After some delays, I managed to work in a brew session yesterday to use both some recently dried and some vine-fresh hops. My mom and the two girls picked hops from the neighbors plant and dried them out so I could use them (I didn’t have any set time to brew yet). Then, Michelle suggested that I brew this past weekend, which was slightly delayed due to Michelle’s canning, visitors, and a trip out of town. But we got back late Sunday night and after helping Michelle get some tomatoes in to jars, I started setting up the tower of terror and heating the liquor tank. The brewing process was same as usual, but due to the volume of fresh and dried hops, I actually ran out of kettle-space for more and ended up not using some. So if you want about 1/4oz of dried Centennials…
One of the things I do while brewing is take stock of what’s missing from the setup and what needs replaced. I’ve been putting off making a counterflow wort chiller, but may have put it off too long. Just as I was starting up the immersion chiller, I heard a pop, then the sound of cold, unboiled water running in to my hot wort. NOOOOO! The heat weakened a connector on the chiller and a kink down-line caused the pressure to build up until that connecting hose failed. Better fix that.
Oh, and dry yeast sure has gone up in price. Best get another starter flask.
Ella and I harvested this year’s hop crop from the Centennial plant and I estimate the harvest was at least 5 times what it was last year. This is good news. I can’t find my scale, so I have no idea what the final weight was, but volume-wise, it was about half-a gallon. The cones came right off the plant, with a short pause to let some of the bugs out, and in to the kettle with about 5 minutes left in the boil. I don’t think the contribution will amount to much, but they’re in there. They’ll be competing agains 11oz of other hops (8 of Cascade, 3 Amarillo).
The Willamette plant didn’t do anything again. I think it’s coming up next year to make way for a producer.
Yesterday turned out to be a rather long brew day. I started just after 6am and didn’t finish until nearly 3pm. The addition of time came from having to pick and prep the hops, doing a 10 gallon batch, and from having to stop for lunch with Ella, which then required a trip to the grocery store to get some bread for our grilled cheese. All said, I think maybe 1.5 extra hours were added by the extra child-based side trips, 1/2 hour from the extra hop-related work, and maybe an extra 45 minutes because of the larger volume of beer.
All told, the process went rather smoothly, and I ended up with over 11 gallons of wort, using 35 ounces of fresh hops, 2.5 ounces of commercially grown summits for bittering, and 1 ounce of mystery hops that I got from a neighbor and dried on an old window screen in the garage. The original gravity turned up around 1.052, lower than initially planned, but I ended up with more volume than expected. No complaints though.
The prototype tier is still in use, and this time I set up a perimeter using patio chairs and a dog lead. I didn’t want any curious neighborhood person or scrap metal collector to try and mess with a precariously perched tier with 9 gallons of 180F water sitting 6 feet in the air.
A while back I had a conversation with Full Sail’s John Harris about Oktoberfest and Fresh Hop beers. He felt fresh hop beers were our true harvest festival beer, and I’m in agreement that they have become our de facto style and cause for celebration here in the Northwest. Hell, even brewers some distance from the hop fields are willing to air rush fresh hops to the brewery for a specialty beer. I look forward to sampling fresh hop beers every year (soon, soon…), but I don’t always get a chance to brew one myself.
This year, my hop crop is pitiful. The Willamettes never got down to business, and the Centennials are putting up a rather meager offering. Not to complain though, it’s only their first year. Luckily, my neighbor has a very mature plant that’s gone crazy. He’s given me the access to the cones, so this weekend I’m going to harvest and brew with them. At this point I don’t know the yield so I’m only putting together a grain bill, but I’ll be able to improvise with hops.
Here’s NoPoToberfest – my celebration of the hop harvest using North Portland’s residential bounty.
16 lbs domestic 2-row
2 lbs domestic wheat
2lbs crystal 20L
2.5 oz Summit @ 60min
1 oz dry unknown @ 20 min
35 oz wet unknown @ 7-5 min
Naturally, I used Safale S-05. OG was 1.052 and the two carboys are merrily bubbling along.