Hops

Welcome back again to the Hop, Brew, and Blog. I am glad you are sticking around and learning with me. That is a great thing about the  home brewery community, it is a very helpful group. Everyone loves to listen and talk out how a beer can be brewed. We are going to take a break from the home brewing adventure and try something different. 

Today’s topic might get dry (I will do my best to keep the flow going) but we are going to talk about hops. One of the four ingredients of a pure beer (father-in-law again not my saying) that looks so simple but changes the beer very easily. We will go over the different hops (not all of them…there are sooo many of them) and kinda go through basic differences. We will talk about noble hops as well and what makes a hop noble. We will talk about growing because they can grow everywhere and by just changing the location of where hops are grown can slightly change what you get in flavor of the hops. Finally we will talk about my “go to” hops that I personally love. So channel your inner Demeter and come learn about hops. 

The first documented cultivation of hops was in 736 A.D. in what would become Germany (of course) but the first time it was documented being in beer wasn’t until 1079. Mostly brewed in Germany and France, and Holland at first, it expanded to England and then outside Europe as well. It came to the United States around 1629. It stopped during prohibition (thanks government) and then made a comeback and has taken over a lot of farming. Currently, hops are grown in eleven countries. The top growers are the US and Germany with 44,324 metric tons and 39,000 metric tons respectively. Right now, there are about 100 different kinds of hops. Names include Apollo, Liberty, Vanguard, Eroica, Zeus, Calypso, and so much more. The main difference is the acid level. Hops like Fuggle and Saaz have a lower level of alpha acid and hops like Simcoe and Chinook have a higher level. The difference in the acid level? The higher the level, the higher bitterness. Making a stout? Try fuggle hops. Making a double IPA? Use the simcoe. 

A few years ago, Sam Adams came out with the Noble Hops beer that is said to use only noble hops. Other breweries have similar beers with the same claim “NOBLE HOPS USED HERE”. The question is though, what makes a hop noble?  No they are not knighted and don’t think Ned Stark will be the next hop name for one (though that would be cool). A noble hop is just a marketing term used for hops that are low in bitterness and high in aroma. Most consider Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, and Saaz as your four noble hops (though there is debate on others). And like wine grapes and champagne, they have to be grown in the area they were first made. Spalt has to be made in the Spalter region in Germany, not in someone’s backyard in Chicago. 

Now growing hops is supposedly easy. Since everyone and their mothers are doing it, I would agree. I plan to start growing some here in the Midwest as some already do. I have done my research to show my wife I know what I am doing, so the best way is to have them grow up a trellis that can be brought down to make picking easier. Make sure you harvest at the right time and have a way to dry them out (if you don’t have an oast house in the German countryside, try a dehydrator). See simple…why don’t we all do this?

Now my go-to hops are the citra hops. It is a great hops with a nice flavor for an IPA. I use it in my IPB that I brew with tangerine peel. The next is fuggle hops. It is a great mild hop for a stout. Now let me know what your favorite hop to use is. Comment below and we will do this again next time. On the next blog, we will finish the Adventure in Homebrewing and talk about the kegging process.  Thanks for reading….cheers.

Adventures in Home Brewing: Day Fourteen

Welcome to day fourteen of brewing. In the 13 days that have happened since Brewing: Day One, we have just been waiting for it to ferment.  The beer was definitely working as it makes the alcohol. With each bubble in the bubbler, more alcohol is made. Which leads us to the next step, reracking.

Now this is actually my favorite part of brewing. In this portion you siphon the beer from your carboy into another carboy. By doing this you get your beer and not the yeast and other sediments. Once the liquid is clear of the muck, you add the bubbler back on top and let sit again. Yes, I know this sounds very exciting, but there is a reason this is my favorite step and that is flavor. In the secondary stage, you can add ingredients here to pull out new flavors. When making a stout, you can add oats or coffee beans or throw In hops here to dry hop the beer, with an ale, you can add wood chips to age in and add to the flavor. 

