Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Hop Experiment

I'm not sure about growing hops in the south, despite the success stories I've heard from fellow members of the Bluff City Brewers. I read an article in Brew Your Own magazine about growing them in containers and I had a pitifil looking plant so I decided to give it a try. My father-in-law designed the planter (and pretty much built it), I bought some potting mix and went over to my neighbor's house to dig up the hops. The plant started out as a rizome that somebody forgot to pick up at Midsouth Malts a couple of years ago and Kevin had put it in one of his planters and forgot about it.
To my surprise the thing has been growing right up the strings I attached to a small wooden rig I built to hold up the hop bines. I even had to rig up another, taller one, because the bines got so long.
But after seeing the hops growing at Phil and Jody Kane's place a week ago, I am a little bit disappointed. Phil has some pretty good hop cones on his plants already. Mine are just forming (I hope). I have dutifully watered the box daily. I have weeded the box. I have disuaded my dog from watering the box (I think it's too tall anyway). But I see only a few sprouts where the cones should be.
It might be that I have too many bines for the root system. It could be that the Memphis summer is just too scorching for the plant despite the serious amounts of water I have given.
The problem needs more study. Because free hops could do a lot to help the home beer budget.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Clean this beer up!

The American Brown seems to be finished with the initial fermentation and is moving toward the diacetyl rest, a time where the yeast sort of cleans up some off flavors and drops out of suspension. It's important not to chill the beer for a few more days. I might rack it to a secondary fermenter tomorrow and put it back into the fermentation vault so I can harvest some yeast to make an American Stout. But after that I'll leave it alone for a while longer.

Here's a beer quote I've not seen before.
"Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer."
Henry Lawson

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Oh! delicious Brown Ale!

I made an American Brown today while I was watching my daughter and doing housework. I always start drinking the finished keg thinking, "Not bad,..." But as the beer matures I fall in love with it, eventually discovering this truth only as the vessel goes dry. The cycle starts all over when I begin planning to replicate the magic by making it again.
Today I hit all brewing parameters within a narrow, but acceptible range.
The beer seems to have come out well despite various distractions.
After all, she's five, I am her father and even beer should yield to this responsibility. There was lunch and a plan to make a fort out of nearly every pillow in the house.
I just hope that I can teach her to love art in some form. It does not have to be the brewing arts. Of course, it cannot be for many years. But I do want her to have a desire to express herself through a creative act.
I hope for her the same joy I experience when I make a delicous Brown Ale.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

American Pale 208

That's the name of the recipe I brewed 13 days ago. I kegged it up today with a 12 pack on the side and it tasted wonderful. I'm very pleased since I have recently experienced a minor level of astringent off flavor in my beer. I adjusted the sparge temperature and, based on today's tasting, believe the problem has been resolved. I can't wait until it's been carbonated and cold conditioned.
Tomorrow I'll make an American Brown.
Then we'll talk about the local beer scene here in Memphis.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Brew Day

I'm making an American Brown Ale on Friday. The recipe is not my own. But the resulting beer is usually so good that I can't think of a way to improve on it. But the recipe is only part of the magic. The process will do as much to make this beer as the ingredients will.