Gowanus Brewery

Notes on Growing Hops by Jeremy
May 8, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: hops

Friar Smith was kind enough to address a couple of concerns I had regarding our hop garden and to share some general wisdom, based on his own experiences.

On my hop trellis design:

Your first-year hops will not bush-out much at the top, so being 14″ apart at the top is not an issue for now. Next year, you may want to add some type of divider along the top two to three feet of your trellis to keep the plants apart. Be a ruthless pruner: if you are disciplined and keep your bines limited to 3-4 per plant (that’s so hard when healthy ones pop out!), you will keep the bushing-out to a minimum, limit the expansion of the root mound (read: keep the thing contained and under control), and really increase the amount harvested. I usually let the first 7 or 8 bines grow to about 18 inches, then keep the 4 healthiest.

You should consider installing at least one staked guy-wire perpendicular to the orientation of the hangers at the top to safeguard the pole during windy days.

After-planting tips:

The first sprouts should break ground in 21-28 days, depending on weather.

Rather than participate in the clockwise/counter-clockwise debate, consider first the path of the sun relative to each plant. The tip of the plant will follow the sun and wrap in that manner. If you are unsure, wrap the bine in the way it grows naturally. Fighting it is useless, because they will either unwind themselves or start to grow their own way anyway… which is probably best.

Remember, July is mini-skirt month. Once your plant grows 5-7 feet and starts to send out lateral growth (where the cones will set), thin out the foliage on the bottom four feet of each bine so you just see the twine and bine. This will discourage mildew, aphids, and will focus more of the plant’s energy towards the top section and those precious cones.

The two products below probably can be ordered online, and you might find them at a hardware or nursery that sells organic fertilizer. I’ve never seen these at HD or Lowes. They are simply awesome for hops. Two lupulin-covered thumbs up…

Fish emulsion: Mix one tablespoon in a gallon of water. Apply once each week to the base of each plant until you get lots of burrs (around July 1st). This stuff stinks (it’s ground up fish and fish excrement from hatcheries) and is hard to wash off your hands, so wear some kitchen gloves.

Mor-Bloom: Mix at the same ratio, but start weekly applications around July 1st through harvest. Does not stink!

After-harvest tip:

After your harvest, don’t cut the vines down until a week or so before your first heavy frost, which for the east coast, is probably sometime in October. This will encourage further root growth until the ground freezes. Then cut the bines about knee-height and cover them with compost and leaf litter.

Thank you Friar Smith!


Hop Trellis Drawings by Jeremy
May 3, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, hops

These are very basic drawings of the hop trellis I built a few weekends ago. It’s designed to support two hop plants, one on either side. They will grow directly up twine supports, which aren’t pictured, looped over the wrought iron plant hangers I bought at Lowes at the top. The twine will run down to a small roped cleat, also not pictured, attached to the post so I can let down the bines at the end of the summer easily.

These were drawn using Google SketchUp.

There are a few aspects of construction that are not obvious from the drawings. First, the plant hangers sit on the surface of the pole and are secured with two screws, despite appearing to sit in slots in the drawing. Second, I drilled a pocket into the post 1 1/4 inch in diameter (the figure in the drawing is not correct) in such a way that the pole fits snuggly inside it. By the way, the opening in a 2 inch flange is just less than 1 1/4″, so I cut the pole lengthwise like an old-fashioned clothespin to make up the difference. And the whole thing was cemented in place in a hole about 18 to 24 inches deep.

Hops and Hop Trellis by Jeremy
April 20, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, hops

Saturday, my girlfriend and I laid the groundwork for our summer garden, which included putting Centennial and Willamette hop rhizomes in the ground and putting up the hop trellis. I ordered the rhizomes from Northern Brewer last month and received them directly from their vendor in Oregon earlier this week.

The trellis turned out great and is as basic as can be. It consists of scrap 4×4, leftover closet rod, two six-inch plant hangers, a one-inch flange, an eye-hook, a small rope cleat, and forty pounds of cement. Total cost: $20.

