Northern Brewer Home Brewing Blog

$7.99 Flat Rate Shipping

  • 1-800-681-2739
Short Pours content worth reading for brewers everywhere
Short Pours Hopped Up & Bitter: So Many Hops, So Little Time...

Hopped Up & Bitter: So Many Hops, So Little Time…

We’ve all Fuggled, Cascaded, Mosaiced, and Summitted. We’ve brewed the basics, become well-acquainted with the likes of Centennial and Cluster. But now, more than ever, is the time to experiment. With new hop varietals coming out every growing season and hop farms popping up like tulips in April, I found myself amidst a bewildering expanse of options, and so settled on four of the newest cultivars to put through the ringer.

It’s a fine spring(!) day when I take 20 ounces of unfamiliar hops-Calypso, Equinox, Waimea, and Jarrylo-a 55 lb. bag of 2-row, and some last minute malts from the kitchen sink. What follows will produce 3 batches of hopped up, sweet gifts of lupulin that push the boundaries of 60,30,15 to their very core.

Eat breakfast, mash in with Calypso. Stomach filled, the aromas of Calypso mashing in, I move right on to heating the strike water for a Waimea session IPA. The popular girl, New Zealand’s Waimea seems to have it all. With classic two-faced character, Waimea is sweet like candy yet packs a punch. With high alpha acid and strong aromas, this cultivar is better than bitter and I can only take her 17+% in the smallest doses as a first wort hop. Even then, I need a beer break to relax before moving on to an Equinox-Jarrylo IPA.

Equinox brings intense aromas of mango, lemon-lime, and green pepper. The strangely fresh, peppery character evokes memories of being young, when everything is new and exciting. Then Jarrylo shows up, boasting tropical fruit, citrus, and spice in overwhelming combination. The dwarf variety somehow makes banana flavors work with tart, biting bitter. During the final two minute additions of the 1.070 IPA, I am pretty excited. The stimulating aromas of Jarrylo work with the pinot noir complexity of Equinox. I’d say it was going to be a close race, but the incredible aroma of Equinox and attractive Jarrylo flavors were in total complement, not competition. I can’t wait for dry hopping day.

I got to know four new characters on Sunday, each with its own merit and exciting prospect. I met unexpected flavors. Hops that add versatility to homebrew. Hops that shine by themselves and provide complexity and nuance as part of a team. This brew day was a crime of passion, forsaking scientific notes for personality. Personality of unique, now familiar hops, perfect for sharing with the unique personalities of friends.

On top of that, hop breeders are constantly experimenting and introducing new breeds of hops. Every year there are more and more experimental varieties. Many are grown in such limited quantities that the only way to play with them is to do it on a homebrew scale.


Equinox Hop Pellets for homebrewing

Waimea Hop Pellets

James Jefferson Brewmaster How Hops Ruined My Kitchen

 


Each year, Northern Brewer purchases more hop varieties than any brewery in the world. We carefully source, select and package 60-70 different hop varieties each year. Each hop has its own unique character. They can smell like grass, pine cones, or grapefruit. Some are light and refined, while others are bold and intense. I have personally come to have a deep, olfactory communion with all of the major hop varieties in the world, because I have personally packaged so many packets of hops for my customers. It has been an amazing form of aromatherapy, and it’s my favorite part of my job.

But it’s not enough just to smell the hop in its raw form. Hops change so much depending on how they are used. Even though I’ve been a homebrewer for 20 years, I am still learning about new ways to use hops: early additions, late additions, continuous additions, first wort hopping, mash hopping, hop backing, randallizing, wet hopping, dry hopping… each technique brings out different aspects of a hop.

On top of that, hop breeders are constantly experimenting and introducing new breeds of hops. Every year there are more and more experimental varieties. Many are grown in such limited quantities that the only way to play with them is to do it on a homebrew scale.

So let’s rejoice in hops! Cheers!

Wil Wheaton, Northern Brewer’s celebrity Brewmaster, spent the day brewing yesterday and live tweeted it!
Check out the tweet-cast  @ twitter.com/wilw  or read it below.

I’ll put a t-shirt over this, and then play the waiting game for a few hours, until fermentation starts.

