Hop Harvest 2016

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What a good year for the roses hops…

And didn’t I get a lovely haul this year?  Here they are all merry and bright, up the side of the house…and, yes, I know the house needs painting…a fact that certainly hasn’t escaped my wife.

The biggest problem this year was bloody snails.  Why do they like hop leaves so much?  I had to keep picking the pesky molluscs off and “relocating” them elsewhere…

I knew the hops were ready as they outer leafy bits had gone quite “papery” and some were starting to turn a little brown around the edges.  They also smelt “right” when the cones were rubbed and crushed, I think I might have harvested a little early in previous years.

Hold your nerve people – pick at the right time!

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And here they are all viciously hacked down and languishing on the kitchen table.  There was a significant insect exodus from this pile over the course of the evening too:

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It took two hours to pick that lot clean, and probably would have been even quicker had it not been for the odd one or two that had contracted powdery mildew – damn those damp late-September days.

The afflicted ones got binned and I made the resolution to only use these rest of the hops as late and flame-out additions – hopefully the heat in the brew kettle will kill off any trace of nastiness on the odd mildewy straggler.

After two hours I got a good boxful.  I didn’t weight them as – to be quite honest – I don’t much care about the wet weight.  We’re drying all of these babies, this year:

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Not in possession of an oast house or even anything similar, I spread the lot out on a bed sheet (yes folks, you’ve now seen my bedding…) and set the dehumidifier on them:

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There they sat for the next two days.  Eve helpfully sorted through them from time-to-time and picked out the odd manky/mouldy/worm-eaten hop.

Two days later and we were looking good: the cones were mostly dry and any small stems were pliable to a point before they snapped cleanly.  That’s supposed to signify the proper dryness…

All I had to do then was stuff some ziplock bags with 50 grams of hops each and bung the lot in the freezer.

Next year I might invest in a vacuum sealer – but that’s only if it looks like there’s going to be a bumper harvest…

Total haul: 380 grams of pretty fragrant and resinous Cascade cones….

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Just popping down the @pintshop for a pint of…beer

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Sing Hosanna!  Another beer bar has opened up in Oxford!

And what a flippin’ treat it is too…

Me and my old china – The Greggster – went there Wednesday night.  We were long overdue a night out for a few ales and tales…and, after loads of people at work had bombarded me with links to an article in the Oxford Times – trumpeting The Pint Shop’s opening, a trip there seemed more than appropriate…

And weirdly, it wasn’t that busy when we arrived on a nondescript Wednesday evening in mid-September, but The Pint Shop has only been open a couple of days, so it’s no surprise (their original Cambridge bar being open a great deal longer).

But before long, I fully expect The Pint Shop to be rammed to gunwhales with discerning Oxford drinkers and attracting some of the frothy-‘tached hipster crowd from Beerd, a couple of doors down.

Having two decent* beer bars in the same street plays well for us drinkers – meaning that both outfits need to stay at the top of their game to retain their custom by stocking the freshest and widest range of quality beer.

(*note the eschewance of the word craft? It’s getting old hat…and even Greene King call some of their beers “craft” now, so it’s now rendered the term pretty redundant)

It’s a nice set-up when you get inside The Pint Shop, their style blows away the seemingly-now-passe craft-beer/rock-bar schtick and instead mines a rich seam of late 70’s/early 80’s “comprehensive school” chic:  enamel light shades and flip-top-desk-beech furniture with bare floor-boards lend it that sort of feel.  I liked it a lot…mind you I was at school in those years, so I would wouldn’t I?

And guess what else I liked a lot?  The beer selection.  Holy crikey – check out the picture above.  That’s a range and a half, isn’t it?

Gregg wasn’t sure what to order when we arrived and visibly reeled and buckled at the knees under the weight of choice; eventually, after expressing a need for “something with lots of hops in it”, he settled on the Everyday IPA from the Nene Valley brewery.  It was perky and sessionable and delivered hops by the shovelful.

