And so it begins...
Every year when we release Jolly the response is always the same:
"This is the best Jolly yet!"
"This Jolly isn't as good as last year."
"Jolly's too sweet this year."
"Jolly's too bitter this year."
"Did you guys change the recipe? I like it better this year."
"Did you guys change the recipe? I don't like it as much as last year."
"The 2002 Jolly was the best ever. 2007 was okay too. Why don't you brew one of those again?"
Sometimes it seems like people think we have giant containers of Jolly mix that last for YEARS and we just crack them open every year and add water and POW...Jolly Roger Christmas Ale. "Why does it taste different this year? It's always the same recipe, right?"
Right. We try to keep the recipe as consistent from year to year as possible. But have you ever followed a recipe at home two times and used different ingredients and ended up with two things that tasted a little "different?"
Everybody knows that the "same" wine from the same winery varies from year to year because the grapes are different EVERY YEAR. I don't think that people always make the same connection with beer. Grain is harvested every year. It is an agricultural product and varies from season to season and year to year because of such factors as weather, disease, and other growing conditions.
Hops are harvested ONCE a year (I guess technically twice if you count the flipped seasons in the southern hemisphere.) They too are affected by growing climate, weather patterns, and can be partially wiped out because there might be a freak rainstorm one morning followed by a hot afternoon that sets in motion a nasty mold outbreak and wipes out a field. Nature can wreak havoc on our ingredients and we are stuck with what we've got for a YEAR!
Even water is never the "same." Even though we filter all of our brewing water, it can experience subtle changes on a chemical level on a daily basis. And you know what? Water chemistry affects brewing! Let's not even get started on how the same yeast can perform differently from brew to brew.
What I'm trying to say here is: Even though we try to follow the "same" recipe every year, EVERY ONE OF OUR INGREDIENTS IS DIFFERENT ALL THE TIME. And you know what that means? Even though we try, Jolly is a little different every time. For that matter, all of our beers are a little different every time. That's what makes craft beer "craft beer." I have the utmost respect and am blown away by large breweries that can make the EXACT SAME beer from variable ingredients and different water supplies in different brewhouses around the world. It's phenomenal. It's also probably the reason people think of beer as a "consistent" product that is manufactured and never varies from batch to batch.
It's downright amazing that our beer is as consistent as it is given all the variables that go into making it, and I only touched on ingredients. There is a whole lot more that can affect a batch of beer that most beer drinkers probably never even think of.
Our beer might not always be CONSISTENT. We try to make the best of what Mother Nature hands us each year.
I do like to think, though, that our beer is always consistently GOOD.
Just my two cents... Hope you like the Jolly this year, and if you don't, please continue to try it each year. You are bound to find one year you like.
Cheers... Chris (the keeper of the blog)