Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Hops of the 2009 Harvest

This past Sunday, I hand plucked about 10% of the hops off the lower portion of the bines from my Fuggles hill. These were the oldest and most ripe hops, having set the spurs in early June. They were feeling papery, and the tips of the petals were beginning the brown. These were certainly the runts of the bunch, and I'm thinking the incredibly cool, rainy and cloudy June and July we had here in Boston contributed to the scrawny first harvest. The remaining hops at the top of the bines are easily 2-4 times larger and more robust looking than the ones picked in this first harvest. Nevertheless, I proceeded, figuring that I'd gain some drying experience, including some expectation of what the yield will be, comparing the wet + dry weight.

Pre-drying weight, I had ~10ounces of wet hops, and after 2 days drying, this was reduced 2.55 oz. I set up the hops in a perforated metal basket that came with my 7.5 gallon stainless turkey fryer, and put a small fan underneath to keep good airflow. This rig was set in the bedroom that has constant A/C going, so a very low humidity level. During the drying period, the smell was more green, vegetal, and chlorophyll-y. Maybe a touch of subtle hop aroma hanging in the background. Definitely disappointing, but I'm still hopefully that the cones left on the bines will be of better quality.

And if worse comes to worse, maybe I can just use these definitely low AA% and low aroma hops in a sour, or maybe an experimental hop tea with a coffee press for an attempt at a post fermentation hop addition.

There is definitely some bitterness, aroma and flavor there, as after I packed the hops, there was what appeared to be quite similar to an early June white pine tree and oak like pollen crust on the inside of the stainless bowl. Not pollen, as these are female flowers...these are lupulin granules. When I brushed this yellow dusting with my finger, the granules smeared like a dry, but oil filled dust. I dared to taste it, and ...yep, there's a little bit of bitterness, as pathetically un-obtrusive as it should be, having rubbed pure lupulin on my tongue (even if it isn't isomerized).

I stuffed them in to a gallon ziplock bag after weighing, amazed at how much volume a mere 2.5oz takes up before compression or pelletizing. I zipped the seal about 95% closed, then pressed air out slowly, then rolled the bag out to squeeze just as much air out of the bag as I possibly could.

So, it was still fun to pick my own (pitiful) hops, and hope for better things. If nothing else, I can certainly take solace in the fact that I know that in the future I'll get a really good yield from this hill, and the other 1 year old hills that are building root systems this season. And maybe I turned someone on to the homebrewing culture, after answering questions multiple times , after passers-by were halted in their tracks at the Fenway Victory Garden, aroused by the curiousity of the odd looking climbing vines...er, bines


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