Monday, July 28, 2008

Hop Farm, July 28 2008

Harvest Time!
We were at the hop farm this weekend for my wife's PhD party when I noticed that several vines are ready for harvesting. Actually, there were more hops ready than I can possibly handle to process. Next year, I simply have to make a large dehydrator. Today we picked about a pound or so of chinook and centennial hops (that's what it will amount to after dehydration).
Here's the current view of the farm. All but one mound has grown (the bottom row chinook that was torn up by rabbits). Magnum, as usual has just started cone production. Though the top row centennial had trouble getting started this year, its counter part on the bottom row is nearly ready for harvest. I picked all I could from the top row which was completely ready.
Of course, its always nice to have help. My wife, Dr. Michelle, and Dr. Courtney (I don't think I could have found smarter assistants!) helped pick the chinook. There were so many to pick that I had to tell them to stop. Our dehydrator can only hold so much and while I can lay out hops on tables in the house to start drying, we're leaving for Hawaii on Friday. I want to make sure everything is dehydrated and vacuum sealed by then.
Above is a view of the top wire chinook. A few weeks ago, these were just getting started. The density is likely attributed to a good watering schedule and a good manure base at the season start.
I'm always impressed with the size of the chinook hops we grow. They are large, healthy, and very abundant. Also, their stability for storage is amazing. In the background are the hops that didn't fit in the dehydrator. They'll need to wait for about 48 hours before being moved to dehydrator.
Here's one of the bigger of the chinook cones. In my last blog, people wanted to know if I had small hands. Very good question since it seems unlikely to have a hop cone the length of any finger. I wouldn't call my hands small by they aren't large either. My glove size is typically small to medium.
If my hand doesn't give you a sense of how big these cones are, then perhaps this will better scale the chinook hops.
Here's the dehydrator we use. The capacity is great for its compact size. Considering that we only use it for hops, it readily fits in a cabinet for storage during the rest of the year. Though building a larger dehydrator will be very necessary next year, this works for smaller batches.
A nicer dehydrator can be a bit expensive, even for a used one on eBay. To dehydrate hops, it is very important that no heat is applied. I keep our dehydrator at 85 where it produces no heat. The only heat comes from the electrical fan in operation. I feel like I've posted all these details in my last blog, dejavu! This dehydrator has settings for other applications but we only used it for hops.
Above you can see the four racks in the dehydrator. Next harvest, I'll show how much surface area this particular model has. I think the racks are 1 foot by 1 foot but they might be a bit bigger. Straight off the vine, hops typically need about 48 hours. The hops on the table will only need about 24 hours.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Irish Oatmeal Stout, July 24 2008

"Smells like there's cookies in the oven, Sean." "Aye, but that's just steel cut oats toasting for today's brew. "
I really can't remember the last time I made a "dark" beer and also the last time my grain bill was this insane. Here's hoping that the I used enough oatmeal and that it comes through (at least in texture). Also, I hope this isn't too much roast.

Irish Oatmeal Stout

5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion, 70 min. Boil

1lb. McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal toasted at 350'F for 20 minutes
7lbs. Domestic 2-Row
1lb. Munich
1lb. White Wheat
3/4lb. Chocolate
1/2lb. Caravienne
1/2lb. Victory
1/2lb. Black Roasted Barley
1/4lb. Black Patent

1/4oz. Horizon 11.6% 60min.

White Labs Irish Ale Yeast

Original Gravity 1.055
(Wasn't paying close attention to my sparge. I notice a drop in efficiency when my sparge runs too quickly.)

Update: July 30th
Racked to the secondary yesterday. Ferment had difficulty staying in my 6.5 gallon carboy. Current gravity is 1.015. A bit too much on the roasty side but I wanted the beer to stay fresh throughout the fall. It will sit in the secondary while we are in Hawaii until August 10th.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dr. Miche-ale

This is brew 2 for my wife's (Michelle) post-defense happy hour. The name is simply a play on her name for kicks and giggles but no one will ask for the name of either of the brews I will have on tap. This is the lighter of the two, to satisfy the "light is what I drink" crowd. Really, I'm super proud of my girl! She's experienced lots of research frustration and patience and truly deserves recognition. We plan on an entire weekend of celebration! Below is a picture of Michelle during a quick-stop at lab on a weekend a couple of years ago. I know, she's a bit out of safety compliance but, she 's pro!Dr. Miche-Ale
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

11lbs. Domestic Two-Row
1/2lb. Crystal 60
1/2lb. Victory

1oz. Homegrown Chinook 60min.
1/2oz. Amarillo 7% 30min.
1 Whirlfloc Tab 15min.
1/2oz. Amarillo 7% 5min.

