Sunday, March 30, 2008

Centennial Hops Breaking Ground

Though many of the mounds have been breaking ground, I buried many of the first sprouts with surrounding soil, fertilizer, and mulch. Hops grow best in mounds. They'll poke through again in just a few days but at least they'll have a mound again to build on. This is a Centennial rhizome managing to poke through the rebuilt mound.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Hop Farm Fertilizing and Mulching

We trellis wired the last of the mounds, fertilized, and mulched today. Since the bottom row hasn't been successful for the past two years, we heavily fertilized and mulched this area. We also changed the irrigation drippers at the bottom row from 0.5 GPH to 1.0 GPH. Hopefully, this will correct our assumption that poor hop growth was caused by nutrient deficient and dry soil.
Sent by my mobile phone.

Centennial Hops Rhizomes Split and Transplanted

Today we finished splitting the centennial hops on the top row to plant the bottom half. Total hop count on the farm: 10 Chinook, 10 Centennial, 5 Vojvodina, 5 Magnum. Look how neat those rows look now!
Sent from my mobile phone.

Rebar Stakes For The Hop Farm

Jim is bending some new rebar stakes for the hop farm. Just after this, he realized that a vise grip and some gloves would be a good idea! The rebar stakes anchor the trellis lines for the hop vines to crawl. I use aluminum wire for the trellis and it has about a 2 year life span before the rebar aids in oxidation and it breaks.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hop Farm, March 22 2008

Half of the bottom row is planted with Chinook. I've tried for 2 years to establish cascade hops in the same section sadly without success. Chinook and Centennial, sharing the top row of farm, grow remarkably well. We leveled out more of the bottom row and plan to hit with a fertilizer and mulch it well. Hopefully, chinook and centennial will do just as well on the bottom row as they have been doing on the top row. Very tired after doing just about 4 hours of work. Ed helped out tons. He pruned nearly every mound! We will have a bit of time to do a little work tomorrow though Easter gatherings will keep us drinking more than working.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Planting Chinook Hops

Hop rhizomes are planted in mounds raised above the soil surface. They only need about 1 inch of topsoil above them. The soil at the hop farm is not the greatest but with a small amount of fertilizer or mulch, the hops do just fine.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Splitting The Chinook Hop Rhizome

Today we're trying to complete many of the needed tasks to get the hop farm off to a great start this season. Here is a split rhizome from the top row chinook hop. One of the chinook crowns was massive. This one alone was split to make 5 new mounds for 1/2 of the bottom row. All you need for splitting a rhizome to make a new plant is a small section of root showing new shoots. The bigger the hunk, the more successful your new plant will be during its first season.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Last Year's Hop Farm and Moblog Test

Really I'm just testing out my moblog ability (sending txt and pictures directly to the blog from my cell phone). I have several pictures of my hop farm on my phone. This was taken during the harvest in July of 2007. Blogger makes it very easy to send txt, pic, and video messages directly to a blog. With a pic message, I can still send 1000 characters. Now, I'll be able to blog from beer events anywhere! Here's a mobile cheers to ya.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The State of the Kegerator

My kegerator is about 4-5 years old now. I have a few projects in mind for the summer. As you can see below, there's lots of room inside. I could fit up to 10 corny kegs inside. Pictured is four kegs, the CO2 setup, and two 6.5 gallon fermenters (lagers brewed yesterday). I could easily fit another keg but would have room for an additional keg if I'd move the CO2 setup outside.

The first project is to move the CO2 tank to the outside and install a 6-line manifold on the inside, preferably on the upper end of the back wall. I would like to keep the compressor shelf available for cases/bottles and the desiccators. This will involve carefully drilling a few holes in the walls, avoiding the coolant lines. I'll need to find diagrams for this Kenmore chest freezer model to see where I can confidently drill through the entire wall for the gas line.
The next project is to sand out and repair the oxidation in the inner walls. This shouldn't take long. I have everything I need to do the sanding but I'll need to do some research on how to seal the areas.
A while ago, I started using desiccators to reduce the moisture in the kegerator. This has really helped slow the process and keeps the kegerator relatively dry. The greatest collection of moisture happens when I warm the kegerator up to lager fermentation temperature (50-56 degrees F). When I first started lagering, this is when I noticed a huge increase in oxidation. Last year, I sealed the drain hole for the drip tray to reduce incoming moisture and added a second desiccator.

Though the desiccators are really effective, I need to remember to recharge them frequently. This is easily done by removing the bag of silica gel and placing it in the oven at 240'F for 3 hours. On the bottom of the box is an indicator that will turn pink when the bag is saturated. After recharging the silica gel bag, the indicator gradually turns back to blue. Below is the two silica gel bags in the oven. 24 hours after placing the recharged desiccators back in the kegerator, the interior is bone dry.

