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Brew Year’s Resolutions for 2018

As I reviewed my Brew Years Resolutions from last year, my line “I have a feeling 2017 is going to be a big year for me personally and professionally” was more true than I could have imagined. After a good start with my resolutions,  a new job and moving to a new house really threw a wrench into my brewing. 

Let’s see how I did with last years resolutions:

  • Brew more big beers and sour beers: Qualified success. Thomas Brady’s Ale is waiting to be bottled. I love how The Sour Chris is coming along and am giving it even more time to develop. I wanted to brew a Belgian Quad over the summer, and there were two other sours I wanted to brew. The sad thing is I bought ingredients for all of these. 
  • Perfect a house IPA recipe: Fail. The last IPA I brewed I had to dump, and I brewed that beer last may. At this point I think I want to keep experimenting with different riffs on IPA. There are so many different ingredients that can go into IPA that I don’t want to limit myself.
  • Make other fermentable beverages and food: Qualified success. I did make my first ever kit wine and spontaneous ferment cider. I have wanted to try my hand at mead for a long time but didn’t get to it. 
  • Enter more competitions: Success. I won my first ever first place with Pa’s Lager. I also won two medals with our smoked wheat Lyin’ Lochte, and a third place with Sour Chris. Of the four beers I entered into the National Homebrew Competition, one made it to the mini-best of show round which indicates it nearly placed and advanced. The only negative here is that my brewing hiatus prevented me from entering competitions in the second half of the year.
  • Collaborate more: Fail. 
A mixed bag to be sure. Going forward the key for me will be to fall into a routine with my career and brewing. Here are my resolutions for 2018:
  • Brew more big beers and sour beers: I’m carrying this one over from 2017. I have a cellar now and it is not going to fill itself. I also need to get some type of storage solution for my bottles that will protect them from light.
  • Make other fermentable beverages and food: I love having a cider on tap so much I want to make more in 2018. The wine kit was so easy I would also like to dabble in making a wine from juice. For years I have wanted to try my hand at mead. Cyser, a fermented blend of honey and apple juice is amazing when done well. I bought Jennie a cheesemaking kit several years ago. Time to make it happen!
  • Perfect a house beer: I already have a head start on this one. Check this space!
  • Plant a hop garden: I have a yard that gets plenty of sun. Can’t wait to brew another wet hop beer.
  • Keep writing: When I started the blog on the Gatehouse Media platform I agreed to write two posts a week. Since I was and still am giving Gatehouse free content they aren’t exactly going to fire me. Still, I want to do a better job writing regularly. For 2018 I want to average 6-8 posts per month. The easiest way to do that is to do a better job writing about my finished beers. Often by the time my beers are ready to drink my focus is already on the next beer.
I think that is a solid list for 2018. Happy Brew Year everyone and brew on!

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Pouring tallboys into glasses

When I was a younger man that frequented crowded bars, beer out of the bottle was ideal because my only concern was not spilling or splashing my beer if I was bumped into. I held my beer by the neck with my index and pinky finger like a douche.

As I slowly stopped going to those kind of places and really started exploring beer I realized the importance of pouring my beer into a glass. When pouring a beer into a glass it must be poured with some vigor. To truly enjoy a beer a good head of foam is essential. The size and retention of the head can vary by style, but it has to be there at least initially.

A proper pour does two things: the head traps in aromas from the beer, and it releases CO2 from solution. A slow pour intended to minimize foaming will lead to this:

The proliferation of the 16 ounce “tallboy” can has lead to, if not an epidemic of poorly served beers at least an outbreak. Beer drinkers, or God forbid beer servers can ruin a beer by trying to fit all 16 ounces in a tallboy into a pint glass. That can lead to pours like this:

No bueno. When pouring a tallboy into a glass, please pour it the same way you would a 12 ounce bottle. I start along the edge, and when the glass is 80% full I’ll pour in the middle. At this point it is like driving a stick shift, I know when I need to change gears. If I am pouring one of my homebrews with low carbonation, I might pour the beer in the middle of the glass the entire time.

