Yesterday Ella and I cleared some ivy off the south fence and turned some compost in to the soil before plating two rhizomes. I’ve grown hops in the past, but when we moved to NoPo, someone stole the 1/4 barrel keg I was growing them in, and I’ve not planted since.
We picked up our rhizomes from Portland Nursery, who sells around 8 potted varieties for $7 each. A little pricier than getting them from someplace like Freshops, but we were in the neighborhood and I love Portland Nursery. I got my first Nugget rhizome there a few years ago, but this year they have a wider selection of hops. I went with a Willamette (to stave off a shortage), and a Centennial. Ella picked Centennial over Cascade, but wasn’t to interested in learning the potential uses or characteristics and wanted to get back to putting gravel in the bird bath. (I cleaned it out, don’t worry)
Anyway, I hold high hopes for the plants. I love brewing fresh hop beers and will have two options this September.
I received word from the Hop Growers of America Conference that ABI (Anhuesher-Busch InBev) is going to stop using whole hops in their product and start using extracts. Additionally, they are going to stop using Willamettes, something they have spent the last year and a half touting on billboards in our region. This could have some major ramifications for local growers (who are being paid not to grow the varietal) as there are some limitations on what can be grown here because of susceptibility to downy mildews (guess what, it’s wet here.)
At the risk of sounding jaded, I wonder how many other long standing traditions AB will change now that they kowtow to an even larger number of shareholders. Will they stop using clydesdales and start using goats to save on stable an feed costs? It’s unlikely they’ll change anything related to marketing, since that is all their beers are. I shouldn’t care if they use hop oil extracts and pellets if the beer is the same, but they have claimed the opposite for so long.
I’m going to predict the rise of Bravo hops. It’s a high yield, high alpha varietal that has good downy resistance. Sure, we’ve already got a lot of Nugget being grown here, but Bravo has a higher alpha potential and a higher yield. We’ll just have to see what restrictions have been placed on growers this year.
I tapped the keg of MadelIPA last night and I’m pleased to report that it f*@%ing rocks. I made a few changes, including dry hopping the keg with 2 ounces of Santiam hops. It added a nice mellow but citrusy and very complimentary throat to the beer. Given it’s significant bittering, it’s a welcome addition. The 134 IBU aren’t apparent now, unlike the painful bitterness that existed when I sampled between primary and secondary fermentation, but it’s still a bitter beer.
My “inside guy” has again procured a bundle of hops for me as a Christmas present. This year’s bundle includes some varieties I’ve not used before as well, so I’ll be doing some reading to figure out what each is suited for. Here’s the haul, and a few notes from both the Hop Union Variety Databook, and for my own use.
Believe it or not, I will refer to this post over and over for alpha acid and variety notes throughout the year. It’s not just to gloat.
- Newport 11.2% alpha – Bittering hop similar to Galena and Nugget. Good base for ales.
- Nugget 14.4% alpha – High-alpha bittering hop with grassy, herbal aroma. Good base for ales.
- US Perle 7.5% – Dual purpose aromatic and bittering. Used in German-style brews, both ales and lagers.
- Crystal 4.3% – Very aromatic Hallertau relative. Wonderful smells. Great for Continental brews.
- Brewers Gold 9.3% – a spicy bittering hop.
- Vanguard 5.0% – Similar to Hallertau, good for German beers, both ales and lagers.
- Cascade 7.8% – Duh…Citrusy and floral aromatic. Taste of the NW.
- Palisades 8.0% – Still undecided. Seem to be more of a bittering hop than an aroma. Not the most pleasant aroma, so don’t use for single hopped beers.
- US Goldings 4.9% – US relative of Kent Golding, a versatile aromatic hop used in everything from bitters to stouts.
- Millennium 15.9% – high alpha relative of Nugget with similar aroma.
Thanks to my “connections”, I’m now stocked up on hops for the year and beyond. I’m about to vacuum seal, but the varieties are somewhat astounding and most of which I’ve never used before save for Nugget, Amarillo, Palisades and Santiam. Naturally, I’m quite excited to be stocked in a year of otherwise limited selection and high prices, but there are two specific varieties that I’m itching to get into a beer.
Amarillo is one of my favorites, and I’m going to have to brew another Amarillo Red. The meaty citrus flavor is just wonderful and filling in all the right ways for a hop-lover’s palate. Summit, a new variety, was highlighted in one of my favorite beers of 2007: Widmer’s W’ 07 pale ale. Right now I’m trying to get some tips for recreating the robust pale.
Some of the varieties I need to do my homework on because I’m not sure what they “do” yet. I’ll probalby have to enlist some help and do some fancy batch-splitting to try out the hops in identical smaller batches.
Anyway, here’s the rundown:
- Amarillo (~ 10% alpha)
- Apollo (~ 20% alpha)
- Bravo (~ 15% alpha)
- Glacier (~ 5% alpha)
- Nugget (~ 13% alpha)
- Palisades (~ 8% alpha)
- Santiam (4.8 % alpha)
- Summit (~18% alpha)
Vacuum-sealing is fun, but takes some time. I usually end up cutting the bricks with one of my wife’s nicest knives, but towards the end, it was having some serious problems cutting. One look at the blade and it was clear why: The blade was thick with hop resin.