Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hop Harvest 2011

It has been a hellish August thus far. Weeks of typing my masters thesis, being in the very hot and very humid weather doing field work for my doctorate work, traveling to Austin, TX (did I mention it was August....and in Texas none the less) to present some of my masters work, and school starting with all the undergraduates coming back, it was time for a break. So, last weekend (August 19-21) I went to my hometown in Michigan for a much needed break......and for a hop harvest!

It is that time of year that the cones are big with lupulin covering them. My parents live in SW lower Michigan in Edwardsburg, a small village 20 minutes NE of South Bend, IN. Two springs ago, my mum planted hops, Humulus lupulus, on the farm where they live. The farm also has both my parents businesses on it, Nelson's Herbs and Nelson's Tools. On top of suppling my addiction of homebrewing, my mum also sells the hops in her shop.

Previously, I have written aboot planting and caring for the hops that were planted. We have six varieties planted on the farm: Cascade, Chinook, Magnum, Mount Hood, Santium, and Tettnang. Five rhizomes of each were planted, with the exception of Tettnang, where only two were planted. The week prior to my arrival in Michigan, Magnum was already harvested. While at home, we harvested the Cascade and Chinook varieties. The rest will be harvested at a later date. 

Harvesting of the cones took two days of work in the hot sun. Me, being on a ladder, 8 feet in the air, and my mum harvesting near the ground. The wet weight of the harvest was approximative 25 pounds. It was enough to completely cover two folding tables. They were left in the shop to dry in the air conditioning. I took one pound of each (Cascade and Chinook) back with me to use in a beer that we will make at the Quarter Barrel. What Brandon and I did was to wet hop the beer and I'll explain this in future blogging. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Brewing of a Single Hop beer.

Today was a day set for experimentation. Normally, our experimentations are not full batches (1-hectoliter, which is approximately 26.4 gallon). Normally we do experimental batches only at a 10 gallon size (I haven't written on any of our experimental batches as of yet), but this being an easy batch and hard to make mistakes with, we decided to go ahead and do a full batch. With our experimental batches, we want you to know what specific hops, malts or other adjuncts give to beer. So, today, we decided to entice you with a specific hop, Challenger. Our first of our single hop series.

Hops are the female flower of the hop vine, Humulus lupulus. There are many characteristic that hops can give a beer. First, it can give a bitterness to a beer. The tannins from the leaves of a cone can do the same thing that skin of a grape can do to a wine. It give a dryness, almost astringent quality to the beer. Second, depending on the variety that is used, it can give one or more aromas to the beer. Different hop varieties give aromas like: citrus, grassy, spicy, or floral characteristics. Third, hops helps preserve the beer. Back when England held land across the globe, they sent beer to their troops in India. By the time it got there, it went sour and spoiled. So they added a measurable amounts more hops to the beer, and it made it way safely to the troops...thus India Pale Ales (or IPAs) were born.

I can go on with pages over hops, but if you are at all interested, I can forward you with some great literature that can explain it better than I can. So on with our experiment...

Our beer today is a something that we want you to be able to get a sense of what different hop varieties gives to a beer. Our choice for the first of our single hop series is the hop variety called Challenger. Challenger hops was bred from an United Kingdom variety called Northern Brewer. It was bred because of it's resistance to a fungus called Downy Mildew, which had plagued many hops and created certain hop variety shortage in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. At 7.0% alpha acids, it can be used as both a bittering hop or for it's spicy aroma characteristics. Because it is of the UK variety, it has a mild to moderate bittering quality.

We didn't want to do a complete Single Malt and Single Hops (SMASH) beer, we wanted to give your taste buds other varieties malts with this beer. We decided to go with the following grain bill:

36# Pale Malt (UK) 2-row
30# Pale Malt (US) 2-row
3# Caravienna

We used both US and UK version of the same malt because they give specific characteristics to a beer. The US version of pale malt give clean, mildly malts flavor to the beer, along with a straw like color to the beer (2 SRM or Lovibond– Standard Reference Method). The UK version gives a slightly nutty/biscuit flavor the the beer along with a slightly darker color to the beer (3 SRM or Lovibond). Caravienna malt is a pale to medium that is roasted in a drum (20-24 SRM or Lovibond). Cara are varieties of Belgium malts that are roasted to give some unfermentable sugars that some sweetness and body to the beer.

Our day started with the measuring of the malts to add to the mashtun. To the mashtun, we added 160°F water to the grain. This gave us a initial temperature of 135°F, to which we added boiling water to raise the temperature to a final temperature of 150°F. 

We did this stepping up of the temperature to bring out different qualities to the grain. At this steeping temperature, we will have a slightly drier beer.  Then we sparged (rinsed the grain) with 180°F water.

At run-off of the wort, we did a First Wort Hop, which produces complex bitterness and aroma that is both smooth and pleasing to the pallet. We started to boil and after 15 minutes we made our 60-minute addition of hops. We made hop additions at 60, 30, and at flame out (0 min.). Our hop schedule was of the following:

4 oz. Challenger FWH
4 oz. Challenger 60-minute
4 oz. Challenger 30-minute
6 oz. Challenger 0-minute

After our boil was completed, we whirlpooled the wort and transferred it up to the fermenter through a plate chiller. We added the yeast, in which we made a starter of the day before. This batch will be left in the fermenter until fermentation is complete in a week or two and will be serve in a month.