Carnie Brewing update

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Brew Blog

It’s 2014 and I haven’t posted on my brewing for a while.  There’s a pretty good reason for that…my last brewing post was about my version of MG’s “Hopfweizenbock”, which I brewed back in mid-November.  Unfortunately it’s got the same harsh, raw, vegetative taste that I got in my Carnie Pale Ale #6, which was an all-Galaxy SMaSH brew.  It seems to be the Galaxy dry hopping that’s doing it…I dry hopped the weizenbock for 5 days, and I think that was a couple of days too many, as it went from tasting bloody good out of the fermenter to slap-in-the-face really quickly.  I dunno if I got a bad batch of Galaxy maybe, ‘coz others seem to have dry-hopped with it successfully.  I won’t be doing it again, that’s for sure.

Anyway, would you believe that was my last brew?  I haven’t brewed in almost two months, unless you count a Ginger Beer I’ve put together for my mum…she asked for a GB months ago and I finally got around to doing it….just in time for me to gift it to her while we’re all on holidays next week.  It was a simple kit GB, and even though I’m not a big fan of ginger, it tastes pretty good to me.  I reckon it’ll go alright next week poured over ice while we’re sweltering through the predicted 40C temperatures…

The main reason for my lack of brewing is beer stocks….I had a heap of beer and bugger all empty bottles…but I’ve mostly fixed that up over the xmas/new year break.  I’m in the early stages of planning a keg setup, so once that’s in place I’m going to need to knock out some brews real quick to fill those kegs.  I reckon a Kensington Kolsch, Frau Farbissina Hefeweizen and the latest version of my Random Task IPA are on the cards as the first three carnie brews into kegs.  Stay tuned….

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Hops in pots update

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Growing Hops

I wasn’t going to post an update as yet, as it doesn’t feel like my hops are doing a hell of a lot.  Some growers in more Northern states are posting pics of hop cones sprouting, and some have even picked their first harvest of the year!  But everyone down here in Melbourne is just watching and waiting.

But then I took a look at the last lot of pics I posted, and realised there’s been a lot more going on than I thought.  See for yourself:

Cascade – It’s looking pretty bushy down low, with a couple of strong, thick bines that are around 2/3rds of the way up my “trellis”.

IMG-20140109-00066

 

Hersbrucker – One of its bines reached the top of my trellis last week, so I climbed to the top and let the string down to give it some more room.  The bine is quite thick and sturdy, it doesn’t bend like I thought it would, so I’m not sure this design is all that appropriate.  I had to tie some sections of the bine to the horizontals with plastic ties to stop it blowing around too much in the wind.  I think next year I’ll rig something super-tall so they can all climb straight up.

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A wide shot of the both of them:

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So these potted hops seem to be growing really well.  I’ve been pretty frugal with watering, using a cheapo soil moisture meter occassionally and only watering them when it’s bordering on dry.  I see other growers on my home brew forum seem to water a lot more, but for now I’ll continue based on soil moisture levels.

I haven’t taken photo’s of my other two varieties, planted in the ground out the front….unfortunately the Columbus is almost completely dead, it went an awful brown colour, so I cut the worst bines back, leaving only two…and even those two look nasty.  I’ll post a photo of it soon.

The chinook looks healthy as ever, but has completely stalled…it has around 4 or 5 bines, each around a metre tall or so, but it doesn’t look to have grown at all recently.  I think the soil has a drainage issue where I’ve planted it, so before next season I’ll dig the area up and see if I can prep it better.

It’s just turned to Summer here down under, and I realised it’s been 2 months since my last “Hops in Pots Down Under” update, but really it’s because there’s was very little visible action since that last post.  All my research seems to show me this is pretty normal for first year hops, they show a few sprouts, a short bine or two, then get stuck into establishing their root system.  Sure enough, I had a bit of a dig around on my Cascade, and the little rhizome I stuck into the potting mix back in early August is laying down some serious foundations.  There’s also a heap of new shoots starting to bud out of the main part of the rhizome, so it looks like things will get pretty interesting over the coming months.

I’ve taken a few photos of my varieties today, because just in the last week there’s been some good progress.  First up the Cascade…the main bine that sprouted early has still not done a lot lately, other than a bit over half of it falling off the string during some high winds a week or two back.  I wound it back on, hopefully everything’s ok.  You can just see in the wide shot a 2nd shoot poking its head out, on the left in the close shot.  It looks really healthy, so I’ll watch that with great interest in the coming weeks:

1st year Cascade after 4 months  IMG-20131203-00051

Next up the Hersbrucker.  This little fella aint so little any more…it must have read my last post about the Cascade kicking its arse, because I walked out there a few days ago to find a new bine had grown from almost nothing, to around a foot long in less than 48 hours.  I quickly gave it a string to cling to (on the right), and promised never to mock it again:

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Now onto the Columbus.  Remember this one is from a whole transplanted root system I bought, rather than a single rhizome.  It’s still not doing a whole lot with the 3 or 4 bines that sprung up in no time flat, and it’s a fair bit paler in colour than my other plants, but still looks healthy enough:

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And finally the Chinook, no doubt the pride of the bunch, as it’s doing what you’d expect hops to do, shooting out long, strong, healthy looking bines that are winding their way quickly towards the sun.  There’s two long bines on that middle string, and one on the right…with a new one not far off winding its way up the left string.  Go you good thing!

