Monday, September 2, 2013

Hop Harvest 2013, Part III - The Fashionably Late Edition

A while back I detailed my journey with harvesting, drying, and storing this year's crop, as well some making a wet-hopped IPA. Well, my hops plants decided that they weren't quite done producing, which led to a second yield. I didn't take any pictures of the bagging process, but I ended up with another 6 ounces of dried hops, bringing my 2013 total up past a pound(!).

They call these "Angel Hops". Because the leaves look like wings.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wet-hopped IPA & Hop Harvest 2013, Part II - Drying, hopping, and the review

Last week I posted Part I of the write-up on the wet-hopped IPA slash hop harvest, which covered the first round of harvesting and brewing the IPA. This week, I'm going to talk about more hop harvesting and drying/storing the hops, as well as play catch up on the IPA.

After all was said and done after the brew day, I still had a little over half of the Cascade plant to harvest. Knowing I'd need more fresh hops for the beer once it was done fermenting, I held off on taking any more off the plant, especially as I was quickly losing sunlight. Three days after I had brewed, it was time to bag the first round of dried hops - in our climate (hot and dry) it only takes ~48 hours to dry hops to a state where they are considered shelf stable. Hops lose as much as 80% of their weight when dried, which is also why you need so many wet hops for a harvest ale. Note: I bag my hops in 1 ounce increments, as I've found that to be the best size for freezing while not being a huge bag (whole cones take up a lot more room than pellets).

After drying the hops, I ended up waiting almost two weeks before I was finally able to begin harvesting the remaining hops on the plant - or so I thought. In the span of a couple of weeks the Cascade plant had sent out additional side-shoots and was already producing a second round of hop burrs, the stage that precedes the cone flower. I'll need to harvest a third round of hops in early September, most likely. Anyway...  
I spent the good part of an hour picking cones from the plant, reserving 8 ounces for wet-hopping the fully fermented IPA. After shaking the leaves/bugs/dirt loose, I gave them a quick rinse in StarSan to make sure I didn't introduce any bacteria or wild yeast to the finished beer. After wet-hopping the IPA, I set the rest of the hops onto the drying screen, just as I had two weeks earlier.


Friday, August 2, 2013

In the Garden 2013: Photos

Not much to write today, enjoy some of the latest photos from the garden.
Some san marzano tomatoes.
Pinot gris grapes nearly ready for picking.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion -the world's hottest pepper.

Hops Harvesting 101: Tips 'n Tricks

I've had a lot of people asking me recently about what how I go about growing/harvesting/storing hops, so I thought I'd make a post about my processes to help others out.

I've only been growing hops for two years, so I won't profess to be some sort of genius - at the end of the day, hops are still plants, and standard garden knowledge still applies. That being said...

Wet-hopped IPA & Hop Harvest 2013, Part I

Note: Because this post will cover a brew day and hop harvesting, I've decided to split it into two parts.

Last year I brewed the harvest ale from hell - this year, I wanted to learn from those mistakes and do it the right way. Ordinarily, you'd be seeing this post next month, but my second year hop plants have been going nuts this summer. So crazy, in fact, that I had hops ready to harvest in mid-July - compared to early August last year.

So two weeks ago, I sought out to make a beer with all the hop cones that were ripening on the bines.
 My intent last year with the harvest ale was a wet-hopped pale ale, with tons of fresh hops in the boil and post-fermentation. Timing didn't quite work out, however, as the grain I wanted to use - grown and malted right here in town - wasn't ready at the same time as my hops. In the end, I had to dry them, freeze them, and use them much later in the year. This year, I was able to brew another local beer, but with the abundance of hops, I stepped it up and made an IPA.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Garden '13 update

It's been a long time since I've posted, but I thought I'd play catch-up on the garden. Things have exploded - cherries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, and tons of pepper/tomato plant growth. Pictures speak louder than words, so enough talking. On to the pictures!

A few ears starting to develop.
Kaleidoscope peppers.
Tomatillo plant.

Raspberries ripening.

