Home Grown Hops

>> Monday, February 21, 2011

Springtime is almost here so it's time to start thinking about hops. I've been growing my own hops for a couple years now. They've done well but I have run into a couple issues. I bought some rhizomes from my LHBS as well as from Freshops.com. My plan was to plant the hops in a "temporary" location until I was able to find the time to build a trellis. Well, almost four years and one finished basement later and they're still in their "temporary" location.

The primary problem is they're planted in fairly close proximity to each other so the bines get intertwined making it difficult to harvest the varieties separately. Right now my freezer is full of mixed hops that I'll probably end up using in some kind of mongrel brew. This year I'm going to finally build my trellis and replant the hops in permanent locations.

The other issue is I didn't do a whole lot of planning when I selected my current varieties. I would have been better off focusing on flavor/aroma varieties, but I ended up with a few that are primarily known for bittering (e.g. Brewer's Gold, Nugget). I also didn't do much analysis as to which hops I tend to use most often. I knew I really liked Cascade and Centennial and had several recipes that called for them, but the others were kind of shots in the dark.

Current Varieties: The following is a list of the varieties I've had in the ground for the past three years.
  • Brewer's Gold - Bittering hop with neutral aroma character. Grows well in all climates. 8-10%
  • Cascade - Pleasant, flowery, spicy, and citrusy. Can have a grapefruit flavor. Grows well in all climates. 5-6%
  • Centennial - Medium with floral and citrus tones. Grows well in all climates. 8-10%
  • Liberty - Mild and clean aroma, slightly spicy character. Does better in mild climates but can grow in hot climates. 3 - 5%
  • Nugget - Quite heavy and herbal. Grows well in all climates. 12-15%
Planned Varieties: I've been reviewing my recipes for the hops I use most often. Based on the number of my recipes they appear in, here are my top 10 hops: Goldings, East Kent (22), Cascade (17), Hallertauer (12), Northern Brewer (12), Columbus (10), Williamette (10), Centennial (9), Fuggle (8), Tettnang (8). I already have Cascade and Centennial so I can eliminate them from my wish list. Hallertauer doesn't do so well in hot dry climates, so I'll skip that one. Ditto for Fuggle. Pending availability, I'm planning on adding the following varieties this year:
  • Chinook - Mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity. While it's often used for bittering, it does have a nice flavor/aroma profile and does well in hot dry climates.
  • Golding - Mild, extremely pleasant, and gently hoppy. I brew with lots of East Kent Golding hops, so I'd love to give this one a try. Prefers cooler climates but does ok in hot climates.
  • Mt. Hood - Mild, pleasant, and clean, somewhat pungent and resiny. Derived from Hallertau but unlike Hallertau it does well in all climates.
  • Williamette - Mild and pleasant, slightly spicy, fruity, floral, a little earthy. Similar to Fuggle but tolerates warmer drier climates better than Fuggle.
So this is my rhizome wish list for this year. These four varieties are fairly common so I'm crossing my fingers they'll all be available. I've noticed a couple online suppliers have started selling or are taking pre-orders. I'm gambling in the hopes that Freshops.com has all these varieties available this year, preferably in the "jumbo" size. Based on personal experience, they often produce hops the first year whereas regular sized rhizomes tend to take at least a year to get established, so I prefer the jumbos.

If you're new to hop growing here's a few things to keep in mind.
  • Use homegrown hops for flavor and aroma additions. These will be the most useful for brewing since alpha acid content varies year to year. There is no easy way to determine alpha acid content, so buy you bittering hops at the LHBS and grow your flavor/aroma hops.
  • Pick a variety that will grow in your area. If you live in a hot dry climate, don't pick a variety that prefers cool moist climates. It may grow but probably won't produce any cones.
  • Pick varieties that you use most often in your favorite recipes and styles.
  • Don't over-water the rhizomes as this can result in rot.
  • Do watch for pests and signs of fungal infection. If you have to treat them be sure to use treatments that are brewing-safe.
  • Do provide a sturdy support for them to grow on. My temporary support is made out of PVC irrigation pipe. It's ok in a pinch, but it has severely warped after a couple seasons and has had a hard time supporting the weight of the bines. Plus my wife hates the way it looks.
  • I thought it was worth mentioning that hops are toxic to dogs. Use caution especially if you have a dog that likes to chew on plants as they can be deadly. Fortunately, my dogs have never shown any interest in my hops; I wish I could say the same for my peach tree. I think spent hops would be more attractive to dogs since they've been flavored/saturated with malt sugars. Bottom line, if you have dogs, use common sense.
Update 3/5/2011: Freshops.com is now taking orders!!!


Arrogant Bastard Clone

>> Friday, February 11, 2011

This weekend I'm brewing the Arrogant Bastard Clone from The Jamil Show. This is the re-brew recipe that the hosts agreed was very close if not identical to the commercial version.

This is a pretty popular brew among beer enthusiasts and clone recipes are highly sought after by homebrewers; just search some message boards and you'll see tons of requests and attempts at brewing this beer. I've seen a couple recipes where it looks like brewers are throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. That's one of the reasons why this one is so surprising; because it is so simple...it seems too simple.

For this brew I made a 1.6 liter yeast starter on my DIY stir plate. I'm using a 70 minute mash at 148 F. The boil is a 90 minute boil. This recipe utilizes quite a few hops so I'm mixing in some RO water. This isn't something I normally do, but Utah has very hard water and I want to avoid overly sharp bitterness that can happen when pairing lots of hops with water that has high mineral content. I'm shooting for about 30% RO water and 70% carbon filtered tap water. Speaking of water, I'm going with a water to grain ratio of 1.3 quarts per pound. This helps ensure my mash isn't too thick so I'm able to recirculate. This also puts me at max on my Hot Liquor Tun as it's capacity is right at five gallons and I need 20.67 quarts for my strike water.

The recipe is as follows:

14.30 lb Rahr Pale Malt
1.60 lb Special B Malt
0.85 oz Chinook [13.00 %] (85 min)
0.85 oz Chinook [13.00 %] (45 min)
0.85 oz Chinook [13.00 %] (15 min)
0.85 oz Chinook [13.00 %] (0 min)
1 Pkgs Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)

Brewing Notes:
I believe Tasty's SG was 1.077. Utah is very dry so I always tend to have a lot of evaporation. Most my boils are 60 minutes so the 90 minute boil had even more evaporation than normal. I ended up topping with some water to bring the volume up. Before topping off, the refractometer read 22.6 brix (SG 1.095). After topping off my refractometer read 20.8 brix for a specific gravity of 1.087. I forgot to mention, I also added one Whirfloc tablet and 1/2 teaspoon of Wyeast Yeast nutrient.

Fermentation Notes: This has been an extremely active fermentation. My youngest daughter came upstairs last night (2/13/2011) and told me "Daddy, there are bubbles coming out of your beer." I went to check on it and the airlock was plugged and foam was pushing out around the lid seal. I pulled the airlock and a few seconds later a little plug of hops shot out of the drilled stopper and splashed against the ceiling. Ahhh, good times. I swapped out the airlock for a blowoff tube running into a mason jar filled with sanitizer. I checked it this morning and the mason jar was overflowing with foam. Given the low mash temperature, I figured this would be a highly fermentable beer, but it still caught me by surprise.

Tasting Notes:  I wasn't able to do a side by side because AB isn't sold in Utah, but this pours and tastes exactly as I remember AB.  This is a very tasty beer that will be part of my regular rotation.  It's also very drinkable considering the high ABV.  It has a very nice malt profile and is very balanced with the hops.  I'd rate this beer an A+