Getting back to tallboys, if your glass is full but there is still beer in the can, set the can aside. I keep two coasters on my end table just for this purpose. When my glass is around half empty and the head receded, I’ll empty the can into my glass like this:

If this is how John Kimmich drinks out of a tallboy can, this is how you should drink out of a tallboy can.

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Brew Day: Broken Fist IPA (American IPA)

This is a beer I brewed earlier this year primarily for a HomebrewTalk post about fruited IPAs. The batch was infected and I dumped the entire six gallons. The only silver lining is that I didn’t waste more hops on a second dry hop. 

A long time ago Jennie and I set up a Twitter account for our home brewery. Every now and again I get Twitter alerts for that account. One day I received an alert for a tweet with a link to a Beer Advocate thread entitled: “Is West Coast IPA still relevant?”

My answer is yes, of course it is! Some drinkers are so into and obsessed with New England Pale Ales and IPAs that perhaps those drikers feel that West Coast IPAs may no longer relevant. Some are so involved in their beer geekdom that they forget that not every craft beer drinker wants to wait in line at or trade for Tree House or Trillium. The craft beer drinkers that buy beer at a store are still buying plenty of West Coast and Midwest IPAs.

Modern West Coast IPAs from the San Diego area and New England IPAs are more similar than they are different. Neither type of IPA is overly bitter and both are highly aromatic. If you served a San Diego IPA and a Vermont IPA to a blind-folded drinker that hunts “whalez”, that drinker would have a harder time than they would think discerning the difference in flavor between the two. In one blind tasting I actually preferred Port Wipeout IPA, a San Diego IPA that goes for $7 a bomber, to Heady Topper. Beer drinkers in general need to be more aware that they don’t know what they don’t know, and that Beer Advocate, RateBeer, or Untappd ratings are everything.

Digressing to my brew day, I dry-hopped my last New England IPA so aggressively that my three gallon batch only resulted in 24 bottles. As happy as I was with it, the beer went quickly. I needed to make another IPA soon. As much as I wanted to make another New England IPA, I already had most of the hops I needed to make another batch of  Broken Fist. When I think of Southern California I think of sunshine. With summer coming, a SoCal-inspired IPA will hit the spot.

I have always hopped Broken Fist a little bit like a New England IPA with a small dry hop addition toward the end of active fermentation. That first dry hop is smaller than I would employ with a New England IPA, but it’s there to boost up the hop flavor.

Beyond the hopping, Broken Fist is more of a conventional West Coast IPA. In my West Coast-inspired IPAs like Broken Fist and The Anti-Chris, I still use water high in sulfates to yield a beer that is dry and accentuates the hop flavor, whereas in my latest New England IPA I flipped convention on it’s head and brewed with water high in chlorides. I use generic US 2-row malt for the most part, and WLP090 San Diego Super yeast to produce a purely hop driven beer. And yes, I use kettle finings in my West Coast IPAs to try and make a beer that is reasonably clear.

I brewed an all-grain, six gallon double batch. I employed the same double boil that I did for the North Shore Brewers Wee Heavy. After primary fermentation, I am going to split the batch. Half of the batch will be dry hopped as normal, while I will add grapefruit peel to the other half. The split batch will be for a post on another website. Citrus IPAs and pale ales aren’t going anywhere, so I may as well try to make one.

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Brew Day: Spontaneous Ferment Cider

Fittingly now that my last cider is finally in a keg, I have a new cider fermenting. Yeast and bacteria are all around us. It is natural and it is unavoidable. A fresh-pressed juice from an apple orchard by law does not have to be pasteurized. If you buy a jug at your local orchard that is not pasteurized, the jug will likely be adorned by some type of warning. As a result, any yeasts or other microorganisms on the apple when it was pressed are in the juice. Thus it is possible to ferment juice into cider without adding yeast.

Recently my friend Doug offered to pick up five gallons of fresh-pressed juice from an orchard in Amesbury, Mass. After he dropped the juice off, I decided to take one of the five gallon jugs, pour it into a one gallon growler, and let it spontaneously ferment to see what kind of unique flavors I might get.

Doesn’t get more fresh than this!