Pinot gris grapes. I also have a cabernet savignon plant that's got some bunches, but the gerwurztriminer plant seems to have stalled out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Update 2: Brandy Barrel Quad

Available in 4 convenient sizes (actually 5, if you count the 12oz bottles).
It's been a little over a month since I restarted the stuck quad with a gigantic starter of WLP099. That seemed to have worked better than expected, as the quad dropped down to 1.018 before stopping for good. That put the quad at a hair over 15%, which makes this, by far, the biggest beer I've ever brewed.

After reaching terminal gravity it was time to transfer the quad into the brandy barrel I've been holding onto since January. It started life as a 20 liter Balcones distillery bourbon barrel that was used for a RIS and then refilled with a gallon of brandy. The beer spent 6 days in the barrel, coming out quite with a noticeable alcohol heat and some heavy oak tannins. (Fun fact: the residual CO2 will push beer through the spaces between the staves, and come out the other side of the barrel as sweet, oaky 'sap'.)

I then cold-conditioned the beer at 60 degrees for another 10 days. In just that short amount of time the oak and brandy flavors are already integrating into the beer nicely - I can't wait to try it five months from now.

I bottled the 4.5 gallons that remained on Sunday night (having lost some to evaporation and trub) into a mixture of bottles. Personally, I'm not fond of super-dry beers with a heavy oak presence, so in addition to the priming sugar I added 4 ounces of maltodextrin to add back some of the body that the super yeast ate. Eight bottles got the VIP treatment - corks, cages, foil, and labels - while the remainder went into a myriad of sizes of capped bottles for competitions, personal consumption, homebrew meetings, and etcetera.

More pictures after the break.

Friday, May 31, 2013

In the Garden: Memorial Day Weekend edition

Memorial Day weekend is always fairly relaxed in our family. This year, I spend a majority of it tending the garden. The pepper plants I bought down in San Diego are chugging along, and I can't wait to taste the fiery death each plant will give me - Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Carolina Reaper, and a Chocolate 7 Pot, the 3 hottest chili plants in the world (for now).

The hops are doing extremely well - in fact, I'm already getting burrs, which means I may be harvesting my first round of cones sometime in July. Other than that, not a lot of homebrew news to report - the quad is in the barrel and the sours I brewed last year are almost ready to bottle.
I spent all day Sunday smoking a tri-tip and pork shoulder, along with a couple habaneros that I intend to dry and make into smoked habanero powder for seasonings.
Look at that smoke ring!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hops on the rise.

Last month, I planted out an additional 4 hop rhizomes in the garden to bring the total up to six. Well, all but one of them - the Neo1 - have broken ground and are on their way to being productive plants.

The cascade and centennial hops I planted last year are going crazy and have almost reached the top of the roof, a feat they didn't accomplish until July of last year - so I may see an early harvest if things continue. They would likely have already reached the roof if not for a few days of cold, rainy weather this week.

Some more pictures after the break.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Update: Brandy Barrel Quad

A lot has happened in the past month - two weddings, a vacation, and some overtime at work - so now that life is beginning to get back to normal, it's time to address some of the things that have been going on since my last post.

Since brewing my 'super quad' (or a quintupel - call it what you will) two months ago, it's been a rather uncooperative beer. After an explosive fermentation over the first two weeks, as I gradually ramped the temperatures up into the high 80's, eventually it seemed to stall out.

Swirling and ramping the temp to the 90's had little effect, and after several reading over a 2-week period, I concluded the quad had, in fact, stuck at 1.044. What was I to do? Now don't get me wrong, I like malty beers, but I was aiming for a sweeter-than-style quad to stand up to the barrel aging, not syrup.

So, after consulting some friends I concocted a plan. Over the course of a weekend I built up a trillion cell starter of WLP-099 Super High Gravity Yeast, using progressively stronger wort each time - the final round using 1.050 wort mixed with a liter of the stuck quad. Once it reached high krausen I acclimated it to higher ABV with some vodka added gradually over the course of an hour, and then pitched the entire, massive starter into the quad. Two weeks later and the quad is now down to 1.033. If I can get it into the 1.020's I'll consider it a success.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In the Garden 2013 - Hops, hops, hops!

Last year, I took an attempt at starting my own hop farm that was fairly successful - two first year plants yielded about a pound of dried hops - and have decided to step it up in 2013.