If you think you’d be interested in #homebrewing, look at my homebrew blog: http://devilsgatebrewing.com , or talk to a #homebrew club in your area

After aerating my wort for about 30 minutes, I pitched 1x Wyeast 1214. Now we let the yeasties eat all the sugars! #homebrew

Ended up with about 4.75 gallons of wort, due to all the hops trub in the kettle. Less than I wanted, but that’s ok. #homebrew

 

Collecting my wort in my fermenter. I LOVE my 6 gallon Big Mouth Bubbler from @northern_brewer. #homebrew

 

Looks like this #homebrew is going to have an OG of 1.060. Target was 1.062, so I’ll take it.

I don’t like to waste water (especially with our drought) so I collect and save the runoff water to give to my dogs, water my plants, etc.

This is a copper coil immersion chiller. Cool water runs through it, and draws heat out of the wort. #homebrew

Embedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink

 

One last stir for good luck, and that’s flame out! Now, I’ll cool the wort. #homebrew

Whoops. I mixed up my hops and candi sugar additions. I don’t think 5 extra minutes will make a huge impact on the hop utilization.

One pound of dark Belgian Candi Sugar. It smells so good! #homebrew

Embedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink

0 replies10 retweets181 favorites

Second and final hops addition. 15 minutes left.

Embedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink

 

Here’s the style guidelines for the Belgian Dubbel I’m brewing today. http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style18.php#1b … #homebrew

The obligatory #brewdog picture features the brew dog, and his assistant. #homebrew @northern_brewer

 

This first of only two hops additions today. I forgot to reload on hops bags, so this will be a little messy.

 

This is why you never turn your back on your brewpot. #homebrew

 

Today, my #homebrew is the Belgian Dubbel from @northern_brewer. OG 1.062.

“Turn I to beer” is, of course, one of the Horta’s lesser known requests.

Sparging is the term used for rinsing the grains with water to collect all the sweet liquid you’re going to turn I to beer. #homebrew.

Mash is all done, so now I sparge, and get ready to boil. #homebrew

Embedded image permalink

 

It’s #homebrew day! I just started the mash on my Belgian Dubbel from @northern_brewer.

 

One full equipment kit, three extra Big Mouth Bubblers and three extra wine kits!

Where it all started

It’s finally here! After starting my Master Vintner wines, racking them from the primary fermenter, and doing the fining/stabilising steps, bottling day has arrived, and I’m all about getting my Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay into the bottles–well, almost all of it into bottles, along with a little of it into a secret project . . . more on that in a minute.

rack-setup

Time to rack off the sediment.

My first step was to clean and sanitise all of the equipment I’d be using, including my autosiphon, bottle filler, jugs and such–as always, cleanliness is next to goodliness in winemaking.

Next, I set up my racking station by the simple expedient of lifting my Little Big Mouth Bubbler on top of a convenient box on my counter. If you haven’t used one of the Master Vintner Small Batch kits yet, it’s hard to convey just what a joy this is. I’m old-school in many ways, having started off making wine in lots anywhere between 23 litres (6 US gallons) and 650 litres (three 60-US gallon barrels) at a time. With truly huge amounts you need a pump to move the wine around. A standard kit wine batch of 23 litres isn’t nearly as demanding, but lifting full carboys from one shelf to another, or putting them up on a high place so you can rack the wine down into a clean carboy on the floor (which then needs to be lifted back into the winemaking area!) starts to wear on the lower back after a few thousand batches. At only a single gallon, you can easily lift the Small Batch kits onto a convenient box or shelf above your kitchen counter, just as easy as getting a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator!

Once the fermenter was in place I racked the wine off of the sediment. Doing this is really helpful, since there’s a decent chance that the siphon will disturb sediment from the bottom of the carboy while your moving the hose from bottle to bottle. Rather than risk getting cloudy wine, it’s better to move all of the clear wine into a new vessel in one go, and then you can relax from there.

rack-from

Note the siphon rod carefully placed on the far side of the fermenter–this will be important as we get to the bottom.

When the wine gets down to the bottom, the level of sediment needs to be carefully monitored. Remember, the point of racking is to get 100% of the clear wine and leave the muck behind, so don’t leave any of that delicious grape nectar behind.

A careful tilt keeps the end of the autosiphon in the wine.