I tucked the other four jugs into my mini-fridge. My intention was to ferment the rest of the juice with a white wine yeast. All I needed to do was free up a five gallon carboy. Three weeks later, by the time I did have a free carboy the bottles looked like this:

Bloated like me after dinner on a business trip

Much to my surprise the juice had already started to ferment. Most micro-organisms go dormant at refrigerator temperature. The CO2 that was produced caused the jugs to swell. When I broke the seals, I had to bleed off the pressure. One of the juges even gushed. Luckily I aimed the gushing juice right into a funnel.

At that point I decided to let the spotaneous fermentation go. I blended my original one gallon in with the four gallons from the refrigerator. I tasted a sample from the one gallon jug. It smelled kind of
sulphury, but tasted okay. To de-gas I may rack the cider again, but it probably just needs time.

The ability to keg and force carbonate gives more more room to experiment. I can sulphate and back-sweeten a cider with apple juice concentrate or un-fermented juice without worrying about yeast re-fermenting the added sugars.

When I finally built my keezer, my last cider was one of the first three beverages I put on tap. Cider is so easy to make I should try to keep on one draft all the time.

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My Keezer Build

From Day 1 the ethos of this blog has been that homebrewing can be as involving of a hobby as you want it to be. The level of involvement does not just apply to brewing beer. Many homebrewers enjoy building stuff to brew or serve beer as much as the beer itself. When it comes to building bars, man caves, and draught systems these folks are in their glory. 

Myself, I am just handy enough to be dangerous.When it came time to set up my own draught system, I wanted the design to be as simple as possible. My other goal was for the system to be flexible. I want to easily be able to serve from different types of kegs and different types of beer.

My precious….

The main component of a draught system is the keg itself. Most homebrewers use the cornelius or “corny” style keg. The corny keg was the industry standard for serving soda until the development of the current “bag in a box” system. These work well for homebrewing because there is a removable lid which can be used to rack the beer into and for cleaning.

There are two types of corny kegs with two different keg posts: ball lock which was used primarily by Pepsi, and pin lock which was primarily used by Coke. Ball log kegs are taller and thinner than pin locks. They are also more common in this day and age, while pin locks tend to be cheaper. Most experts suggest choosing and staying with one format. Think of it as the iOS versus Android of the homebrew world. 

The first kegs I bought were pin locks and I have stayed with them. In order to easily switch between ball and pin lock, or even a commercial keg,  all of the lines use swivel nuts and flare fittings. Everything is screw-on and screw off. I can easily screw on a flared ball lock disconnect. All I need to serve a commercial sanke keg is a sanke tap and a couple flared tail pieces.

A commercial kegerator can be retrofitted to serve homebrew. In addition to changing fittings on the lines, you also need to add a new tower to dispense more than one beer. The most popular and more cost effective way to serve homebrew is to convert a chest freezer into a kegerator. This is known as a keezer.

Compared to a stand up refridgerator a keezer can fit more kegs. To keep the keezer at the proper temperature, the freezer is plugged into a temperature controller. Having slowly gathered the equipment I needed for my keezer, I purchased a single mode temperature controller during a 20% off sale. Since then, cheaper dual mode (ability to heat and cool) models have hit the market. Since I am only looking to cool, this will work just fine.

There are many different types of faucets on the market. The inexpensive faucets have a rear seal and can become sticky from dried beer. This can be more of an issue with a home system that isn’t used as frequently as a bar or brewery tap room. Higher end faucets use a forward seal that is less of an issue.

Perlick faucets are widely known as the gold-standard, but I opted for Intertap faucets and shanks after reading this review on Brulosophy. I also purchased Intertap’s stainless steel shanks which connect to the faucets. The shanks came with barbs that attach to the beer lines. 

What really won me over is the modular nature of the faucets. I love the ability to screw off the spout, screw on a barbed tip to fill growlers, or a nitrogen tip. Instead of paying $60 or more for a stout faucet than can only do a nitrogen pour, I can purchase a $12 spout. When I don’t have a beer I want to serve on nirto, I can easily re-attach the regular tip.

Most keezers have a wood collar. The added height from the collar makes it easier to fit kegs inside, especially on top of the hump that most chest freezers have. The collar also provides a safe place to drill holes to feed the shanks through. This is where the more handy and creative brewers can pretty up their keezers. One of the favorite things about my house is that the upstairs has the original wide pine floors. Originally I was going to try to give my keezer a similar finish. Then I read about what a pain it is to stain pine. My keezer is in an unfinished basement. It is not a display piece. It just has to be functional.