It’s not totally done yet, though. I still have to run the twine that will support the hop bines. The twine will be secured near the hop rhizomes, loop over the top hooks, and will be tied off at the rope cleat. With this design, I’ll be able to let the bines down at the end of the summer with minimal hassle.

Too Late to Dry Hop by Jeremy
December 5, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: chinook, hops, ipa

Apparently it never is.

I was flipping through my Beer in Blogs feed and happen to read a post that casually mentioned adding dry hops to beer at the same time you move it to secondary. This is known as “dry hopping”. As I said, I forgot to do this step with the Chinook IPA, but, even two weeks after moving to secondary, I think it may not be too late. I’ll throw those bad boys in tonight.

I love to catch a break every now and then.

Over at Brew Your Own there is an in-depth article from 2003 on dry hopping that answers all the basic questions that have loomed in my mind for the past several weeks and several others that never occurred to me. For instance, I didn’t realize dry hopping was such a broad term: “[d]ry hopping refers to any hop addition after the wort has been cooled.” To learn just that a beer has been dry hopped, actually tells you little about the dry hopping process.

The most important part of the article for my purposes describes the underlying purpose of dry hopping:

Due to the fact that no volatile oils are boiled off, the benefit to dry hopping is that the brewer can get as much flavor and aroma possible into the final beer… What dry hopping does not add to the beer is bitterness. Boiling is necessary to convert the alpha acids in the hops to iso-alpha acids to create bitterness.

In other words, the purpose of dry hopping is to infuse hops’ essential oils to the wort, which adds a floral aroma, without increasing its bitterness.

Dry hopping will still affect flavor, if not by adding bitterness. The BYO article says that dry hopping adds “grassy” or “oily” flavors and warns this may be a drawback. I assume whatever affect this has on flavor, it must be strong and distinct to warrant the warning. I will try to cover this when I review my Chinook IPA.

The other topic that interested me was choosing hops. Personally, I’ve come in contact with fewer than 10 varieties of hops, but I know there dozens, if not hundreds out there. Here, unfortunately, the article is not especially clear:

It is common for these hops to have relatively low alpha acid ratings, often around 6% or less… Of course, one of the beauties of homebrewing is that you do not have to follow anyone’s suggestions; you can try whatever you want. This being said, some homebrewers dry-hop with high alpha acid varieties like Centennial and Chinook.

Confusingly, it recommends choosing hops with low or high alpha acid ratings, suggesting at least that hops’ alpha acids content may be relevant. The Wikipedia article on hops discusses alpha acids and leads me to believe that the alpha acid rating is probably irrelevant:

The degree of bitterness imparted by hops depends on the degree to which otherwise insoluble alpha acids (AAs) are isomerized during the boil, and the impact of a given amount of hops is specified in International Bitterness Units. Unboiled hops are only mildly bitter.

So, there you have it. The only relevant factor, which the BYO article does finally point out, is taste. The article recommends, “if you like the results of using a particular hop variety in the last 5–10 minutes of the boil then you will probably like the results of dry hopping with the same variety.”

One last note here, about when to take the hops out. They can be left in contact with the beer for days or weeks or months, according to BYO. Apparently, the only only real limit is that the hops must be separated out before bottling.

Next Batches by Jeremy
November 1, 2007, 4:00 pm
Filed under: beer, chinook, extra pale ale, hops, ipa, northern brewer

I recently received a Northern Brewer catalog and it has both an awesome array of geeky homebrewing equipment and a great selection of ingredient kits. Well, at least the selection is great for my still-learning-the-ropes purposes. Several styles of beer are represented and there are several beers to choose from within each style. Plus, NB makes it easy to choose between the kits by including important basic information alongside each beer. You see the style of beer depending on which section the kit is in and in each caption you get brewing difficulty, original gravity, aging time, and, best of all, a short paragraph describing the beer’s characteristics. This catalog makes choosing what beer to brew for my next batch a breeze.

