Some updates - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

April 1, 2014

Some updates

2014 has shaped up to be a busy year although we're only a quarter of the way into the year. Fortunately, I've been able to keep up with most of my brewing goals although I am maybe a beer or two behind where I'd like to be on my brewing schedule but I'm sitting on around twenty gallons of bottled beer and another twenty or so in fermentors. I'm trying to kill off the end of the black IPA I brewed last fall and the last few bottles of a handful of other batches. A significant volume of my supply of bottles includes beers that I don't mind aging, like my sours or big beers, but most of my brews going forward for 2014 are best fresh so I want to be able to start enjoying those beers right away. Clearing out the ends of these other beers will make room for more brewing, which means more meaningful content here. However, right now the fermentation chamber is filled with saison that's clearing up before dry hopping so today's post is just going to throw down some updates on smaller issues.

The hop garden

I've had a terrible time trying to grow hops in Texas. It's blazing hot during the summer and where I live is apparently open season for locusts, who can strip down a hop bines in hours. Admittedly, over the past four years that I've tried growing I have done a bad job of trying to water the hops daily and that's a recipe for dying plants in continuous time periods over 100F. This year I am committed to keeping out the locusts and watering the hops daily. I've rigged up a drip hose to fit over the raised bed where I grow hops so I can connect it up to the faucet and water the hops without having to stand there and try to spray water through the netting I constructed to keep out the locusts. Last year I only got like seven small hops off one of the cascade rhizomes so that was disappointing. This year I am hoping for better results. Here are the plants so far:

Sterling: There's one rhizome in here that's on its third growing season. It's a little slow to start off but once it gets growing it really gets moving. It's progressing nicely.

Nugget: There are actually two rhizomes planted together working on their second growing season. Last year this was a vigorous grower so I have high expectations for these plants.

Cascade: Like Nugget, there are two rhizomes in here on their second growing seasons. One of the rhizomes barely grew last year but this year it looks like both are growing happily.

Mt. Hood: One rhizome here and also on its third growing season. This plant takes off really early and each year it has produced plenty of bine growth until mid-summer where all the plants started dying back.

Hopefully I'll get a nice harvest off these plants this year. I'd like to do a harvest beer with a mix of all four, like a pale ale or maybe even a hoppy saison. We'll see.

The Petrus Pale Ale Clone

My last update on this beer was in July 2013 and not a lot has changed since then. In the early fall I added some extract and maltodextrin to feed the beer in hopes that some extra food would help move the beer along. It seems like it has although shortly after secondary fermentation seemed to start picking up steam it began developing an unpleasant taste, like a hot trashy kind of taste. I'm not sure what it is. It's probably some acid that hits the taste buds the wrong way. I tasted the beer last week and it's developing an acetic edge but the trashy flavor is starting to mellow. It reminds me of a saison I have from 2012 that developed a similar hot trash flavor that I've been sitting on in the bottles to see if it ages out. Part of me wants to dump this sour beer (and the saison, quite frankly) but it's not even a couple years old and I might as well see what happens.

Beer Travels 

In addition to my trip to Austin in February, my wife and I have some spectacular beer vacations lined up in the next couple months. We're hitting Portland, Bend and Seattle next month in a continuous eight day drink-a-thon. In early May we are hitting L.A. through San Francisco (up to Russian River). We're also hitting Las Vegas for my birthday weekend at the end of April but that won't be the all-out beer hunting of the other two trips. That will make for some fun adventures and some more posts in my string of vacation reviews.

Upcoming brews and various other upcoming posts

I have a backlog of beers I need to post reviews for, such as the year three lambic, gueuze, Lying Scorpion hatch chile blond and the Black Samurai Canadian Whiskey "Barrel"-Aged Dry Stout. I also have a few small projects and other things I want to post about so that's some upcoming content. Depending on my ability to clear out some of the brews as I discussed at the top of this post, I have a few good summer beers to brew. There's a couple saisons for the summer, a gratzer, an apricot blond and a kellerpils. We'll see if I can actually get all those beers brewed this summer. There's nothing wrong with holding on to some of those grains for next year but I'm sure by fall I'll have a completely different set of beers I'll want to brew for 2015.

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