I purchased a couple 2×8 boards and had them cut to size at the store. I assembled the collar, measured, and drilled holes for the shanks on the floor. Next, I removed the lid on the freezer. I placed the collar on the freezer to make sure it fit. 

Even I was able to screw these four pieces together.
Four taps to start. I could probably fit two more.

Once I was sure the collar was the right size, I applied Clear Flex Shot along the edge of the freezer, and placed the collar back on. I also used the Flex Shot along all of the seams to keep the cool air in. It was very easy to use. Any excess was easily wiped up by a paper towel. Compared to spray-on insulators and gap fillers Flex Shot doesn’t give off any fumes or gasses. 

Perfect fit!
Flex Shot bound the collar to the freezer and
sealed the joints.

I also mounted my gas manifold, temperature controller, and bottle opener to the collar. For something I slapped together without much effort, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

I can shut off any of the four lines with the flick of a switch.

I still have my mini fridge that may well contain
bottles that need to be opened.

Set it and forget it.

Once I set everything up, I put on kegs of cider, a trappist single: Chali 4, and Wet Hop Head. I had a couple leaky connections. I learned those flare fittings, and hose clamps that clamp the line onto the swivel nuts need to be super tight. 

With the collar I can’t actually reach the bottom of the freezer. I was just able to suck up the spilled beer with my wet vac. Within a few days my CO2 tank was empty. I think there was a washer missing between the tank and regulator. Going forward a backup tank is probably a good idea.

Just like it took me awhile to get my brew system dialed in, I’m sure I’ll get all the kinks ironed out. When I do it will be a game changer for me and my beer.

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Making the leap to kegs

Investing in kegs is a leap most semi-serious homebrewers make. It is easier to clean and sanitize one keg than up to 50 bottles. If you use the CO2 tank to carbonate your beer it is ready to drink much sooner than when the beer is bottle conditioned. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) has a great introduction to kegging article on their website.

Kegging was something I figured I would start doing at some point, but had put on the back burner. After trial and error, I became quite adept at bottling efficiently. As long as I brewed regularly and didn’t let my beer sit in the fermenter for too long, I always had new beer in the pipeline making the quicker carbonation less of an issue.

There are certain styles like IPA that are best served as fresh as possible. Those styles will taste better out of a force carbonated keg because the beer doesn’t need 2-3 weeks to carbonate like a bottle-conditioned beer. A properly purged keg will also expose the beer to less oxygen than a bottle. A capped bottle is not a 100% airtight seal and will slowly let air in over time. 

Bottling is not without its advantages. Some of the more obvious advantages are it can be easier to bring bottles to parties and give as gifts. Some styles like imperial stouts and barleywine will change over time as they oxidize. For me, those big beers are reserved for special occasions. A keg of barleywine can tie up a draft line for a long time if beer is only pulled from it every once in awhile.

A couple years ago I purchased four three-gallon kegs with the intention of regularly kegging my beer. Before we moved to our house, our apartment was cluttered with carboys, bukets, and brewing gear. Jennie really had the patience of a saint to put up with it. However the idea of having a kegerator in the corner of our kitchen or living room was a bridge too far. With no way to chill and serve kegged beer at home, I only used the kegs for events like Jamboree and Ales over ALS

Buying our home I was just as excited about being able to have kegged beer at home and I was having a yard and being able to brew full batches outside. Over the years I looked for bargains and slowly amassed everything I need to chill and serve kegged beer. All I need to do is build my kegerator!

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Surveying the damage of my own neglect

Not only have I barely brewed over the last several months. I have also been too busy, distracted and lazy to package beers in carboys, Beers that have been ready to go for quite awhile. I couldn’t even package my beers before we moved. On moving day, the movers carried my full carboys down the street from our old apartment to our new house.

As I work on getting a plumber to install a hose bib so I can get brewing soon enough, I took draws out of all of my carboys to see what beers are still worth packaging, and what beers I should just dump.