The last project is to create some new tap handles. I really like the oar paddle and surfboard tap handles. The tall "tiki" handle was made from a $2 Hawaiian swap meet figurine. At that swap meet (the stadium in Honolulu has a daily swap meet) I got a mini ukulele that I've been wanting to turn into a tap handle. I have the hardware to make the handles so I just need some practice with wood working to add some new tap handles.

Outside of that, my wife and I will be moving this summer. We're not sure where yet but likely elsewhere in San Diego, San Francisco, or east coast (Boston or New York). Of course, I'm hoping that it will be conducive to brewing!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

German Lager, March 19 2008

German Lager - Brewed March 19th, 2008
Everytime the kegerator runs low, I try to utilize the space for making lagers. Even though I have gone through BJCP and judge beer occasionally, I tend to brew whatever I feel like. I rarely focus on a specific style and brew accordingly. My recipes are mostly simple, utilizing only a few select ingredients. I also try to incorporate my homegrown hops whenever possible. This brew uses equal portions of pilsner, vienna, and munich malts combined with my homegrown magnum hops and saaz.

5 Gallons, All Grain, Step Infusion Mash, 70 Minute Boil

4lbs. Franco-Belges Pilsner
4lbs. Best Malz Vienna
4lbs. Franco-Belges Munich

1.25oz. Homegrown Magnum 60min.
1/4oz. Saaz 3.2% 20min.
1 Whirlfloc Tab 20min.
1/4oz. Saaz 3.2% 10min.

White Labs, German Lager Yeast
Primary Ferment 10 Days
Secondary Ferment 5 Days
Step Cool (2 degrees F per day) to 38 degrees F then lager 1 month

German Pilsner, March 19 2008

German Pilsner - Brewed March 19th, 2008
I'm a huge fan of euro pilsners. There's surprisingly lots of variety in pilsners. Ideally, I would have liked to do a double decoction on this one but I wanted to squeeze in two separate 5 gallon batches today. In the interest of time, I opted for a step infusion mash that I use.
5 Gallons, All Grain, Step Infusion Mash, 70 Min. Boil

11lbs. Franco-Belges Pilsner

1/2oz. Homegrown Magnum 60min.
1oz. Saaz 3.2% 20min.
Whirlfloc Tab 20min.
1/4oz. Saaz 3.2% 10min.
1/4oz. Saaz 3.2% 5min.

White Labs, German Lager Yeast
Primary Ferment 10 Days
Secondary Ferment 10 Days
Step Cool (2 degrees F per day) to 38 degrees F then lager 1 month

Hop Farm, March 18 2008

Worked on the hop farm yesterday with my brother-in-law. He started homebrewing recently and has been using last year's hops. Now I have a dedicated helper!
Today's the first day I've touched the farm since December (routine weeding). You can see that some of last year's vines are still intact. We had a very wet winter here in southern California and the growth really shows. We really wanted to clear the weeds, remove last year's vines, rewire each mound, level each terrace, split the top row rhizomes for the bottom row, prune the mounds, fertilize, and mulch. That didn't all happen.

The weeds alone kept us busy along with rewiring the trellis. I could see lots of other seeds in the soil so this spring will be an ongoing battle. Luckily, there's a huge mound of mulch above the top row. This helps keeps the weeds down while holding in moisture and providing good soil.

With all the rain we've had this season and the consistent movement of the mulch pile, the terrace levels are more of slant. This makes it difficult to use the ladder now and during harvest time. Instead of plowing through, we had to be careful of the irrigation line and the hops that have recently greeted spring.

We removed all of the old vines and decided to replace the wire. Each wire is grounded by a rebar stake. Using the old wire as a guide, we dug to the rebar stake loop and wrapped new wire rather than pulling out every stake.

Once all the weeds were cleared, you can see the hops are already taking off. On the top row, there are 5 mounds each of Chinook and Centennial (separated by a pole in the middle). In the middle row are 5 mounds each of Vojvodina and Magnum. The bottom row has spent two years trying to establish Tettnanger and Cascade without any significant growth. Since the Chinook and Centennial do exceptionally well, this year the top row rhizomes will be split and planted in the bottom row.
Above is the top row, the Chinook half. We have a bit of work to do this coming weekend: splitting, planting, pruning, fertilizing, and mulching.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back to Blogging!

I had a blog for a number of years through, a small online homebrewing community. During the fall of 2007, the site was hacked and I lost all of my posts and blog entries. Though I considered moving the blog to somewhere more modern prior to the attack, I was quite comfortable blogging through their phpBB mod system. Another brewing blogger at, ChupaLaHomebrew (gotta love a username like that), moved to blogging here at So now I'm back in to homebrew blogging!
Today, I'm heading out to my hop farm to see the winter damage and prepare for the season. For the top two rows, this will be their 4th season.