Gowanus Brewery

Propagating Hops by Jeremy
October 13, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: hops

In the same spirit that united me with my Cascade rhizome cutting through the Yahoo! Grow Hops Group, I am attempting to propagate the hop plants in my garden to redistribute to the Yahoo! group and other friends.

The plan is simple. As you can see in the picture, I just took three long planter boxes, filled them with a mix of top soil and compost, and buried two bines in each box. They’ll sit outside all winter under a layer of mulch and next season, when it’s time to cut them up, I’ll unearth them and see what I’ve got.

If you click through on the picture, you’ll get a better view of the actual cuttings. I believe that each point generating leaves will transform into a point generating roots, so that, for every section with sprouting leaves, I’ll have a potential root cutting next year. I guess that I have about 10 cuttings total for each box here, if not more.


Gowanus American Harvest Amber Ale by Jeremy
September 6, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, amber ale, beer, hops, naming, northern brewer, recipe

A new season; a new brew.

The “Harvest” of the Gowanus American Harvest Amber Ale is represented, pitifully, by the half-ounce of fresh hops I pulled off the garden this season. I say pitifully, because that’s the entire harvest. A small harvest is typical, though, for newly-planted hops, which can take up to two seasons to reach their full potential.

Still, a half ounce of garden hops is kinda weak for a harvest ale, especially considering that the ratio for fresh hops to pellets, which recipes tend to assume, is 5 to 1. So, to cover all my bases, I’ll add that the spent grain went to the compost for next year’s harvest. So, we’re agreed. It’s harvesty.

Anyway, the beer. I bought the all-grain American Amber Ale kit from Northern Brewer, which they describe as follows:

It’s not quite an alt; it’s not quite a pale ale. Our American Amber borrows from German and British brewing traditions to make a beer that’s uniquely American, perhaps similar to the ales our forefathers brewed in the colonial days. Hearty and smooth, this beer improves greatly with a little extra aging, if you’re patient enough.

It includes 8 lbs. 2-row pale malt, 1 lb. Munich malt, and 1 lb. Caramel 60, 2 oz. Cascade hops (60 mins.), 1 oz. Cascade hops (15 mins.), and an American Ale yeast. I modified the recipe to include a quarter ounce of home-grown Centennial and a quarter ounce of home-grown Cascade for aroma (the Willamette has yet to flower). I’m also going to put 1 ounce of oak chips on this beer during secondary for about a week to add enough extra tweak to feel like I can really call it my own.

Will tell you how it turned out in about six weeks!

Hop Garden Update by Jeremy
August 20, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: hops

The hop plants have been booming!

The one pictured is the Centennial and it’s climbed well above seven feet. The Willamette is only about five feet high now, but it has a lot of, ahem, girth. The Cascade, on the back fence, is going the best, though I have it set up on a T-shaped trellis, so I can’t say how tall it is. As a guess, I’d put it 15 feet, if it were growing straight up.

All of them have at least some burrs that will become hops soon. The Cascade is ahead of the back with a few dozen well-formed hops hanging all over the place. The others not so much, but, hey, that they survived their journey to Brooklyn at all is remarkable.

Hop Garden and Strong Wheat Update by Jeremy
July 23, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, hops, strong ale

I have been quite busy setting up a new business, so this little hobby of mine has been riding the pine.  There is news to report, though.

All three of my hop plants–the Willamette, Centennial, and Cascade–are growing well, if not quickly.  If you zoom in on the picture posted here, you might be able to see a single, solitary bine inching up the back fence and a few feet of bines creeping up the hop trellis in the middle on the left.  They are quickly proving to be hardy and happy.  In the last week or so, they started growing at a pace of about an inch a day.  Plus, the Willamette and Centennial are starting to send out side shoots, a sign of good health I believe, though I do have to clip those to force the plant to focus on growing upwards.