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A No-Chill First

Posted: November 18, 2013 in Brew Blog

I know, I know, it’s been a while since my last Brew Blog post.  Actually it’s been a while since my last “Growing Hops” post, but Melbourne’s recent return to winter seems to have put a halt to my hops…all five varieties look healthy enough, but they’ve hardly moved in two months.  And that goes for both the hops in pots, and the hops I planted in the ground (did I mention that yet?  If not I will soon, I promise!)  Given they’re all first year plants, I believe they’re busy establishing their root system, so as long as the leaves stay nice and green, I’ll leave ’em to it.

Anyway, this post isn’t about hops, it’s about my first ever “no chill” beer.  I’ve been wanting to try my version of the Mountain Goat/Brooklyn collaboration brew, their “Hopfweizenbock”.  I’ve loved that beer the few times I’ve had it, and from what I can tell, the recipe for it is pretty much exactly the same as my standard hefeweizen, only made up to ~6.5% abv, and then dry hopped with around 2gm/l of Aussie Galaxy hops.  I had kicked off a Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen) starter on Friday, so had planned to try and knock out the weizenbock on Tuesday night, because it’d take that long for the yeast starter to be ready (~2 days at room temp, ~2 days in the fridge).  But it hit me early yesterday (Sunday), that I could brew the beer, then transfer the hot wort into one of my 10 litre ‘cubes’ (in this case the containers I’d purchased my CBW LME in from Grain & Grape).  Only being 10 litres was fine, I have no idea what this beer will turn out like, so starting with a 10 litre batch would suit me fine.

I could then leave the wort to cool naturally over a couple of days (hence the term “no chill”), and once it’s at pitching temp and my yeast starter ready, I can transfer to my fermenter and pitch the yeast.  So I’ll do that tomorrow night.  I quite like the time no-chilling frees up…it breaks brew-day up nicely.  I adjusted my hopping schedule (a single addition of Hallertau at 60m simply became 40m) to allow for the extra bitterness you can get from no-chill…but in a ~23 IBU beer like a weizenbock I don’t think it’ll matter too much.  I did make one little blue…I thought I’d be smart and just do a 40m boil, but forgot to tell Beersmith this, so I realised half way through my boil that my post-boil gravity and wort size would be out…so I just chucked in some Munich and extra Bavarian Wheat LME I still have in stock, to get me to my post boil gravity of 1.066.  I ended up with 13 litres at the end of the boil, so filled my 10l cube, and put the rest into an old 3l juice bottle…all sanitised of course.

So, pitching day tomorrow, will let it ferment out, then dry hop it for 5 days or so with the Galaxy….will report back on results another time.

It’s now been two months since planting my hop rhizomes, and the Cascade has fast overtaken the Hersbrucker…although the Cascade has grown only a single bine so far, whereas the Hersbrucker has two.  Interestingly one of the Hersbrucker bines grew sideways, and seemed to only pop out once it hit the side of my pot/keg.  I had to coax it out from under the lip of the pot, and since then, both of the bines have stalled somewhat.  I’m wondering if it’s because of this turn of weather we’ve had in Melbourne, with high winds and a fair few colds days and rain.

Here’s a pic of the Cascade now winding its way up the string:

Cascade has reached the string

Amusingly I spent an hour or so on the PC trying to work out which way I was supposed to ‘train’ the bine to curl up the string…I’d read that they wind the opposite way in the Northern Hemisphere compared to down under in Australia.  A lot of blogs kept saying to “train them clockwise” in the US, but they never said if that was looking from the top down, or from the perspective of the hop bine itself, i.e. bottom up.  Anyway, I’d pretty much settled on it being anti-clockwise, looking from the top down….and then I went out to the hop pot to see how things were going, and it turned out that it had wound itself a couple of turns already, just the way it wanted.  So, for the record, it appears hops in Australia like to grow in a clock-wise direction around the string, looking from the top down.

I have also decided to plant two more varieties at the front of my house, and I’ll attach a couple of lines of string up the exterior walls.  They’re Chinook and Columbus varieties….photos to come soon.

Ok, with the Hersbrucker and Cascade sprouting nicely, it was time to build the ‘adjustable trellis’, as per the design I’d seen from my fellow hops in pots grower over in Texas.

So I attached 3 horizontal beams to my tomato stakes, roughly 80cm wide, with a galvanised steel eye bolt at each end of the beam.  Then another eye bolt at the very top.  Here’s a pic of the Cascade pot once I’d completed the trellis, and run 2 lines of sisal string along them:

Cascade trellis complete 2

 

The idea being that I’ll train 2 or 3 bines to each of the 2 strings…and as they grow, I can let the string down to allow the lower part of the bines to droop, while the top the bine continues pointing upwards, as they prefer.

Here’s some photos of the Hersbrucker and Cascade about 6 weeks after I initially planted them.  These were taken on September 7, first the Cascade:

Cascade has sprouted

 

And the Hersbrucker:

Hersbrucker has leaves