|The allotment plot, barley at the front.|
To read about the challenge, and to spot the myriad mistakes, read on!:
It's not like most beer related challenges. This is more wholesome, and it goes like this:
I've been reading 'The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England' by Ian Mortimer (a Medieval name if ever there was one!) and it made several references to the house wife brewing beer on a regular basis, and there being a third of the acrage on an average plot given over to barley etc. for food and beer. And I though to myself, only last night, that if a medieval housewife could do it hundreds of years ago, surely I could do it now, with my wealth of experience.
So, to that end, I'm going to grow my own barley, malt it, toast it and make ale out of it, to which I'll add hops from the garden, and hopefully some other adjuncts that I can make myself. I'll document it, here, and also in the posts as I go along. There'll be none of that 'finding yourself' nonsense that challenges inevitably induce, just a darned good pint at the end of it.
Step 1: Growing Barley
Firstly, I'll need some barley seed. I live in a rural area, and I know one of the farmers in Muff [sic] grows 6-row, so I should at least be able to find some 2-row from somewhere around here two and 6 row barley are the types most commonly used for malting. And second, I'll need a plot of land. I'm hankering after a plot in the allotments in the town, but failing that, I can dig up some of the pretty plants in our small but servicable garden, and turn it over to crop.
I'm researching (Googling, sorry) crop sowing and yield per sq. yard. I don't imagine it'll cost much, and apparently the price of barley dropped over the weekend, so it just goes to show there is a god. It'll probably mean a saving of 6c with the minimal quantities I'll be buying. And yes, it would be easier to not plant the barley, and just malt it anyway, but where's the adventure in that?
So, phase one, the planting stage, is in the planning process. The Hop plant (Nugget) is over a foot tall already (16" on 21st March 2011), and someone will know something about where I can get my hands on some grain, and think about taking pictures of everything.
Problem 1: Sums and spaces
It wasn't long before I got tripped up by the first set of problems. Barley seed at the co-op comes in 50kg bags. I need 125grams of seed... I wonder if they'll split.
I got this number by doing some hard sums. Firstly, the seed rate for one acre is 120lb/acre, and the yield is 2500lb/acre, or in square yards that's 11g seed rate, and .25kg yield. So for one 5 gallon batch, I'll need an area the size of my house (12 square yards) to yield my 3kg or 6-7lb of malt, and that's dried malt, so I'll probably need an even larger yield to get that dried weight. I might not even get an allotment this year, but if I did, will I get away with a whole bed given over to Barley?
Anyway, I think that pretty much sums up my first problem.
I've been glancing through some forums, and it would appear that (as well as being an American hybrid) Nugget hop is becoming quite popular in American IPAs. The Yanks, in their increasingly mental quest for a face crunchingly hoppy beer, are quite keen on using Nugget hops. Indeed, I gather a Nugget only IPA is a wonder to behold. So, providing I don't overcook the malt that I've yet to make or grow or even get hold of, it looks like I'll be making an IPA come the summer. I wasn't going to plan that far ahead, but I think given the circumstances, a Nugget IPA seems likely. Now, a few hours on photoshop and I'll have a label mocked up!
Having been up to the Co-op, and scoured the internet, the two types of barley available to me are Snakebite and Quench. Both, as far as I know, are 2-row, have done very well in trials, and are available to me in 50kg bags. Now, I just need to find that farmer...
I'm also only €20 away from getting my hands on a bed in the allotments. Similarly, I've managed to hint at the right people, and they've kindly donated a patch of their field/veg patch/lawn to the barley growing purpose.
Off (in) the ground