Monday, November 19, 2012

Epic Failure 2

My second attempt at brewing a J.R.R. Tolkienish old world ale was as disastrous as the first attempt back in January 2011.  Both were named Northfarthing.  Both brews went well but both were a dismal disappointment at tasting.  Both had to be dumped down the drain.
The first one had a wild yeast infection and turned into thin tasting gushers.  This one I think went bad because of a bad batch of reused yeast.  As a result I've decided to not wash yeast anymore.  Washing yeast may save about $6 per batch but considering the increased chance of infection and how expensive (and disappointing) a ruined batch of beer is, I think it's not worth it.
Not that I'm superstitious but if I try again to make a Middle Earth ale I won't use the name "Northfarthing"!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Storing fresh hops

After the hops are harvested two things need to be done:  drying them and storing them.
I'd heard about the simple process of laying the fresh hops out on a window screen in a dark room with a fan and that was easy for me.
So I put a spare window screen on a couple of sawhorses in the spare bedroom and spread out the hops on it.  I put a tower fan next to the screen to blow across the hop cones:
After 2 days the cones were dry enough and now needed to be packaged.  Fortunately we have a vacuum sealer thanks to Grandpa Dick so I was able to vacuum seal the dried hop cones in plastic bags for future use.
Ironically the beer I was to brew the next day, my Honey Basil Ale, made with homegrown hops and basil could have been made with fresh "wet" hops but I had dried the whole batch!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hop harvest!

I'd read that hops don't really produce much until the second year, however mine grew clear up the tall side of our house, about 30 feet, by August and produced a 5 gallon bucket of hop cones in September!
It's hard to know when to harvest but when it seemed right (when the cones are papery) I called upon my assistant brewers, Tristan and Sofia, to help me bring in the harvest.
First I cut down the twines on which the hop vines (called "bines") had grown and then separated the varieties of bines into separate bins.  I put them on a large sheet in the family room.
Then we went to work picking the cones off of the bines.  It's tedious work and the bines are prickly but Tristan and Sofia were real troopers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vancouver Brewfest 2012

Today I volunteered at the first annual Vancouver Brewfest!  It was a blast!
I served for 3 hours from noon to 3 pm.  I chose to pour for Oakshire Brewing Co. out of Eugene, Oregon.  As chance would have it, I ended up pouring next to Haley and Sean Easton!  On my other side was another homebrewer.
One of the omissions of this first brewfest was a lack of information about the beers being served.  So I used what I knew about Line Dry Rye and Overcast Espresso Stout (Oakshire's offerings for this festival) along with information that Sean was able to pull up from his smart phone to answer peoples' questions about the beers we were serving.  Both are excellent beers and were top of my list to sample when my shift was over.
The perks for volunteering were great.  We got free admission, a free t-shirt and a cup and 8 tokens to use any time during the festival.  Cyndy joined me after my shift and we went around Esther Short Park sampling the offerings and enjoying the live music from the main stage.

The beers I tried and my scoring are:
Oakshire's Line Dry Rye *****
Oakshire's Overcast Espresso Stout *****
Stone's Arrogant Bastard *****
Walking Man's Belgian Session *****
Mt. Tabor's Hudson's Bay CDA *****
McMennamin's What's Wheating Gilbert Grapefruit ****
Dick's Brewing's Dick Danger Ale ****
West Highland's Mango Ale *

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Growing my own hops

Tired of always paying good money for ingredients I can grow myself, I decided after much consideration to plant my own hops.
Armed with information on how to grow them (especially how to give them enough space to grow), I headed over to Bader Brewing and bought 3 rhizomes in April when they arrived.  I decided to grow the 3 varieties that I've used most:  Northern Brewer (English), Hallertau (German) and of course Cascade (US).
I planted each rhizome about 3 feet apart on the South side of our house.  I strung 2 strings of twine for each plant up to the roofline (about 30 feet) and fertilized the plants well and kept them watered.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Brewing on a budget

Now that funds are tight for affording this great hobby I'm glad that I've stocked up on supplies.
It's always a good idea to buy the 50 lb. bag of your basic base malts such as American 2-row and now I'm glad I did.
Also stocking up on the old standby hops like Cascade or Northern Brewer or E.K. Goldings when you find them at a good price is smart.  They keep a long time in your freezer if kept in the oxygen barrier bags they come in.
I'm so glad that I canned starter wort too since now I have starters available for my next 6 brews.  It's also practical and economical to save the yeast from the fermenter from your last brew to use in future brews.  Stored correctly they can be kept viable for a couple of months.
So, now if I can come up with a good recipe for the yeast, hops and grain I have on hand, I can brew the next batch or two without ANY outlay of cash!