I finally got a call back from Malt and Vine – the bottle shop in Seattle with whom I left a significant amount of fine wine and beer.

They gave me a quote on shipping, and I paid over the phone with a credit card. They told me that the shipper expects transit to take five days, and that they would try to get it out today (if not today then tomorrow). That means I should have my prize sometime early next week.

Also, my Peach Ale really took off. Fermentation was not only visibly noticeable but quite vigorous after less than twelve hours – despite the fact that the yeast were nearly three months old (usually older [i.e. less fresh] yeast exhibit a greater lag time between pitching and active fermentation). I should be able to rack it over the peaches this weekend.

At that same time (if not sooner) I will be racking the Farmhouse Ale into its secondary fermentor. It is still trodding along slowly – bubbles still emerging from its fermentation lock, although slowly and infrequently. I hope that means that it will attenuate well since I was shooting for a somewhat dry beer with that recipe. I even used Belgian candi sugar in the grist to aid in the effort of a dry and light-bodied product, but only time will tell.

As crazy as it may sound (with two brews in kegs and two more on the way currently in fermentors), I am already getting excited about my next brew: Hump’s Best Bitter. This will be my version of an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) – using traditional English ingredients (English Maris Otter malt, English hop varieties, and English ale yeast) but hopped a little more than typical, authentic ESBs. I’m hoping for a nice cross between an ESB and an American Pale Ale.

I’ve realized this year that I am a full-blown hop-head. I’ve always liked bitterness and hops in beer. But this year I’ve really come to appreciate hoppy beers more than before. I used to disdain the American Pale Ale and IPA styles because every microbrewery, including less-than-stellar chain brewpubs, offered them. They all tasted the same to me. But my palate is a little more distinguishing these days, and I find that I can detect nuances in these styles that have reignited a new passion within me for these hoppy treasures. Sure, most microbreweries, including chain brewpubs, offer one of these beers, and it is generally a straight-forward and fairly unimaginative offering. But if they have the right balance with a firm hop presence and a decent malt backbone then I’ll probably enjoy it nevertheless.

And so, this year, I have had cravings to make hoppy ales that I’ve never had before. This next batch, the Best Bitter, will be my third one this year! That is a lot considering I’d only made four of them in the previous seven years (one of which hardly counts because it didn’t turn out very hoppy or very good).