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.


I returned to the garage two days later to vacuum seal, label, and freeze the hops, while also getting a final tally of my 2013 harvest so far:

13 ounces of Cascade & Centennial hops.

Including the hops used in the IPA I'm at almost exactly a pound of (dried weight) hops, with probably another 2-3 ounces coming. Not at all bad for year two!
After getting all of those bags in the freezer, I set my sights on getting the beer kegged, as I didn't want it to spend too long on the hops. I hauled it back to my house and set it on the table overnight to let the yeast re-settle. Transferring the beer only took a few minutes, and carbonating it took about a week. It's pretty tasty right now, but there are some things I will change for next year - more hops and a bit more alcohol - as it drinks more like a hoppy pale ale or a session IPA than anything else. You can definitely taste the grassiness/earthiness of the wet hops though. Better take some notes and review it now, as it's fading fast...

Harvest IPA (Wet-hopped) by EAW
Appearance: Golden yellow, with slight haze. Bright white head with good lacing that fades over time.
Aroma: Grapefruit, subdued compared to normal Cascade character, faint lemon rind, fresh mowed grass, and pine needles.
Taste: Bitter grapefruit, earthiness, and faint fruitiness (from hops, not yeast derived)
 Mouthfeel: Light, with moderate carbonation. Perhaps a tad too thin, I will have to experiment with the carbonation level.
Overall Impression: A good, if not great wet-hopped IPA. It's definitely lower in alcohol and body than I had intended, but as a session IPA or aggressively hopped pale ale (think Zombie Dust) it hits the mark, with the added 'oomph' of wet-hopping to add some subtle floral/grassy/earthy notes. After the disaster of last year's harvest ale, this is a huge improvement. I will definitely brew this again. 

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