Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BrewHome Depot trip

I used some comp time today, duly earned from a weekend business trip to Brazil, for a trip to Home Depot. For a homebrewer, there are aisles and aisles of great stuff to be repurposed for homebrewing. Ok, well, mostly its in the plumbing aisle, but my original intent was to get some galvanized pipe to make some hops trellises for my burgeoning plants.

Given advice from this post on BA and after talking with my pop, I went with a ten foot section 3/4 inch galvanized pipe (~$17), a 30inch section (~$7), and a coupler ($3). I also got some 7/8-1 1/4 inch stainless clamps to afix three coir hop twines to the top of the post. I bought a heavy (5lb) mallet, which I used to pound the 30inch section in to the ground. I used a scrap piece of 4x4 that was lying around next to the trash area to prevent damage to the threads (lots of projects in the gardens yields a reliable source of scrap wood). I was able to drive it almost all the way in to the ground, then twisted on the coupler, then the 10 foot pole. Huh. its pretty stable. Cool. Hopefully it'll still feel stable when the twine is loaded with hops and the eventual summer thunderstoms hit.

I tied the three twine lengths to the fence where the hops were already climbing (and looking for more) and wrapped the sun seeking bines around them.

Well, that was pretty easy, fast, and not too expensive. I think if I had to set up a structure that could support multiple hills, I'd likely employ 15ft 4x4 pressure treated posts and run a wire across the top from which to drop twine (which would be more economical on a per plant basis) similar to what you see commecially, but for a single hill, I think this "trellis" will work very well.
Oh, and I got a 10 gallon rubbermaid cooler for $38, quite a bit cheaper (almost half) than what you see the LHBS and online shops selling them for. Looks like the next Home Depot project will be to get some copper tubing for my new mash tun.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hop growing update

my hops continue to grow like...well, hops. I promised you some pictures, and here they are.
Snapped a couple today, while I was out for a run. Primary purpose was actually to take some pictures of the intersetion where a woman who was in a right hand lane turn only didn't right hand turn. She straight-no-hand turned right in to the middle of my car. Got a call from the insurance company the other day, expecting them to say that they are closing the case...nope, I was told she/her insurance is claiming equivalent fault, and wants my insurance company to cover the THIRTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS of damage to her car.

really? 13grand for a fender bender? that kinda sounds, oh, I don't know...illegal.

ok, that's enough, hopefully it'll work out for me.

here's my garden plot at fenway victory gardens...now contains mostly perennials, some herbs, and few flowering shrubs. Oh, and I stuck some potato plants in there this year. first go at growing potato plants. pretty easy so far.

This is the Sterling plant. not quite as vigorous as the Fuggle, but still growing tons. According to Freshops, this is the Sterling desciption:
Saaz Hybrid, suitable for replacing Saaz hops in brewery blends. Much higher yield potential than Saaz hops. aroma and oil composition very similar to Saaz. Alpha Acid 6-9% . Very good yield

Closeup of the Fuggle bines/leaves (click on it!).

...and the base of the Fuggles. I need to get a support structure set up in the plot yesterday.
Here's the description:
Originally developed in the UK in both Kent and Sussex counties. Traditional aroma hop, mild and spicy aroma, alpha 4.0-5.5%.

Belgian Honey Wit-The First of 3 Wedding Beers

The first wedding beer was brewed on Sunday, 18May2009. Right on schedule!

This style is among Esther's favorites, so she didn't even hesitate when I asked her opinion on which styles she'd like for me include in the selection for our day. I'll get around to uploading the recipe, but for now I'll leave you with some pictures from the day.

I went with the same yeast I used in the original brew, Wyeast Witbier 3944. Here's a pic of the DME+water heating up on the stove. I stepped it up twice to make sure I had an adequate healthy starter to brew the 10 gallons of wort, which is officially the largest single batch I've made at one time. I actually can't believe that I was able to do this on my electric stovetop!

Here's a quick pic of some of what will give this beer its subtley spicey character (aside from the yeast, of course). 4lbs of Boston area raw/unfiltered honey, coriander, grains of paradise, sweet orange zest, and mt. hood + organic hallertauer whole hops.

I used flaked wheat, and made sure it was well gelatinized before adding it to the mash. When it came time to lauter, I had a super slo-mo thing going on. my sparge water probably wasn't hot enough, and the mash was too viscous. I just kept adding more sparge water and stirring stirring stirring, until it finally started to flow. Probably added about an hour to my brew day. I think I really need to upgrade to a 10gallon cooler for my mash tun...the 7.5 gallon stainless didn't allow enough room, especially for such a viscous wort.