Safale, US-05
Racked on previous yeast bed from Celebration Ale

Costco Clover Dry Mead

At the end of the year, we were at Costco stocking up for our New Year's party in Big Bear when a 6 pound bottle of clover honey for $7.99 caught my eye. I picked up two bottles with the intention of making a very inexpensive mead. Honey prices have gone up quite a bit and this was certainly a deal! Though I could have made this mead months ago, I wanted to do some more research since my first 2 attempts were relatively in the dark. During last month's QUAFF meeting, Harold gave a presentation with a procedure that I could easily follow.
Costco Clover Dry Mead
5 Gallons, No Heat
12lbs. Busy Bee Pure Clover Honey
4 Gallons Carbon-Filtered Water
1/4 tsp. Diamonium Phosphate
1/8 tsp. Fermaid K
1/4 tsp. Yeast Nutrient

Mixed thoroughly (takes a long time to do this manually)

OG: 1098
pH: 4.55

Oxygen, 4 minutes via aeration stone

Yeast Batting Line-up (rehydrated combined at 105'F):
1 Pack Lalvin Ec 1118 (Champagne)
2 Packs Red Star Premier Cuvee

I will follow up with all of the baby-sitting tasks during the first week (nutrient additions, pH, adjusting pH, etc).

UPDATE: July 12th
Tested pH: 3.44
Added 1/8 tsp. DAP, 1/16 tsp. Fermaid K, and 1/2 tsp. Calcium Carbonate (raise pH)
Stirred for two minutes and retested pH: 3.69
Added 1/2 tsp. Calcium Carbonate, stirred, and retested pH: 3.90

UPDATE: July 14th
Tested pH: 3.57
Added 1/8 tsp. DAP, 1/16 tsp. Fermaid K, and 1 tsp. Calcium Carbonate (raise pH)
Stirred for two minutes and retested pH: 4.0

UPDATE: July 16th
Tested pH: 3.79
Added 1/8 tsp. DAP, 1/16 tsp. Fermaid K, and 1/2 tsp. Calcium Carbonate (raise pH)
Stirred for two minutes and retested pH: 3.96
This concludes the nutrient additions though I will revisit pH at the end of the weekend to keep it above 3.8 (though I just saw that Harold wrote that pH should ideally be 4.0-4.2). After the weekend, I'll rack to a 5 gallon carboy. There it will sit until December.

UPDATE: November 23rd
FG: 0994
I will rack this into a keg tomorrow. This is the first time I've had mead come out with a nice flavor and no perceivable fusel alcohol. A big thanks to Harold for the tips! I think I will carbonate this for some holiday sparkling mead.
Original: 1.098
Final: 0.994
Alcohol By Weight: 11.1 %
Alcohol By Volume: 13.9 %

Thursday, July 3, 2008

There's a Doctor in the House, Celebration Ale

My wife has her PhD thesis defense on July 25th. This is the formal conclusion of her PhD research. Basically, she will be giving a public presentation on her research. Though the public is invited to attend, the presentation is mostly attended by her dissertation committee, research associates, and family and friends. After the defense, the lab celebrates with beer and champagne. I'm planning on having two homebrews available.

There's a Doctor in the House, Celebration Ale
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

11lbs. Domestic Two-Row
3/4lb. Crystal 60
1/4lb. Victory
2oz. Special Roast
2oz. Black Patent
2oz. Black Roasted Barely

1oz. Homegrown Chinook 60min.
1/4oz. Homegrown Chinook 30min.
1/4oz. Homegrown Centennial 30min.
1 Whirlfloc Tab 20min.
1/2oz. Hallertauer 4.2% 5min.

Safale, US-05 with a 24hr yeast starter
I've never used dried yeast before and thought that I'd give it a try. Dried yeast is significantly cheaper and many claim they're great. This strain is similar WLP001, White Labs California Ale. I know the California Ale yeast strain very well so it should be an interesting comparison.

Hop Farm, July 2 2008

Just another update on the farm. The centennial vines on the bottom row have finally taken off. Unfortunately, rabbits continue to beat on the new chinook section. One mound was even dug up completely. There's nothing I can do for that one this season. Next year, the bottom row will receive more attention to protect them from rabbits. Below shows before trimming. I used all of the trimmings to border the new chinook plants for protection.
Chinook is doing well with hops. Below shows the hop density with many more on the way. I picked about one ounce that was ready but most need another week or two. Just have to wait until the cones are lighter and paper-like.
The chinook has just started its second flowering and its really an explosion! I don't think they have flowered with this kind of density before. Below, you can see a cluster area of new cones.