With The Dude, we have three ingredients to add here. We have white chocolate, coffee beans, and toasted coconut. So once I siphoned from one carboy to the next, I got the coconut toasting in the oven. After a few minutes, I pulled out the coconut and let cool quickly. Then I added it to the carboy with the beer. Simple? Very. But by adding those in, it will easily bring all of them to your beer and you don’t really have to do anything strenuous. 

And guess what? That is it. That is the whole blog. There isn’t much to say except for the list of ingredients that you can use here. But that is the fun of it. By adding any combination, you can adjust and change the flavor of the beer anyway you want. This is the most experimental part of brewing to me. Give it a try and see what happens. The next stage is kegging the beer (yes, we keg here because ain’t nobody has time to cap every bottle by hand). Cheers everyone.

Adventures in Home Brewing: Day One

Greetings from one quarantined house to another! I hope everyone is doing okay and trying to brew their own beer because, what else are you going to do? I know here in the Midwest, we had snow yesterday.  So, I have been doing a lot of brewing, and I have both beer and mead fermenting as I type. 

Now, I know in my last post I hinted that this next post would be all about hops, but with everything going on, I figured that we could instead go over home brewing itself. This will be in three parts:  the actual brewing process, secondary rerack (we will have one here), and then kegging the beer. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the main event as I brew The Dude Coffee Ale.  

To start,I needed ingredients. There is a local brew supply store near my house that I always go to for ingredients. I tried to get in there before the shutdown was put into effect for my state, but missed the window.  So, I had to change it up and I had to order online. Amazon worked well enough but next time I may try ordering from a large brewing supply shop. I had to order in bigger amounts, but I was able to order all the ingredients I needed.

Once my ingredients were in, I found I had another new issue….not all of my grains were cracked.  Well, I got inventive. I weighed what I needed and put them into a bag and rolled a rolling pin over them for what felt like forever, but really for about ten minutes. Once I got past that I got my water warmed to 150 degrees and got the grains steeping. After about a half hour, I removed the grains and added my extract. Like I said in a previous blog, I like a combination of grains and extract, though now I will make sure to use DME and not LME, as the liquid stuff is very sticky. After that was all mixed in, I started the boil and my hop schedule. 

Hops schedules are simple once you have them down and measure out what you need as you wait for the boil. Most recipes tell you when in the hour boil to add the hops or other ingredients. Follow the steps carefully, as hops schedules are important to get the right bitterness or the floral smell and taste of the hops. Other ingredients can be added for other flavors, or to adjust the look or feel of the beer later (like Irish Moss or Lactose). 

After the hop schedule, you need to cool the wort (what you currently have with water, sugar and flavor from the grains, and hops). If you have one get a wort chiller (thanks in-laws) to cool the wort to 80 degrees. If you don’t have one, get one or make one. If you can’t get your hands on one, good luck, because you will need to put your pot in an ice bath that could take an hour while my wort chiller cooled it in 15 minutes. I needed help here because I wasn’t allowed to lift anything more than ten pounds after my appendix removal. My wife picked up my pot and moved it outside to chill (thanks wife). My wort chiller attaches to an outside hose so I put it in and let the water flow.

As that chilled, I prepared the yeast. I use dry yeast that needs to be mixed with water. Once the wort hit 80 degrees, my wife carried it inside and poured it into the fermenter bucket (thanks wife again). I added a little more water to get it where I needed it to be and then added the yeast.  Then I put on the lid and the bubbler and left it downstairs to ferment. All in all, it took three hours to make three gallons of beer (I do three as I am usually the only one that drinks them at home). 

That was day one. After this we will rerack and add in the secondary stage ingredients. If you are interested in this recipe, I will do a blog on it soon…I promise. The Dude is a regular beer I make and would love to share it. If you are interested in home brewing, now is a great time to try it. As you see, the hardest part only takes three hours. After this, it is a lot of waiting and simple reracking. If you need supplies, check around. Most brewing supply stores will ship still or you can try Amazon. Kits are easy to try and get your feet wet in brewing as well. Until next time…cheers!

