Sunday, January 3, 2016

Brewing With Our Own Hops

This is a belated post about brewing with our own hops. I started this post in September 2015, but never quite finished it. Here it is finally done... 

Hop vines have been a part of the garden for about 4-5 years. The first ones were planted against the shed/workshop and then another vine is in the back of the kitchen garden, behind the garden bench. The rhizomes came from friends and we think that both are Cascade hops. Brian is a homebrewer, however he had never brewed with our hops before.

Every year we talk about how the hops should be tied up to grow vertically. We finally had done that this spring. The hops LOVED it and really went to town. We had a plethora of hops, at least on the vines against the shed. Brian decided this was the year to brew with them and made a wet-hopped Harvest Ale.

(Most hops used in brewing are dried, either whole cones or compressed into pellets. Wet-hopping refers to using fresh hops right off of the vines, preferably at their peak of freshness.)

Hops are sometimes grown just as ornamental vines. They start out as tendrils sprouting from the rhizomes, then grow quickly, produce lovely cones, then die back in the fall. You can cut the vines in late fall or early spring and they will sprout again in spring.

Now, don’t be thinking this will be a blog post about how to brew beer, because I’m not the homebrewer. But I can give you a general idea of what we did. This is also probably a good time to mention that I can’t actually drink beer! I have celiac disease and am on a life-long, gluten-free diet. However, Brian brews with something called Clarity Ferm, which strips out the gluten to below 20 parts per million, which is what is considered safe for those on gluten-free diets. Clarity Ferm is still controversial in celiac communities and my own nutritionist is even apprehensive about it, but I have had no issues drinking small amounts of gluten-reduced beer from time to time.

The first thing that Brian does when brewing is a yeast starter. There is a magnet inside the liquid and it spins around stirring the liquid. Those bits are yeast particles spinning around.

My part in the brewing process was to gather the hops. That required getting out the ladder and plucking off hop cones. (I promised myself I would never have photos of me on this blog, but Brian took some photos that I am in, so I am doing my best to crop myself out!)

Some of the hop cones were small and some were pretty large.

The next thing that I did was to weigh the hops. Brian wanted about one pound of hop cones, and we ended up with a little less than thirteen ounces.

Brian is showing the interior of a hop cone here.

My final contribution to the brewing process was to stuff the hops into two mesh bags, about 6 oz. each.

Brian brews in the shed (well, we often call it a shed, but it is more like a workshop with a loft). He keeps the door open while brewing for ventilation. This photo shows his brewing rig.

The recipe and some of Brian’s mad-scientist brewing stuff.

 At the end of the brewing process, Brian added the mesh bags of hops to the boil.

The thing about brewing beer is you can’t drink it right away. It has to ferment. The Harvest Ale fermented about 4 weeks. I can honestly say, the finished product is delicious. An excellent beer. And it tastes even better if you’re drinking it in the garden!

Brian is talking about doing a dry-hopped beer with our hops next year. Something to look forward to!

This is the recipe that Brian used for the wet-hopped Harvest Ale:

Wet Hop Ale 2015 
8-B American Pale Ale (BJCP 2015 Guidelines)

Size: 5.25 gal
Efficiency: 73.5%
Attenuation: 80%
Calories: 221.92 kcal per 16.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 12.49°P / 1.050
Terminal Gravity: 2.58°P / 1.010
Color: 11.63 SRM
Alcohol: 5.29% ABV
Bitterness: 47.3 (Tinseth)

82.5% Pale Ale (8.7 lb)**
9.5% Rye Malt (1 lb)**
6.8% Vienna Malt (11.5 oz.)**
2 oz Roasted Barley (added @ vorlauf for color only)
.5 oz Centennial (9.3%) @ 60m
.5 oz Chinook (13.1%) @ 60 m
1 tsp Wyeast Nutrient @ 10 m
1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) @ 10 m
1 ea Servomyces @ 10 m
6.25 oz Cascade WET HOPS (1%) @ 5 m
6.25 oz Cascade WET HOPS (1%) @ 0 m (flameout)

Clarity-Ferm (10ml) - added dry to primary fermenter
White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

Single-infusion mash @ 149ºF

Ca 120 ppm
Mg 3 ppm
Na 8 ppm
SO4 239.2 ppm
Cl 52 ppm
HCO3 19 ppm
SO4/Cl Ratio 5.6
Target Mash pH: 5.4

2L starter / target 185 billion cells
202g DME

Pitch: 65ºF (probe ON fermenter)
Day 5: 75ºF (probe OFF fermenter)
Day 10: 40ºF
Day 12+: fine w/ gelatin (beer must be < 50ºF)
Day 16+: rack

** The amounts in parenthesis are the amounts Brian used, based on his mashtun efficiency (73.5). He says that you can use the percentages and OG to scale the recipe to your specific brewing system.

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