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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Speidel Brewmaster: First Brew (mishaps, gotchas and some solutions)

When my BM arrived on Friday, I couldn’t wait to get brewing.  Unfortunately what with everything going I did have to wait until Sunday evening…

Saturday evening did allow me a little play-time, where I tested the pumps and set up the mashing schedule program for the following evening.  After reading loads of conflicting suggestions I decided to go with the following (bear in mind that this is an American IPA style beer and I’m still getting my head around more than one available mash temperature!)

Dough-in at 38C
5 minutes protein rest at 53C
70 minutes Maltose rest at 66C
5 minutes Alpha Amylase rest at 73C
5 minutes Mash-out rest at 78C

 

I filled up the BM with 25 litres of filtered water, set the pre-programmed program going and waited.  I got some beeps after about ten minutes – meaning that the dough-in temperature of 38C had been reached.  So I stirred in my malt bill, locked down the malt pipe and screens with the retaining bar, put the lid on and left it to it.

(yeah, right…I actually spent a good half-an-hour watching the recirculating mash.  My wife got tired of it waaaaay before I did.)

Everything went swimmingly, the mash recirculated and I did some clearing up, and some other things that needed doing.  I remembered to weigh out the hops too.

20130901_212605Smashingly clear wort.  You can even see the filters through it

After the cycle was complete, more peeping alerted me to the fact that the BM wanted me to do something…and that something was remove the malt-pipe for the “sparge” (yes, I even remembered to separately get 8 litres of water up to 78C in the meantime…)

I undid the retaining bar, put the angled rod across the rim of the BM and lifted the pipe.  Hell, it was heavy – especially as, even though I’m a good 6’2″, it was quite a challenge to lift it up when it was on already on a kitchen worktop.

BM Error No. 1:  Have the BM on a lower surface.  It will make things easier to lift in future…but make sure that it’s still high enough to drain into a fermenter

Then, for some reason unknown to me, I decided to try and work out how much sparge water was required by lifting the malt-pipe and screens clear of the BM to see how much wort was in there.  BIG MISTAKE.  Holding a full malt-pipe (5Kg grain and probably 5 or 6 Kg of water) at the almost full extent to my arm’s reach while trying to relocate it (unsighted) back onto the central spindle of the BM is a fools game.

I had to call my wife away from whatever it was she was doing to put some lengths of wood across the BM rim to take the malt-pipe while I sparged – whilst watching some of the delightfully clear wort piss all over the kitchen floor and worktops

BM Error No. 2: Don’t lift the malt-pipe off of the central spindle until you want to remove it completely when you’ve finished sparging.  If you want to work out how much to sparge, think about the volume of water you put in and what you want your pre-boil volume to be, and then work it out based on that – bearing in mind that the volume loss to grain absorbtion is usually about 1 litre of water per kilo of grain.

So after that comedy caper, and lots of swearing, topping up with some filtered water, etc. I got a pre-boil volume of around 26 litres.  Once it got going, the boil went like a steam-train, I’m glad that I got the insulating jacket as that must have helped it crank along so well.

20130901_222457Lovely boil.  Note the central spindle that I had trouble with

I added a total of 125grams of hops in stages throughout the boil and they all surged about nicely and everything smelt lovely.

My wort chiller fitted perfectly into the BM and I even managed to remember the Irish Moss ten minutes before the end.  At boil end I took the thermal jacket off and set the chiller to work…

After a fair while (I wasn’t running the pump with that many hops in there – no chance – that would have been asking for a blockage) it was time for the run-off.

BM Error No. 3:  Don’t use the supplied tap.  It’s just too weeny to be any bloody use to anyone.  After standing there for bloody ages while it blocked up with hops and tiddled wort about like a potty-training toddler, I ended up spraying the tap with star san and physically unscrewing it and letting the wort run off through a sanitized sieve and funnel combination.

So far as I understand it’s a 3/4″ BSP female socket where the tap screws into on the BM, so I’ve just been onto the BES website and am ordering:

16830: 3/4″ Stainless Steel one-piece ball valve £8.70
14409: 3/4″ Stainless Steel Hexagon Nipple £1.91
14559: 3/4″ Stainless Steel Hose Tail Adapter £3.13

 

That should be a much better tap solution than the current BM standard item.  I will also fashion a hop filter of some sort too.

I did have to do a little careful tipping of the BM to get the last of the wort out, but in the end I got a fairly healthy 20 Litres of 1059 IPA into the fermenter.  I would have liked more – and the BM is certainly capable of providing more, but for a first shot I’m fairly happy.

Given the amount of wort I spilt/didn’t sparge properly/lost to hops and trub and the fact that it was only a 5Kg grain bill I could have done 23 litres at 1059 or higher with no problems…the efficiency on the BM is that magnificent and there’s still plenty of room in that malt-pipe!

Recipe details to follow in a separate post…

BES (Pipe Fittings): http://www.bes.co.uk

BM Suppliers Extraordinaire: http://www.vigoltd.com

Dry Hopping vs. Keg Hopping

hoplovers

Should be good for a 5 gallon brew
(Is there no end to these people’s hop lust?  Someone must stop them*)
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The old dry hopping thing is a bit of a nightmare, isn’t it?  Should you dry hop in the primary?  Or transfer the beer to a secondary, so it’s off the trub and dry hop there?  Should the beer be clear before you dry hop?  Does it even matter?  Does it ruin the clarity?

I must confess that clarity in the finished beer seems to be my biggest problem…all my beers seem to take weeks to clear.  Admittedly this is probably due to the extraordinary amount of dry-hopping I do, but I suspect that also having nowhere to crash-cool after fermentation always tends to leave some yeast floating about.