As I’m currently on a sours kick I went for the Mangoes Crazy for Peaches Berliner Weiss from Beerbliotek – which was just what I was after: pleasantly seltzery with just enough acidity to pucker, it sat nicely on my (very empty) stomach and sharpened my appetite for dinner later.

Then the lights at our table started dimming and brightening…

It was imperceptible first, but then became weirdly rhythmical: one minute we were starkly lit by bare element bulbs, the next we were in plunged into an other-worldly gloaming…it was all very odd, until a chap appeared next to us and apologized – explaining that they were trying to get the lighting right and they’d be done fiddling about soon.

We said we didn’t mind, as the beer was good and were wondering what to have next…so the lighting man introduced himself as Rich and explained that he was one of the co-owners and, what sort of thing were we looking for next?

I mentioned that I did a bit of reviewing and I’d be doing a small piece on the site and that I was driving but I did so like the look of the Hoog and Droog (a Pint Shop/De Molen collaboration), The Evil Twin Barley Wine Blend, Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision and the Edge Brewing’s Sangria Sour – but couldn’t have them all, you know, what with the driving and everything…

It was at this point that Rich excused himself only to re-appear moments later bearing all those beers on a tray.  We sat and talked further with Rich and tasted all four…

The Hoog and Droog was a solid and beautiful west coast IPA, with a great trailing edge of zesty grapefruit pith.  Gregg declared it an excellent beer and one of the best he’d ever had – and believe me he’s had a few in his time, so his opinion is to be respected.

The Sangria Sour was satisfyingly acidic and nicely balanced – I’m guessing it was kettle-soured, as it wasn’t wildly complex in the way that a gueze or flanders red is complex, but it was damn good all the same.

Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision was an excellent representation of the style and refreshing and tasty in equal measure.  I wish I could make my Saison taste that good.

The star of the show was the Evil Twin Barley Wine Blend.  My god, it was big (11%) malty, rounded and spicily woodsy; quite bringing to mind bulbous Christmas snifters brimming with Armagnac…  I’d never considered brewing a barley wine before, but I might now.

I’m so happy we’ve another decent beer destination in Oxford.  The Pint Shop is spacious and well laid-out with a blinding selection of beers.  Everyone there is knowledgeable and happy to help.

I haven’t even mentioned the food yet…God, yes, the food.  Next time, Jon.  Next time.

Get to The Pint Shop as soon as you can, their kegs need emptying as quickly as possible – only so that we can see what other wild and marvelous beers they can get on tap for us…

Pour away your isotonic shit and drink this instead – Augustiner: Dunkel

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Do you spend hundreds of pounds on ridiculous sports drinks and the such-like?  You do?  Well in my opinion you’re wasting money, money that could be far better spent on beer.

Especially beer like Augustiner Dunkel.

Augustiner Dunkel is a very solid and very dark beer indeed – with so much malt you could probably stand a spoon up in it.

With an aroma not far off a bag of demerera sugar and tasting like glazed and roasted chestnuts, it’s one hell of a pick-me-up.

There’s an ample carbonation and some spicy notes that add to the fun, too.

There’s also pretty much zero in the way of bitterness – so even damp-eyed, soft people, can enjoy it…

Dunkel is a style that’s so (to my mind) refreshing, sustaining and fluid replacing, and I think it’s just the sort of thing we should all be drinking after vigorous physical activity*:

Runners – stock up on it for post-race refreshment, MAMILs (look it up!) – keep some at cellar temperature to enjoy when you stagger back in the door all bow-legged and scrotally-damaged.

I’m going to get a stock in for the – all-too-inevitable – leaf-sweeping and garden-buggering-about that comes my way at this time of year.

In short: pour all the isotonic shit down the sink and drink Dunkel instead!

http://www.augustiner-braeu.de/en/unser-bier.html#

(*PS: It’s worth noting that I have precisely zero in the way of medical training, but have strong suspicions that a lot of people are wasting their money on pointless sugary bullshit)

On yer bike – @OakhamAles: Green Devil IPA

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You know, I reckon, there’s two very different sorts of hoppy beer in this funny little world of ours…

First off, there’s American hoppy beer: which I associate with resinous and dank and sticky buds and citrus and grapefruit peel and bitter and marmalade – all in a tumult, just like that.