The first thing I had to do was make more room - much more room - for this year's crop. I extended the planter I built last year to wrap around the rest of the house before stopping at the A/C condenser. There's enough room for me to plant four more rhizomes. The lucky winners this year are:
  • Centennial
  • Chinook
  • Willamette
  • Neo1 (new hop variety from New Mexico)
I already have one Centennial, but it's one of my go-to hops for pale ales and IPAs (plus, you can't legally buy Simcoe or Citra rhizomes, patents and such). Chinook has a nice piney-ness for aroma additions and is a great all-around bittering hop, while Willamette works equally well in American and English/Belgian styles. I don't know a whole lot about Neo1 other than the fact that it's a new breed from New Mexico that is described as "lemon-y) and has a fairly high alpha acid content.

I plan on harvesting a few pounds this year, so I'll hopefully be able to do a wet hopped IPA and have plenty left over for drying.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Brandy Barrel Quad

Last year, a few of my friends got together and decided to clone Westvleteren 12. Those efforts led to the creation of QuadFest. It was successful enough to warrant a sequel, QuadFest 2013. For this year's event the number of participants has grown to include myself, my friend Rick, and perhaps a few more homebrewers from the Reno area; we will be holding our own QuadFest North meeting later this year, as most of us won't be able to make the trip down to Orange County.

Yesterday I brewed my take on the classic recipe. I sought to fuse my two favorite quads, Rochefort 10 and Westvleteren 12, into one brew. The recipe is based on several clone recipes, information from Brew Like a Monk, and some guesstimation on my end - Belgian pilsen, CaraMunich, Special B, and a ton of candi syrup from Candi Syrup Inc. I also followed feedback based on Daniel, Shawn, and Scott's attempts last year. My hope is to capture the complexity of Westvleteren but have the maltyness of Rochefort to stand up to barrel aging. Yes, you heard that right, I'll be putting this bad boy into a used 5 gallon brandy barrel...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Local lambic 2013 + Local lambic 2012 updates

This weekend, I brewed the second annual batch of my local pseudo-Lambic. Last year's batch has  developed into a nice lambic base - assertively sour (but not overly so), with a great bouquet and good color and clarity.

For this years batch, I'm keeping the turbid mash, and using the same recipe - the only change being that I upped the Munich malt by 10% and reduced the boil time from two hours to 60 minutes. The hope is that the extra Munich will offset any kettle caramelization the extra hour would have given.

To make way for this year's batch, it was finally time to do something with the 5 gallons I brewed last April. I have been debating back and forth over whether or not to fruit the beer. I finally decided that the beer would work fine as a fruit lambic base and went back to the original idea to use boysenberries after the plan to use pinot gris grapes didn't work out as planned (with only a few ounces, the flavor and acid contributions were undetectable). I racked a little under three gallons of the beer onto 3 pounds of boysenberries (which I might bump up to five), and racked another gallon into a small glass carboy for extended aging - my intent is to use this in blending for a gueuze-style beer in a year or two.

Monday, January 21, 2013

All-Nevada harvest ale (or, the worst brewday ever)

Yesterday I brewed up a beer that I've been looking forward to since harvesting my first year Cascade and Centennial hops way back in August. A number of factors kept me from brewing this beer earlier (weather, sickness, vacations, etcetera), but most importantly, I was waiting on the right malt.

We have our very own maltster in Reno, Lance, who buys locally-grown barley and malts it himself in a converted garage. The quality is second to none, and it was always the missing puzzle piece in a locally produced beer.

The beer itself is a loose SNPA clone using locally grown ingredients. I bought twelve pounds of Copeland malt (a nice 2-row base malt variety) that was grown in nearby Yerington, and along with the 5 ounces of Cascade and half-ounce of Centennial I was able to grow last year, all I needed was a little water and yeast. Of course, if I had the technology, I'd culture some S. Cerevisiae out of the local air and be 100% local, but for obvious logistical reasons I'm using a packet of US-05 for fermentation purposes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tasting notes: Red Flanders & Local lambic

Over the weekend, I got around to pulling samples from my two sours that have been in secondary. It has been nearly five months since I last sampled my cherrywood-aged flanders red, appropriately named Red Flanders, and this was the first time I'd tasted the local lambic.