For the Chimarillo IPA that’s currently on the go (https://yeastismybitch.com/2013/06/20/home-brewed-chinarillo-ipa/) I just dry-hopped in the primary and bunged it in a cornelius keg when it had finished fermenting…my next beer, though, I’m hoping will be dry-hopped in a subtley different way…

The plan is to ferment right out in the primary (at least until it hits 1010 or lower) which will probably take about 5 days – then it can go into a glass carboy secondary with some dissolved and bloomed gelatine for another 5 or so days – the gelatine should fine the beer to a brilliant clarity (he hopes)

After that I’ll rack it into the cornelius keg with a sterilized mesh bag containing the dry hop dose…

Now, keg hopping is not a new concept…think of those barrels of IPA going across the seas to the colonies all that time ago, but I have heard it said that keg-hopping can sometimes lead to a grassy, overly-vegetal note in the flavour of the finished beer because the hops remain in contact with the beer for too long.

I intend to limit any grassiness by attaching the mesh bag full of hops  to the very top of the dip tube in the cornelius keg – meaning that the beer will get dry hopped during the time it takes to drink the first quarter or so of the keg, after which the level of beer will drop below the hop bag, thus avoiding the potential over-exposure problem.

Have you had any success with keg hopping?, have you any tips and tricks that you’d like to share with us all?

 (* I “borrowed” this picture.  If it’s yours and you want me to take it down I will.  If it’s you in the picture, write to me and tell me -graphically- what sort of kick you get out of handling that quantity of hops.  It’s must be like fifty shades of grey green…filthy)

Woods: Hopping Mad

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Despite the slightly goofy label design, this is not a bad beer at all…but as an opportunity to showcase a single hop it does miss a trick.

A slightly sulphurous nose (from “burtonised” water, maybe?) is tinged with a suggestion of the Progress hops that this single hop variety beer is brewed with.

With the first taste there’s a good solid juicy dark (crystal?) malt flavour and mouth feel. The hops make their presence felt but really do struggle against the weight of all of the dark malt.  The earthiness of the progress hop character comes through, but any floral character is lost.

A pleasing, mouth-watering bitterness persists for a good long while and even though the malt plays along nicely beside, the sheer weight of it manages to contribute to a caramelly, almost burnt sugar note in the after taste…which is really not unpleasant, just a bit of a shame – as the use of lighter coloured malts would really help the hops to sing…as a true single hop beer should.

It’s not very complex as beers go, but it’s a nice drop.

Saying all, that it’s an interesting and very drinkable beer so it’s worth picking up a bottle or two if you see it on sale.

I got mine from the co-op in Woodstock for £1.80

http://www.woodbrewery.co.uk/beer/hopping-mad-2

Brewdog: Dead Pony Club

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Brewdog don’t muck about, do they?  We all know they’re past masters of the humulone cone and the harnessing of it’s magic, but with this Jekyll and Hyde beer they’ve woven an extra-weird spell and left me with a bit of a conundrum…

Crack the top off of the bottle to be assailed by possibly the best and strongest aroma from a beer you’ll ever come across: lychee, kiwi fruit, gooseberry, bitter lemon zest. Beautiful.  How they manage to get this much aroma into a beer is beyond me. If you’re a home brewer, your only goal in life is to get this much aroma into one of your beers.  It’s staggering.  As I write this the glass is 18 to 24 inches away from me and I can still clearly smell it!

(Hours later I had a little bit repeat on me, and IT STILL TASTED AND SMELT OF THIS HOP AROMA!)

All I can suggest is that aroma this big must involve some extraordinary hop rocket technology and literally dustbins full of dry hops.

As you lift the glass to your mouth and admire the old gold yellow, your nostrils are assaulted once again by this wonderful aroma…meaning that the taste has quite a hard act to follow…which it manages to…sort of…but not in any way, shape or form that you’d expect.

First of all there’s a taste of nothing, just a sort of seltzery mouth-feel and a short pregnant pause while your brain says: “come on then, where is it?” (I guess this is the space that a higher dose of alcohol and bigger malt bill would fill?)

Then all at once, your tongue is enveloped by a full-on bitterness that seems to touch every taste bud.  This just goes on and on until, after another short while, the hops sort of sidle in and throw a huge blanket of dankness across your palate: think ferns in pine forests, odd echoes of pale summer fruit and an extraordinary accompanying dryness; which I believe is due to a fine mix of carefully chosen hops and a strain of ale yeast (Californian, I’m guessing by the style?, it’s certainly not like any of the other Brewdog yeasts I’ve picked up on)

During all this, the bitterness is still running headlong hand in hand with that dryness…even the aftertaste persists as dry, dank and unusually long-lasting.

I’m not really sure what to make of this beer; on the one hand it’s a tour de force in hopping, but on the other hand it all seems a bit out of whack…you know almost coquettish? One sniff and it’s all like: “oh yeah I’m all juicy fruits and hops like a craft IPA“, then you taste it and it’s a completely different kettle of fish; instead of the expected IPA hoppiness you get serious dry dankness.

All I can say is get a bottle and see what you think.  I’m so firmly on the fence I simply couldn’t say…all this mystery, complexity and frankly, weirdness, in a 3.8% beer is quite beyond my ken.

It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s more that I don’t think I understand it.  Save one for those days when you need a beer you have to think about…I’m sure the Brewdog folks understand it perfectly, though…

I got my bottle from Sainsbury’s (again) but, you know, every little helps…oh, hold on.  That’s the other one, isn’t it?  It was £1.80 a pop which, I suppose, is reasonable.

http://www.brewdog.com/beer/dead-pony-club