Then there’s English hoppy beer – which is still assertive and has those same American themes but somehow less full-bore and with more subtleties – such as delicate floral notes and honey and summer.

If it’s pines in an English-hoppy beer then it’s sun-soaked Lebanese cyprus by a greek taverna – rather than pine needles bunging up the Hoover at Christmas.

I like both styles equally…

There’s days when only a solid American IPA style will do: everything at maximum, with the amps cranked up to 11 – a headlong break-neck trip through hop city on a Harley.

Then there’s other days when you need a bracing yomp through the hills and fields, taking in the forests and the rioutous summer meadows; earthy, sensual and provocative to the senses – which is what you seem to get from an English hoppy beer.

Needless to say, there’s US brewers making great English-style hoppy beer, and some great US-inspired hoppy beer from brewers on this side of the water…

Speaking of brewers from this side of the water, lets take a look at Oakham’s Green Devil IPA…

Green Devil IPA is a curious mix of both hoppy beer styles.  I guess I can best describe it as a bit like mountain-biking:  it’s all full-on downhill craziness: mad hops and assertive bitterness; but if you take the time to stop for a bit and take your helmet off, you’ll find yourself in a delicate and sensual surroundings.

The hops in the nose are big and bold, lightly vegetative and with a lively playfulness.   The colour is fresh-cast-bullion and the head stays soapy-foamy right to the end.  I got pines, lemons and hints of grapefruit in the taste with a lightly but dangerously drinkable body.  The bitterness kept me going back for more until I found myself empty-glassed and slightly sad at not having more on hand.

If I were you I’d get on your bike and get some today.

See detail of it here: http://www.oakhamales.com/greendevilipa.html

Elvis is still very much in the building – @Brewdog: Elvis Juice

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Look around you.  It’s bloody September already…and that’s “already” as in the English meaning; rather than the US, hand-on-hips, “already” that they seem to indulge in…God love them.

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged – life is getting in the way, and that’s why I’m changing the way I do reviews.  From now on: they’ll be shorter, snappier and hopefully a bit less rambling.  I’d like to examine the beer as a whole, rather than pick it to bits and look at the parts.

So here we go with the first attempt:

Elvis Juice?  I’ve no idea why, but it’s Brewdog and they know what they’re doing – so they can do what they like…doesn’t bother me.

I had mine poured out of a can – and by holy crikey, as soon as the ring pull is off do you get a waft of hops!  It’s like someone’s rammed  a grapefruit and sherbert boiled sweet up your hooter.

And what a bloody marvellously joyous aroma it is:  candy-citrus with some resin and dank; it’s an aroma I’ve never experienced in a beer before.  Original and beautiful.  I’m willing to bet that the grapefruit juice went in too…probably post-fermentation, but I could be wrong and frequently am.

It’s a good colour, and the head’s nice.  But it’s that bloody aroma that gets me every time.

Damn it’s good to drink too.  Lively and candy-citrus hoppy, it’s maybe a tad too sweet?  But it’s light on it’s feet and treacherously drinkable – despite the 6.5% ABV.

Elvis Juice is probably the most cheerful beer you’ll drink all year…

See it here: https://www.brewdog.com/beer/amplified/elvis-juice

Let’s have a little bit moor – @drinkmoorbeer: Hoppiness

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I love the smell of manure,
I love the smell of the poor,
I love the smell of Frank Muir.
So, come on let’s have a look at it,
come along now let’s have a sniff of it,
come along now let’s have a little bit moor…

 

As my new favourite beer shop in Yarnton Nurseries stocks a whole pile of exciting stuff, I find myself coming across loads of beers from brewer’s that I’ve been meaning to try for ages…

This one: Moor Beer: Hoppiness.  In a tin can.

Never fear the can.  If you do you’re a fool.  It’ll be fresher, not light struck and have more room for the artwork.  It also means that I don’t feel duty-bound to save yet another bottle.