The Strong Wheat is also progressing nicely.  I’ve had about six 12-ounce bottles by now and each one is better than the last.  Unfortuneatly, the carbonation is on the high side and actually may prevent me from aging the beer as long as I’d like to, if it continues to build.  The last thing I want to be dealing with is a shelf full of syrupy-beer bombs.  There will be more on this brew in the future when I find time to do a proper writeup.

Hop Garden – It’s Alive! by Jeremy
June 21, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: hops

They may be hard to spot in these pictures, but what you see before you is three sprouted hop rhizomes. That’s right. Despite all the ups and downs, they’re alive!

The two plants on the left are planted on either side of the hop trellis and will eventually grow up twine lines stretched from the deck to the top of the trellis.  The Centennial is the larger of the two and the other is the Willamette.  The plant on the right is the Cascade I received from the Yahoo! Grow-hops Group recently.  It’s the one that survived weeks sitting in a cardboard box during a massive heat wave.  I have it planted in the back of the yard in the center of a fence where, eventually, there will be a section of wood lattice for it to cling to as it grows up.

As you can see, none of them have the benefit of great-looking soil.  All of the soil in this part of Brooklyn is rich in clay and dense, because–and I’m serious now–millions of years ago a glacier removed all of the top soil in its path, revealing the layer of clay-rich soil we have today.  The soil in the back of the yard has, however, been under plastic for over four years, so it actually might be relatively nutrient-rich.  Anyway, we’ve got a compost bin on the way and I should have better soil to work with by mid-summer.

Hop Garden Tribulations by Jeremy
June 13, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: hops

It has been a wild ride getting my hop garden live this season.

Last I reported, I had given up on the first two rhizomes I planted, the Willamette and Centennial. After more than a month, they hadn’t broken ground and, after excavating them, I didn’t see any signs of life in them. I figured they were kaput and my only consolation at the time was that I had won a Cascade rhizome in the Yahoo! Grow-hops Group that was on its way. So much has changed since that update.

The first thing that happened was a total reversal of circumstances. My girlfriend noticed earlier in the week that the Centennial had actually broken ground! It was a huge surprise and made me check out the Willamette too–it appeared to be coming back as well, though it hadn’t actually sprouted yet. The weather has been especially warm lately, so I guess that’s what woke them up. Now I had two viable rhizomes in the ground and a third that was supposed to be on its way. I quickly realized though that it was long overdue. I tracked it online and it turns out that it was delivered weeks prior, despite never reaching my hands.

So, where I once had two dead plants on my hands and one live one on its way, I had two live plants in the ground and one missing in action. I was bummed about missing that delivery, but only until yesterday. My girlfriend had more good news for me. She noticed a weather-beaten box near our neighbor’s trash cans that had my name on it. You can guess what was inside.

I planted the Cascade last night in the best, richest soil we have in the yard. I’m not certain that it survived weeks of rain and 100-degree plus temperatures, but at this point anything’s possible!

Hop Garden Update by Jeremy
May 29, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: hops

I’ve tried to maintain hope that the Willamette and Centennial hops rhizomes I planted in April would eventually take hold and break ground, but it’s time to accept a loss on this one: they’re both officially worm food. On the plus side, the Yahoo! Grow Hops group rhizome exchange has saved the summer with a donated Cascade cutting. Just in time, too.

With only the most basic understanding of growing hops, I can only guess how I killed the first two rhizomes. The mostly likely explanation, assuming they were viable when they arrived in the first place, is that the refrigerator was too cold for storing them prior to planting. New rhizomes are sensitive to cold temperatures and, though the temperature in my fridge is obviously above freezing, if it happened that they were in direct line with circulating cold air, it may have gotten cold enough to cause damage. I may never know.

When the Grow Hops group cutting arrives, I’m going to plant it on one side of the hop trellis. As the first bines appear, I’ll try to train them up both sides of the trellis, at least for the first year, since I won’t have a second rhizome to plant on the other side. It’s late in the season, so I have low expectations. There’s always next year.