with the occasional rant about tin openers...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Harvest Ale #1

Fresh hopped Harvest Pale ale:

5oz, on the button.
It feels like ages ago that I got excited about the first hop shoots nuzzling at the surface of the soil. Now they’re drawing the attention of the council’s planning department! So, after nearly 5 months, I can finally reap the rewards of months of doing nothing; it’s basically looked after itself. Well, ok, I did rig up a zig-zag of Poundland plant wire, but that’s about it. The regular watering thing that plants seem to like wasn’t labour intensive this year, thank you Gulf Stream, and although I did manage to throw on some tomato feed once or twice, it was only because I was feeling guilty about having done, frankly, nothing. But now I’ve a brew day to plan. Some sort of pale ale should prove a hearty canvas for the piney Nugget hops I’ll be harvesting from the one bull-bine. Only one bine flowered, so I’ll probably only have quarter of a pound of wet hops at best, but lesson learned for next year: cut back all bull shoots, not just some. Success favours the brave.
They're all perfect.
The pale will be 2lbs maris otter, 1oz crystal & 1oz wheat, and ¼ oz Northdown (bitter) per 5 ounces of fresh hops. Thinking about it, it’s probably too much, as the equivalent is about 5oz aroma hops in a 5-gallon brew (fresh hops weigh between 4 and 6 times more wet than when dried). Though after consulting the forums where it seems that more is more, more might be enough. Besides, it will be easily spread over the last twenty minutes of the boil.

So on Harvest Ale eve, about three weeks later than the microbrewers who were at the Kent harvests, and nearly a week later than some Dublin homebrewers (I’m quite far north, have I said?), I finally set the alarm clock for an interesting brew day. I haven’t dreamt about homebrew yet, but if it’s going to happen, it’ll be tonight.

Harvest Day: 18-09-2012

Hot, hot, hop.

Woke up to a wet and windy day, and thanks to some sort of bizarre cold, absolutely no sense of smell - hardly conducive to a morning of brewing with fresh hops!
The first thing to do was to measure up the hops, so I knew how much of what to make. As it turned out, my estimate was spot on: 5 ounces of fresh hops. So I set half a gallon of water to heat up, and mashed in the malts. I left it, checking occasionally that it was at the upper end of the 60s (temperature, that is). Then, sparge, boil, and in with ¼ ounce of Northdown hops to bitter the pale ale. Once the wort had been boiling for 40 minutes I begun to add small handfuls of fresh hops and became frustrated at how little I could smell! Was it the lack of hop oils? Was it the small quantity of hops being added? Or was it, hopefully, the absence of my olfactory senses for the day?
The whole with went into a glass demijohn at 1045, which wasn’t far off estimate, and then in with some yeast from a couple of weeks ago. It’s not fermenting yet, but with any luck by this evening there should be a krauseny mess all over the living room floor.
There’s very little I can do now, for a couple of weeks, except the usual bottle palaver. However, in a couple of weeks there will be an honest appraisal of the beer, but in the meantime, there’s bound to be an update on the next beers up, namely:

#4, a hoppy golden ale, with a fantastic citrus aroma,
Chocolate and Passionfruit Porter, which may or may not be a stroke of genius,
WHT Tayleur’s dried Rowanberry brown ale, and finally,
CIDER! If I can get hold of some apples!

And maybe, by next September, I’ll have both more hops and a hopback to really force in the aroma, sense of smell or not!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Grow Your Own Hops

So much better than grapes, and loads easier to grow!
I did try to grow and malt my own barley, last year. This year I'm letting that go to the professionals. However, I am sucessfully growing my own hops. And to help anyone else trying to do the same, or wishing to, read this:

Within this new, small site you'll find much of the information needed to buy, grow, harvest dry and brew. It's a great aside to the homebrew hobby (sorry, not hobby, um... art), and when I harvest later this week I'm sure it'll prove to be a worthwhile one too.

I hope the information proves useful or inspiring: and if I can grow hops way up where I'm living, then anybody can anywhere.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wet hopping . . .

So, a malt order has been placed and the hops are so nearly ready to harvest. I've been following Paul Corbett from Charles Faram hop merchants on Twitter and they've had their first harvest down in south-east England somewhere, so I figure I can leave it a week or two yet, up here in a north-westerly part of Ireland, with emphasis on north.
The early stages of hop cone formation. We're a bit on from there.

The hops I'll be using will be Goldings for bitterness (bought), and the home-grown Nugget cones for my taste and aroma additions. The internet thinks I'll need to add 4 or five times more hops by weight than if I were using dry hops, so the batch size will largely depend on the crop, which while better than last year, is not a prizewinner!

So check back soon for a post about extra-hopping a kit beer (John Bull IPA), and then some time after that for the wet-hop experiment, which will go something like this:

7lbs pale, 1/2lb crystal, some goldings to the tune of 30-odd IBU, then nugget additions at 15, 10, 5 and 0 mins of the boil. I'll probably bottle the batch as I want to show it off (nobody ever visits the house for barrelled beer) so I won't be dryhopping. I'll ferment with whatever's spare in the fridge, really.

Hope that's the appetite whetted. And thanks be to the brew gods that 70% of the Irish grain harvest has been saved! Hurrah! - courtesy of Aertel at 2am.