We cleared out the shed on Tuesday.  I have three hundred or so empty bottles now.  Ulp!

From the can and into a glass Hoppiness is a nice colour and has a lovely sea-slick head.  Not vastly hoppy in the aroma, but solid enough for my liking – with bristly, prickly bits and some good old resinous dank.

Taste-wise, there’s a nice quenching bitterness, with a big old side order of hop and a non-intrusive warming alcohol.

I find that with English hoppy beers the hopping seems somehow more refined than the US Pales and IPAs; with the US beers seeming to be more “blaring” than the English ones; which I find on the whole to be more muted, but actually more complex and interesting for it…

The bitterness goes on throughout the swallow and is pervasive enough to make you want to crack open another can.

I liked it.

It’s not going to set your world aflame and send you running to tell all your friends about a new taste sensation, but it’ll satisfy and quench in more than equal measure…in fact it’s one of those few hoppy beers where you’ll be happy to have a fair few of…even if it’s 6.7%!

…and that’s the mark of very good beer indeed…

See here: http://moorbeer.co.uk/1472-2/

DunkelWeisse – The Maltiest of Wheat Beers

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I’m happy to say that wanting to brew is an itch that has returned to me in the last week or so….and you know what to do with a good itch, don’t you?

I must admit that since trying Weihenstephaner Dunkel Weisse and enjoying it enormously (review to follow at some point) I’ve been desperate to make a clone.

As per usual, the web was full of useful, unhelpful and downright bizarre advice – including one recipe for this dark WHEAT beer that had no wheat in the grain bill at all?  I know we’re not all Rheinehetsgebot puritans, but that’s plain mental…

Fortunately the BJCP were on hand to give me some hints and tips as regards the style and vaguely which ballpark I should be playing in: http://www.bjcp.org/docs/2015_Guidelines_Beer.pdf (the Dunkels Weizen section)

So I needed a fairly normal wheat, but this time with a solid malty backbone.  The colour seems to be pretty important too as it should be dark enough to distinguish it from the standard wheats.  Obviously if I was a braver, more resourceful and more time-rich brewer I’d be decocting the hell out of the wort – which would really make malts heavier and just that bit darker.

But as I’m none of those things right now, I aimed to make it right with some speciality malt additions:

Dunkel Weizen

That big old dose of Munich ought to help bring a more bready taste and aroma, with the CaraAroma really pushing the malt angle.  The Carafa II is just there to bring the colour on a bit, but as it’s a de-husked grain there’ll be no burnt astringency nastiness.

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I mashed as per my normal Braumeister/Brewmaster regime (see here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/11/05/no-name-hefeweizen-iii/)

I tasted a little as I got to near to the end of the boil and it was fantastically malty and very clean tasting.  I got 22L of 1053 OG wort into the fermenter, which was a bit off the mark, but it’s no biggie…

Hopefully, with the grain bill, mash and boil all going of well we should be in for a treat.

…that is, as long as the weather doesn’t go and ruin it.

England is currently basking – more like: flaked out, beaten-up and being partially desiccated – in some high summer temperatures.  Overnight it didn’t drop below 20c in my utility room, which meant that everyone’s favourite mentalist yeast – WLP300 – had started up within 6 hours of being pitched (no starter, so sue me.  I live on the edge, man.)

Outside it’s expected to hit 27C today (80ish F in old/US money) and that, with an already crazy exothermic ferment going on could see us going high enough to start chucking out harsh fusel alcohols…

However, old-school problems demand old school solutions: I wrapped an old sweatshirt around the carboy and made sure that it was light-tight, and then doused the whole thing in cold water.  I’ll be regularly damping down this week, I guess.  The evaporating water should help to cool the whole thing down a bit.  I Hope.

Tomorrow we might get to 30C…yikes.

…this now leaves me wishing two things:

One, that I’d gone and done a Saison instead.  I’d have just let the Saison do what it wanted.  30C?  Yeah, fill your boots, go crazy…create all the Saison character you like Mr Dupont Strain…

…and two, I’m blimmin’ glad I didn’t do anything involving a fairly standard ale yeast….