Wet Hop Head Pale Ale: My most recent batch is also the only batch I have brewed at home since June! Who am I? What the hell is going on?? Anyway, this had a really nice, floral hop flavor. It was restrained in the sense that the beer drank more like a pale ale than an IPA. The light caramel and Biscuit malt provide balanced and a similarly restrained malt flavor. This would have been a cool beer to bring to Ales over ALS. It would have been a cool story to tell attendees that the beer used fresh picked hops that were locally-grown on a family farm. Verdict: keeper

Pretty Things Jack D’Or Clone: One of my friends on Twitter recently asked how this beer came out. Much to his and my disappointment, it wasn’t good. This was a three gallon batch that I fermented in a five gallon carboy. I never racked the beer to a smaller vessel. This batch was just infected. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the off-flavor was, but it wasn’t good. I’m going to give this a try again, probably with a different yeast. Verdict: dumper

The Sour Chris: Coming along nicely. Has a clean sourness. If one is clean, and ten is vinegar, I’d give this about a six in terms of tartness. I’m going to give this more time to see if it adds tartness and complexity. Verdict: keeper

The Pasteinator: Man I really wanted to nail this beer, but boy is it terrible! I had originally brewed this for our club’s competition. I held off because the beer was quite alcoholic. My hope was that the harshness would mellow in time. After tasting the beer for the first time in months, the harshness had lessened, but was present enough to ruin the beer. I chalk this one up to fermenting at too high of a temperature. I look forward to brewing another bock or dopplebock this winter to enjoy next spring. Verdict: dumper

Simple Cider: This has been in secondary for quite awhile. When I tasted the cider when I racked it, it was quite good. The extra time has only made it better. Verdict: keeper.

Chali 4: This was an extract Patersbier or Trappist Single I slapped together as a starter beer. My plan was to use the yeast cake from this beer to ferment a planned Belgian Dark Strong Ale.

When I took a pull and gave Jennie a taste she said it didn’t really taste like anything. When I explained that it is supposed to be a light, easy drinking beer, and to imagine the beer carbonated she smiled and kind of shrugged. This was an easy beer to make and I have reasonable hopes for it. I could easily brew this again next summer to build up enough yeast for a Belgian quad. Verdict: keeper

While I still can’t brew, I do finally have a chest freezer. I already had a temperature controller. I plugged the freezer into the controller, set it for 35F, and kegged Wet Hop Head, Simple Cider, and Chali 4. Now I just need to finish building my draught system.

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What I have learned selling malt

I was really hoping to have a brew day post or two ready to go by now. I have everything I need to brew five gallon, all-grain batches in a reasonable period of time now that we have our own home with a yard. On brew day I realized I was missing one critical component, a place to attach a hose. I bought the only house I have ever seen with no hose bib outside. The kitchen faucet wouldn’t even take a hose adapter. With no way to chill five gallons of wort, anything other than extract is out of the question until I get that hose bib installed. Seems like as good of a time as any to reflect on three months working for Muntons.

In the time I accepted the position with Muntons until I actually started, I read Brewers Publications book on Malt cover to cover. As part of my on-boarding with Muntons I participated in live Skype training sessions with the people at the maltings in the UK. The brewers and maltsters went into great detail on the malting process and Muntons various products.

In everything I have ever sold I was a product knowledge expert. The customers I was working with were usually counting on me to educate them on the product. I have been working in sales since I finished college, but selling malt to brewers is completely different than selling cars, electronics, or insurance.

As many batches as I have brewed at home, or beers I have tasted, a professional brewer is going to know, or at least think they know, more about beer and ingredients than I do. If I compared my homebrewing to what these people do every day I could easily sound like a sports talk radio caller that compares his experience in Little League or high school to the pros. That guy always sounds like an idiot.

Every brewer approaches malt a little differently. Some brewers are married to particular malts, while others will switch malts just because one was cheaper. I had the owner of one brewery that has been open for over 20 years switch from our Propino Pale Ale malt to US 2-row, and then ask me on the phone why our malt is more expensive. After mentioning yields, degrees of modification, and flavor, I also mentioned how our malt has the added expense of coming to America on a boat.