My sister Elise and her boyfriend Drew made an appearance on brew day. Drew brought a freshly baked loaf of fantastic flax and wheat bread...went perfectly with the scrambled eggs (goat cheese, parmesan, onion, garlic, tomato) and applewood smoked Niman Ranch bacon. I practiced portion control by only making 7 strips. I could have easily eated a 1/2 lb of the stuff on my own...

The breakfast got Elise feeling extra energetic, and got her wondering how well her new(ish) weight training routine has been pumping up her guns.

Well, darnit...they are getting seriously gunned up. See:?

The boil went pretty well, and the spice additions made this wort smell fantastic. I cooled it down with my wimpy 25ft copper immersion cooler, aerated and am using the 50liter reactor for primary. I had collected about 2 gallons of the last runnings in a seperate kettle which I cooled to ~170, then added the 4lbs of honey, held it for about 10 minutes to de-bug it. Such a huge difference from typical grocery store honey. Amazingly complex and fragrant.

I filled the big reactor in place in the spare bathroom tub. I don't think I would have carried it (safely) after it was filled up.

I was woken up the next AM at 5 by the sound of someone blowing their nose.


I thought Elise went home yesterday afternoon?


There it is again. Huh. weird.

Wait, Elise did go home. I brewed beer yesterday. Eyes popped open, went in to check on the beer. The krausen had reached the top of the reactor. The krausen started to clog the threads of the caps with yeast. The pressure would build, and was slowly releasing C02 once the pressure build up enough to clear the yeasty build up.

I unscrewed the top cap, and...

Almost had another beerxplosion, or possibly worse. jeeez, will a guy ever learn?

cleaned it up, put some foil over the top and went back to bed. The water in the tub has kept the strip thermometer reading at a good 66-68, which probably means something closer to 72ish for an internal temperature.

Goldilocks (just right)

She's still swirling away with a big foamy krausen now, 3+ days from pitching. Hopefully Esther will enjoy this beer just as much, if not more than the original.

Type: All Grain
Date: 5/17/2009
Batch Size: 10.00 gal
Brewer: JC

14 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 62.22 %
2 lbs Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 8.89 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 6.67 %
1 lbs Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 4.44 %
1.00 oz Hallertauer, New Zealand [7.00 %] (60 min) Hops 11.8 IBU
1.00 oz Mt. Hood [5.10 %] (10 min) Hops 3.5 IBU
1.00 oz Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
2.00 gm Grains of Paradise (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
15.00 gm Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
4 lbs Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 17.78 %
1 Pkgs Belgian Witbier (Wyeast Labs #3944) Yeast-Wheat

Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.061 SG
Measured Original Gravity: 1.064 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
Measured Final Gravity:
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.94 %
Actual Alcohol by Vol:
Bitterness: 15.2 IBU
Calories: 282 cal/pint
Est Color: 5.5 SRM

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hopsplosive growth

After planing the new rhizomes a few weeks ago, I have failed to return to water, weed and otherwise dote over the fledging hills. Finally went back this past Monday, to find that they are all settling in to their new homes just fine. I'm sure there's a flurry of activity going on underneath the rich soil. They all are putting on nice new growth, primarily at the internodes vs. continuing to extend longitudinally. There looks to be some sun burn type of response on the tender first leaves, but thicker hardier looking growth. Sorry to not have pictures, but next time I go visit, I'll be sure to snap a few. But the take home message is that they have not only survived, but they are actually growing and we are still only mid-May, so I'm already ahead of where I was last year with the Fuggles and Sterling.

And this is where the real story is...these 2nd year hops have put out hopsplosive (if you will allow me the use of a hybridized adverb) growth since my last visit. The Fuggles hill, in particular, has gone on a photosynthesizing spree of enormous proportions. It had actually started to overwhelm the nearby pine tree, elm hedge and flowering almond shrub. I pruned back all but 7 or so bines, the longest of which have probably reached out 8-10 feet and were actively looking for more support, which I'll have to provide very soon if I want to have a good length of hops bines wholly intact for a beer inspired arrangement at the wedding. I won't be able to unwind from the wire fence if I use that as the primary support, so I need to relatively quickly get a sufficiently tall post or two up with an eye hook + coir twine installed before things totally spin out of control.
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