A careful tilt keeps the end of the autosiphon in the wine.

To get and keep that tilt hands-free I usually improvise some kind of prop or wedge. Because I was making wine in my kitchen (another thing Small Batch Kits makes easy!) my carboy wedge wasn’t around. No matter: I just popped a bung under the front of the carboy and watched the levels as they dropped.

Never leave a man, uh, a drop of wine behind.

Never leave a man, uh, a drop of wine behind.

Just to make sure I was being completely efficient in my racking, I measured the amount of sediment left in the bottom of the Little Big Mouth Bubbler after it racked over. It came to just over couple of tablespoons all in all–which meant I was going to get a total of about 3.75 litres out of my US gallon (3.78 litre) batch, meaning I could fill five bottles, which is exactly what I wanted.

The wine was exceptionally clear on racking.

Limpid and gorgeous.

Limpid and gorgeous.

I could have bottled it right there, but since this was an actual test batch for quality assurance and proof of concept purposes, I pulled out my Buon Vino Minjet filter. Filtering doesn’t actually clear a wine: that’s what fining agents are for. Clearing polishes a wine so that it sparkles with a brilliance like diamonds. A former colleague had the best analogy for wine filtering: it’s the difference between a freshly washed car and a freshly waxed car. Both look great, but your eyes can instantly tell which car was waxed and polished because it glows. Same with wine.

Now that's shiny!

Now that’s shiny!

It’s easy to see this in white wines: you could read the fine print of an EULA through that Chardonnay!

I got all four batches of wine through a single set of Buon Vino #3 pads in about 20 minutes, including sanitising and prep, going from the Chardonnay to the Pinot Noir, then the Merlot and finishing with the Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet another bonus feature of the Small Batch kits: you can make four of them and only need the tiny, convenient BV mini, rather than a much larger filter.

Rest, little filter: you've done a man's work today.

Rest, little filter: you’ve done a man’s work today.

While larger filter systems need a washtub or a laundry sink for cleanup, the Minijet is kitchen sink-friendly for cleanup. Note that the colour you see on those filter pads isn’t anthcyanins (grape pigment) stripped from the wine. It’s suspended material from the wine itself, stained by those pigments. That suspended material, principally yeast cells and colloids, would eventually settle out of the wine on its own. Even though the unfiltered wine was perfectly clear to the eye, after a year or two in the bottle a bit of colour would deposit out on the side or bottom of the bottle. Hurrah for filtering!

Next up, time to fill my wine bottles. I had a mixture of standard wine bottles in Flint (clear) and some swing-tops, also in clear. I like using swing tops for wine that’s going to be analysed and/or destroyed in testing–not because of any technical superiority of swing tops, but because I can never seem to find a dang corkscrew when I’m in the wine lab.

Bottles, autosiphon, siphon tip, impact corker, corks.

Bottles, autosiphon, siphon tip, impact corker, corks and sulphite for sanitising the bottles.

Also shown in the picture above is the Handy corker. It uses a plunger and a compression sleeve to press-fit the corks into the bottles.

Takes a little oomph, but works great.

Takes a little oomph, but works great.

Because of the forces involved, it’s a good idea to use the (included) #8-sized corks and soak them in a bit of warm water before use. While I’ve used the Handy and it’s a fine unit, I had another plan in mind for my bottles. But first, I had to fill them.

Fast, clean and efficient--now that's good winemaking!

Fast, clean and efficient–now that’s good winemaking!

Getting the bottles filed without splashing, spilling or endlessly fiddling to get the right fill level (very bottom of the neck, to leave the width of two fingers below the bottom of the cork) used to be a drag, but a siphon filler (included in your equipment kit!) makes it a snap.

 

The one-way needle valve on the tip of the rod stops the flow of wine as soon as you pull it up, while the volume of the rod displaces exactly the right amount of wine–when you fill the bottle to the top and then pull the rod out, the level of wine is perfect to accommodate a cork!

With the bottles filled, it was time to put corks in. My alternate scheme was to use my Italian bronze-jawed floor corker. This mighty beast has been my faithful companion for 25 years and tens of thousands of bottles of wine.

Industrial Age technology at its finest.

Industrial Age technology at its finest.

