Buy your brewing supplies here

We now have a range of base and specialty malts for sale. A catalog and new website is coming soon. Let us know what you need and we will sell it to you or special order it for you. Please bear with us during this initial stage and we will have the full service shop available in no time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Buy your hops here!

It is official.  You can buy your hops right here on the blog.  We have set up a google checkout store, which promises to make all of this easy.  If you have any trouble placing orders, let me know and we will take care of it.  We will soon have other merchandise with our logo (as soon as we finish it).  Our supply is short this first season, so get your orders in quick before we run out.  We have them packaged in 1 oz and 2 oz packages perfect for home brewing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Harvest Time!

After much contemplation and soul searching (not really) we decided it was time to harvest.  Knowing that harvesting early reduces your quantity of essential oils and waiting to long can lead to oxidation and bad taste, we decided to err on the early side.  It apparently can be pretty complicated to hit the harvest just right.  There is a method where you look at the moisture content over time and the cones apparently increase, then decrease and then increase again.  It is the second increase that indicates ripeness.  Next year we will try that method and see if it makes it easier.

We made a family affair out of picking the first row.  This row matured more quickly, probably because it was the first in the ground, the first to be trellised, the first to get irrigation, etc.  Every one did a good job picking and it went fairly quickly.
I rediscovered that 15 feet is pretty high up when you are standing on a ladder.  I couldn't quite reach the top several feet from the ladder, so I used the front end loader on the tractor. Now, I know what you are thinking, that that is dangerous and shouldn't be done.  Before you condemn me let me state for the record that I didn't actually lift anyone with the tractor, I simply stood in the bucket (with the hydraulics locked and the tractor off) using a ladder to get to the bucket.  Here is a photo of the view from the top.

The picking went fairly quickly and soon we had nearly a bucket full of beautiful hops from the first half of the first row.  True to common knowledge and Glen Fullers (rhizome supplier) prediction we only got  fraction of a pound from each plant.  By next year we should be up to a pound or more per plant. 

Since we had a small harvest this year we decided to take a simple approach at drying.  Genoa and I assembled a couple of screens for drying the hops.  We set up an area in the air conditioned house for drying them.  We had a fan to force air through the hops and relied on the lower humidity in the house (~25%at the time) to drive the moisture out of the hops.  They dried beautifully and most of them held together quite well.  While they dried just fine, I can already see that we will need something significantly more significant next year.  I have some fancy plans in my head to turn our old brick silo into a solar oaster with gas backup for cloudy days.
The last few photos are of the dried hops.  Once they were dry we weighed out 1 and 2 ounce packets, vacuum sealed them and stuck them in the freezer.  It is a little depressing when you take the beautiful cone and pack it in the little bag, as it doesn't look quite so pretty then.  The processing went pretty well.  The kids really like helping with the vacuum bag machine, with the 3 year old showing particular prowess at pushing the control buttons.
  The next photo shows where I swipped my hand across the table where we had been processing the hops.  That is pure lupulin, which are little tiny sacs of oils.  With any pressure the sacks open up and you can smell the oils.  I brushed all the extra lupulin in a little bowl and through it in with the double IPA I brewed the next day.  I wonder if the big hop yards do anything with all the lupulin dust that must accumulate on the floors an equipment.  
  The last image I will leave you with is that of my recent home brewing being dry-hopped with some of our recently dried harvest.  As I mentioned above, it is an imperial, or double IPA.  I used a somewhat random assortment of bittering hops I had laying around that I needed to use.  None of them were fresh enough to really trust for aroma hops, but the alpha acids for bittering should be roughly in tact.  They smelled ok (not too oxidized) so I gambled it.

I then used 1 oz of freshly dried Windy Hill Cascades for an aroma hops for the last 15 minutes of the boil and another 1 oz for dry hopping when I racked to a secondary a week latter.  I will report on how it turned out in a week or so.