I suspect that owner knew that I was new and was just testing me. When I met him in-person he told me that he felt Muntons’ competitors had been more aggressive trying to earn his business and that he wasn’t enough of a priority. The owner even said that price wasn’t everything. I think I built up enough rapport with him that I have a chance to win him back next year.

What I’ve learned is how important relationships are.  I left a bunch of Muntons caps with one of our larger customers. The head brewer emailed me back to say his guys loved the hats. I made it a point to visit one local brewery owner at the Great American Beer Festival. I met him at his brewery. He had used our products when he worked at another brewery, but isn’t in a position to buy anything from us now. Still, when I saw him he recognized me as the Muntons guy. He asked if I had any t-shirts. I didn’t then, but will be sure to bring one next time I am near his brewery.

On our sales call last week my boss reiterated when a brewer offers beer to take the beer. Often brewers are too busy or disinterested to give you that time. When I do have that opportunity, it is easy for me to nerd out with a brewer as we both try the same beer. That’s usually when I try to sprinkle in my beer knowledge and talk more about Muntons.

This week I am flying to Buffalo, NY to meet with an existing client. While I am in town I plan to spend a day knocking on doors, and another day in Rochester, NY doing the same thing. If I am lucky I’ll get a couple of decent leads. If I know who to ask for next time I am in the area, that’s a win. If I had a chance to build any type of rapport during my first visit even better. Maybe they will remember the ‘Muntons guy’!

I think that is where outside sales, and selling to business is different from inside sales to the public. Yes, follow up is important in any type of sales, but your best chance of closing someone you have on the phone or at your store is when that person is on the line or in front of you. I know when salespeople call me I avoid them like the plague. With malt, even when a customer says they are going to buy from you it could be weeks, months or never.

“80 percent of success is just showing up” —Woody Allen

That one line is basically what I do.

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Ales Over ALS 2017

In sixth grade I put off and I put off starting my project for the
school science fair. Finally, a couple days before the fair I slapped together
the easiest experiment I could think of. I tested static electricity by rubbing
my feet on a carpet and touching a door knob. As a visual aide I drew pictures
of myself rubbing my feet on the carpet, and the spark produced. As I presented
my experiment to my class and how I had tested my hypothesis about static
electricity, one intrepid classmate asked “Did this take you five
Somehow I received a B minus
for my “work”. I was never the most devoted student, but I remember
feeling embarrassed seeing everyone else’s displays that they had put weeks of
work into, then seeing my sad project. I was reminded of that feeling at this
year’s Ales Over ALS.
year’s event
 was an emotional experience. I had planned to brew Larrupin
 for months, and Pugnacious
for weeks leading up to the event. This year I had planned to
brew a witbier, then I let life get in the way. In addition to my new job
with Muntons and
all the traveling that has entailed, we
finally bought a home
! As exciting and at times unnerving the past couple
months have been, I was never able to brew the witbier. 
Plan B was to bring Wet
Hop Head
. I figured telling people at the event that the beer was made with
freshly harvested hops from Essex County would make them excited to try the
beer. The week before the event I attempted to keg the beer and I realized I
had lost my keg
post socket
. That meant I couldn’t remove the dip tubes for cleaning or
check the O-rings.
Plan C became to figure out
what beer I had in bottles that I could bring and not run out of. The one beer
I had more than a case of was Hazy
. That beer scored a 37 in a BJCP competition, and I was thrilled with
how it came out. Additionally I found a case of an old cider while moving that
I also brought to serve at the event. The cider was my take on Woodchuck
Belgian White
The day of the event I iced the
bottles down in my cooler. After parking my car I tasted the Hazy Brown.
Bottled in April it had held up nicely, but it was slightly oxidized to me. For
the competition I decided to enter my Witcidre into the competition.
People seemed to like the
cider. I think more people liked the Hazy Brown and it may have done better in
the People’s Choice voting. Three of the four judges gave the cider very
favorable scores and writeups. One judge was decidedly harsh. To be fair, I
agreed more with him.
This was a cider I made in
early 2013. At that time I had been brewing for only a few months. I was still
working at Target; After Christmas I stocked up on Archer Farms (Target Brand)
Cider that had gone on clearance. I found the idea for a Belgian cider on a
HomebrewTalk forum. When it was young, the cider was very dry and tart. I
probably used the wrong type or orange peel or just used too much of it. In
time that faded, but so too had the spice and any yeast character.
Instead of coming up with a
plan and following that plan to brew something cool and interesting, I dug
through my cellar and just brought whatever I could find. Both beverages I
brought were enjoyable enough, but neither were the best representation of what
I am capable of as a brewer. 
This is six weeks after I
couldn’t manage to bring anything to Jamboree. Instead I got Muntons to sponsor
the event and set up a table to exhibit. At least I exhibited until it rained.
Currently I have Thomas Brady Ale, Sour Chris, Simple Cider, Pastinator, Jack
D’Or Clone, Wet Hop Head and Chali-4 still in carboys. I need to get these
beers in kegs and bottles, and then get brewing again.
I have a house with space to
brew outside, a basement to store grain in bulk, and space for a kegerator.
Next weekend it is time to fire up that kettle and get back on track. As for
Ales over ALS 2018, I decided on my way home from Ales over ALS 2017 what I
want to bring. I am going to brew it sooner rather than later, because this
brew will need a bit of time!
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Brew Day: Wet Hop Head Pale Ale (American Pale Ale)

