Years ago when I started brewing, I'd always take a few bottles over to my parents' house. This continued when I moved away. My Mom doesn't drink beer and Dad sticks to his Labatt, though Dad would occasionally try to pawn my beers off on his friends.
That second hand feedback was always funny: "Why would you do that?" "Why does this taste like motor oil?" "Can I run my car on this beer?"
I did make some heavier beers back then. A lot of them sat around either in the basement from Christmas stashes, or in the beer fridge in their garage. Between random bottles left over at my parents and six packs that sat in my closet for a while, I discovered a beer that I would call my one true house beer.
Cricket Bat to the Face Scotch Ale.
The first incarnation of this was brewed back in September 2010. I remember it being a bit harsh to drink when I cracked the first few open around Halloween. I was, and still am, a big fan of Shaun of the Dead, which I may or may not have been watching while drinking said beer. Hence it's name.
A few went up to my parents during the holidays, and a few got buried in my closet while I was brewing other beers. Come March 2011, my birthday rolled around and I started digging through my bottle collection to drink. Stumbled across a few remaining scotch ales and decided to go with it. And WOW!
Over the six months it spent conditioning in the bottle it had turned into this magical drink of honey and sunshine. It was, at that moment in time, the best beer I had made in my brewing career (which was maybe two and a half years). I decided at that moment that I needed to make it again. A tradition was born.
Every year in September I brew the beer to be ready for my birthday in March. I use each subsequent yeast generation on the next batch. Each batch is aged on scotch-soaked oak, which tends to change with what ever is in my bar at the time. Because of all of that, mixing up some specialty grains during the extract period, moving to different locations, water, the weather, and everything, each year has been vastly different.
2011 didn't have the bright honey notes, but was a nice mellow ale. 2012 ended up having a few fusel notes that never faded, which I didn't realize until I compared it to the 2013 vintage at my last birthday party. The 2013 again had a nice oak character with mellow malts, but was still a big, full-bodied beer.
In 2014, I stopped brewing extract and moved to full grain brewing. The 2014 Vintage CBTTF was the first iteration brewed all grain. It was also the first batch of my scotch ale to be kegged (we ran out of bottles).
Today the keg was tapped.
It pours a deep reddish brown with a decent head that dissipates after a minute or so. It smells oaky with a little burnt caramel. When it warms up a little you can smell a bit of the alcohol. There's a nice smooth caramel malt upfront that starts to get a little smokey with a noticeable oak but not quite peaty finish. The body is light which makes it very easy to drink- except it is 13.1% ABV.
I must say that it is far removed from the memory of the first "vintage," but it is mine. This is my birthday beer and I wouldn't have it any other way. The six month wait is always worth it. Hanging on to previous bottles and being able to do vertical tastings has really opened my eyes to how far I've come as a brewer. While I have never brewed anything besides the scotch ale with my house yeast, I think I'm going to build up a large batch soon to experiment with.
Prost! Salud! Santé! カンパイ! Cheers! Here's to another year of brewing and life!
Cricket Bat to the Face Scotch Ale 2014 vintage
10lbs marris otter
13 lbs 2 row
2lbs crysal 40
.5lb white wheat
.5lb smoked malt
2 oz Willamette for 60 minutes
Edinburgh Yeast or any malt forward yeast (2014 was brewed with gen. 5 house yeast)