As I said, I am going to try to build on past experience with each new batch. Now, I have a batch of California Imperial IPA aging and waiting to be bottled, so I am going to stick with ales. In this category, NB carries a kit for a beer called Chinook IPA, which sounds appetizing:

Our take on the American IPA style has a relatively modest gravity and an immodest hop character derived entirely from a single hop variety. Chinook hops have long been used by US brewers for bittering additions, but their intense aroma and flavor have caught on only recently. This kit is a bit lighter in body than our Classic India Pale Ale kit, which enhances the perceived bitterness and reduces the aging requirements. It shows up in the glass with a reddish-gold color and a thick, resinous Chinook aroma that lingers after the glass is emptied.

The Chinook IPA appears simply to be a traditional IPA defined by its hops, Chinook hops. In its most basic form, the IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a pale ale with higher levels of alcohol and hops. And the pale ale is just a style of beer comprised predominantly of pale malt, which is so called because the malt is dried at a sufficiently low temperature to preserve its light color, and fermented with an ale yeast. The higher hops in an IPA add bitterness over the pale ale and, in combination with the higher alcohol, have an antimicrobial effect, which is where the IPA gets its namesake. In the 1700’s, beer would rarely survive the voyage from England to India unless it was heavily hopped to protect against spoilage.

I remember that the hops I used in my last batch, the California Imperial IPA, were also Chinook hops, so I am definitely going to go with this kit. It should have similar, less intense flavor characteristics compared to the Imperial IPA. Unfortunately, the hops are the only similarity in the ingredient list between the two beers, so there will still be a lot of variables at work to set them apart. Specifically, the Imperial IPA used crushed crystal malt 120L, while the Chinook IPA uses Dingemans Caramel Pils and Briess Caramel 120. The Imperial used plain amber liquid and dry malt extract, while the Chinook uses Pilsen liquid and dry malt extract. The Imperial used Nottingham dry yeast, while the Chinook uses Wyeast #1056 American Ale Yeast. Despite the differences, by choosing the Chinook IPA for my next batch, I will have the opportunity to brew a similar style beer and to focus in on Chinook hops.

I don’t know what sets Chinook hops apart from the rest, so naturally I have to look it up. My primary resources for the time being are going to be the Brew Your Own website, the Beer Advocate website, and Wikipedia, although I do have two homebrew guides to draw on as well.

The BYO site has a helpful chart which says Chinook hops have a typical flavor characteristic that is “[m]ild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity.” It says Chinook hops typically appear in pale ales, IPAs, stouts, porters, and lagers. It also says Chinook hops range from from 10 to 14% alpha acid.

Beer Advocate also has a hops chart, which says the following:

Chinook is a bittering variety with aroma characteristics released in May, 1985. It was bred by crossing a Petham Golding with the USDA 63012 male. A high alpha acid hop with a wonderful herbal, almost smoky character when used as an aromatic during the last few minutes of the boil when dry hoping. Excellent for hopping American-style Pale Ales, especially those brewed to higher gravities. (alpha acid: 12.0-14.0% / beta acid: 3.0-4.0%)

Wikipedia more or less says the same:

American cross between Petham Golding and a USDA-selected male. Typical American citric pine hop with notable grapefruit and pineapple flavours. (Alpha acid 12.0–14.0% / beta acid 3.0–4.0%)

In sum, Chinook hops seem to be a relatively new variety, originating in 1985, and typify heavier, American-style pale ales. Its flavor characteristics may include citric pine, grapefruit, or pineapple and the hops may, when added late, add an herbal or smoky aroma. Chinook hops have high alpha acids, ranging between 10 and 14%, and low beta acids, ranging from 3 to 4%.

To be prepared for the third batch and to save a little money on shipping charges, I’m going to order two ingredient kits at the same time. With the Chinook IPA, I am also going to order Northern Brewer’s Extra Pale Ale kit, which will actually include some of the same ingredients as will come with the Chinook. They even use the same yeast, so it will be interesting to see whether these two new beers are more similar to each other due to the shared ingredients, than the Chinook is to the California Imperial IPA because they are similar styles.