It was only a couple short months ago that I was marveling that after three years I was still producing content on a regular basis. Between a new job, and hopefully a new house I haven’t brewed a batch at home in over two months. Also, when I worked at Modern Homebrew Emporium being around ingredients and brewers once a week inspired me to brew more. Maybe not being in that environment lessened my enthusiasm.

The Chinook had a pungent, spicy aroma

I did have several beers I wanted to brew over the summer. Beers that I had bought ingredients for and to date haven’t brewed. The state of affairs is so sorry I am going to Jamboree empty-handed. I should be there representing Muntons. If you are going to Jambo look for my booth and be sure to say hi.

What I needed was some inspiration and some motivation. That came when I was presented with a chance to brew with wet hops. Fitzgerald Farm in Haverhill posted to the North Shore Brewer’s Facebook page that they had limited quantities of wet hops to sell. Not being able to grow my own hops this year, I jumped at the chance.

Whereas almost all beers are made with hops that have been dried, wet hops are hops that have been picked fresh off the bine. If hops aren’t dried shortly after being harvested they will spoil within a couple of days. When a commercial brewer releases a wet hop beer they go to great lengths to have the hops sent to the brewery and used as soon as possible.

The Centennial looks like it was harvested at juust the right time

I arranged to meet the Fitzgeralds to pick up a pound of Chinook and Centennial. This is only the second year they have grown hops on the farm and the first year they had enough of a yield to sell to brewers. They hope to have more rhizomes to split off and have an even larger yield and incrementally grow. I am actually going to be one of, if not the first brewer to make a beer with hops from their farm.

Picked and brewed on the same day!

With two pounds to work with I decided to brew a batch with only the wet hops. On his blog, Brad Smith suggested using at least six to eight times the weight of wet hops as you would with dry hops to compensate for the higher moisture levels in wet hops.

As for a recipe to showcase these wet hops I had a perfect recipe ready to go. I had planned to brew Modern Homebrew Emporium’s best-selling Hophead Pale Ale extract kit and had already bought the extract and specialty malts. I picked up the hops on a Monday night and needed to brew with the wet hops before the hops spoiled. A short and easy extract brew was perfect for a last-minute brew day on a Monday night.

I made sure that all of the hops were submerged. 

I used the same hop schedule as the recipe called for, but I did adjust the amounts and type of hops to use all of the wet hops. The volume of hop material to add to the kettle was substantial. I used one of the large grain bags I usually use for my BIAB batches. After the boil I used a strainer to let the bag drain just as I would let a grain bag drain.

With the huge volume of hop material I did have to top off with almost four gallons of water. I suspect any fermentable sugars lost to hop absorbtion will be balanced by lower hop utilization in the more concentrated wort. With no lab analysis of these hops I am really shooting from the hip in terms of IBUs.

The Fitzgeralds are anxious to hear how hops from their farm. I am almost as anxious to have a hoppy beer in the house again.

Click here for the recipe.
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