The key to how well this thing works is in the amount of leverage it can bring to bear, and how cleverly it compresses and inserts the cork into the bottles. The heart of the matter is the set of bronze jaws. Not brass–brass is too soft, and corks would wear it away in a short time, and this bronze is the same stuff they make steamship propellers out of.

You're in for a squeezy time, Mr. Cork.

You’re in for a squeezy time, Mr. Cork.

The jaws move as the corking arm is pulled, squeezing the cork down to just slightly larger than the size of a pencil. When it’s at is tiniest, the cork finger comes down. pokes it into the bottle and you’re done.

 

It’s as easy as that, every time.

After only a few minutes all of the bottles were filled, corked and swing-capped.

snu

Say, what’s with that pink wine?

Astute observers will notice that there are 15 bottles, a gallon jug and one bottle of pink wine, which doesn’t match up that well with the whole four batches of five bottles each motif I started with. The gallon jug is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I blended it at a rate of 3:2, Cabernet to Merlot, after a few benchtop trials. I’m going to let it marry in the jug for a month or so and taste it before bottling.

The pink wine is slightly notional on my part–it’s my job to do the weird stuff so you don’t have to. Or, more accurately, so I can explain it when you do it without my knowledge! It’s a blend of 4% Pinot Noir into the Chardonnay. That kind of blending is a standard technique in commercial winemaking, and I was curious to see how it would marry up with a little time in the bottle.

How does it taste? Even though it’s very young, it’s everything I’d hoped: good fruit, varietal character, smooth tannin, balanced acid and a long finish, especially for a wine just in the bottle. I’m going to do a more formal taste-test in another three weeks, and then once a month after that to see how it’s progressing.

I’ve already ordered another four kits–I’ve never made wine with so little effort or mess, and I’m going to keep production up. Heck, it’s no more work than keeping a vase of flowers on the counter, with the added bonus, it’s wine!

 

 
Homebrew Rule #1: Beer—drink it while you make it. Sometimes you have to get creative with the opening part. Cue homebrew hack #1, 25 Ways to Open a Bottle of Homebrew.

Short Pours content worth reading for brewers everywhere
Short Pours the Kitchen Sink of brewing What you have is what you use

Everything but the kitchen sink!

It’s the weekend. You’ve got a few hours free, and you want to brew. The only problem is you forgot to order a recipe kit. Plus, it’s colder than a witch’s behind outside; there’s no way you’re going to the local homebrew shop in this weather. Bad timing has left you with only spare parts in your larder and nowhere to turn. So what do you do? You brew of course.

Gather up your half pounds of grain and spare extract. Pull your extra hops out of the freezer. Grab your yeast, additives, and other bits and start thinking of what you could make. Most of the time you can cobble together a BJCP certified style; “Brown Ale” covers a pretty wide range. But why make a Brown Ale when you could do a Nut Brown Wheat? Or an Imperial American Lager? How about a Cherry Rauchbier? Spiced Belgian India Brown Ale anyone?

How do you think Black Wheat beer became a thing? It certainly wasn’t because someone stuck to convention. Treat your fermentor like a canvas and your ingredient stash like paints. You’re only limited by the materials in front of you. Create your own recipe and in a couple of months evaluate the result of your artistry. Maybe the beer’s a little maltier than you expected, or there’s a strange peach flavor you can’t nail down. It’s good, but it could be better. Or it’s bad, but there’s a part of it you enjoy. Too bad you’ll never know what you could do to improve it, right? Wrong. Some of the best beers around started out as shots in the dark, with brewers throwing together recipes they weren’t sure would work. What made the beers great were the notes taken between batches to figure out what needed improving.

The benefits of note-taking can’t be emphasized enough. You’ll be able to tweak, scale, and compare your recipes as well as see what you might have done wrong. Whether you’re throwing together a recipe from spare parts or you’re brewing a recipe that you’ve made a hundred times before, taking notes is always a good idea.

Working with unexpected ingredients can really help provide new perspective on what you can brew. Necessity is often the mother of new beer. It might be a little risky. But all you really have to lose are some spare ingredients and a few hours of your time. What you gain is the chance to become an innovative brewer. So start your boil, toss in everything but the kitchen sink, and see where it takes you.

Page 1 of 5712345102030...Last »