I’ve learned so very much about different beer styles. I’ve brewed beers I’ve never heard of. Helles Bock, Altbier, and Maibock are styles completely new to me, but are now among my very favorites. And brewing similar beers over and over has been a great way to dial in what I like, learn how a different specialty malt can influence a beer, and appreciate subtle differences in flavor and aroma.
And most of all, I’m building a community of followers who are taking this journey along with me. I film each brew day and publish it on my The Homebrew Challenge YouTube channel.
As the challenge has expanded, so has the feedback. One of the highlights of my week is publishing a new video and reading the tips, recommendations, and words of encouragement from fellow homebrewers in the YouTube comments.
So, What to Brew Next?
I hope you’ll join me as I continue along on my journey, one beer style at a time, discovering the incredibly varied beer styles from around the world. If you’re passing through Raleigh North Carolina, stop by, come taste my latest brew.
And, if you wouldn’t mind, fill up a growler or two of beer while you’re here.
– Martin Keen
Find all the homebrewing beer recipes here. After the Challenge is over, they will all be listed here below in order with the BJCP Guidelines.