IPA: Good vs Evil

Welcome back! There was a slight delay in this as I was in the hospital having my appendix removed. Now I am better and ready to keep this going. So now, for today we talk about IPAs. We will talk a little history (not for too long) and a little about what makes it an IPA. And, for the main event, we will talk about the lines drawn in the sand of love and hate of the beer, and some suggestions for good “gateway IPAs” if you’re looking to give it a try. Let’s discuss IPAs and what started us in the new age of beer, the “Hop” age of beers.

I will start with a history lesson of IPAs, but I can already tell that all of you have stopped reading so we won’t dive too deep.  But I will say there are things about it I didn’t know. First of all, IPAs started in England around 1840. It was made in England and was shipped to India. The issue and the reason the IPA was developed was because people needed a beer that could survive the trip from England to India. The extra hops were added to help with the journey there and became a huge hit. It wasn’t until the 1990s when the American IPAs and the IPA revolution really picked up speed. Since then, IPAs have started a new trend in the US….microbreweries. 

Ok, everyone come back now, history lesson is over. Now we can start the debate. Hate or love? No other brew type comes close to the devisiness of IPAs. But why, do you ask? The hops. In a traditional American IPA, you have a set of hops that gives a bitterness that some do not like. The hops that are mainly used include simcoe, mosaic, citra, cascade and a few more that give the American IPA its unique taste. But as everyone started making the same beer, others took steps to stand out. A lot add the “fifth ingredient” of beer as my father-in-law would say. They add fruit and other flavors in the brewing process. The most common is citrus like orange, grapefruit, or lemon. And even more recently, two new styles, New England IPAs and Black IPAs, where orange juice and the use of darker malts are used respectively.  The question still needs to be asked, with all these options, how can people hate them? 

I have come up with two answers. The first can be that most have a style they like and stick to it. The other is that they don’t want to try it. To that, I say to each their own.  Now the question you ask is what is a good IPA to try? The best one to try and many claim as the gateway IPA is Two Hearted from Bell’s brewery. You will get the slight bitterness, but it isn’t over powering. And did I mention it is stronger than most of your lagers and ales? Another great gateway to join the “hop” revolution are the New England IPAs. With added juice, the bitterness is also almost null. Sam Adams makes a great version (as they should since they are located in New England) but you can find most microbreweries make something like it or that has tangerine or nectarines to change the flavor enough to be less bitter. I myself make a tangerine IPA that even my father-in-law (who hates the “fifth ingredient”) loves, and he loves Two Hearted and also hunts for IPAs with the highest bitterness. 

Thanks again for reading. I hope I inspired you to at least try an IPA that maybe you will enjoy. If you have other gateway IPAs or any more thoughts on them please comment below. See you next time.

Bottle vs Keg

Welcome back! If you are reading this after the first blog, I must have done something right. The topic for today is another debate of how to brew…do you keg your beer or bottle it? 

First thing first, what is the difference? In the end, you will carbonate your beer with either gas or priming sugar and one way or the other, you will have a beer that will eventually make it into a glass (unless you are just too lazy to pour it into a glass…it happens). The process of bottling is simple. You have your carboy of beer. Add the priming sugar and then pour into your bottles, cap the beers and store for one to two weeks. In time they will be ready to drink. With kegs, it is just as simple. From the carboy to pour into your keg. You connect the keg to your CO2 tank at a normal kegerator pressure of about 11 psi. After a week or two it is ready to pour from the tap. 

So which is better? Well when it comes to time, they are the same, but kegging can be done quicker. There is a process called forced carbonation. With this process, you can have your beer carbonated in less than an hour. This process has saved me from not having my beer ready for a party multiple times. Bottling has no shortcut and patience is needed to make sure the beer is properly carbonated with the priming sugar. In this category, kegs get the win. 

The next category is money. For you to keg, you have to drop some cash. You will need to buy the kegs themselves, a kegerator to store and pour, CO2 tanks and refills, and other random tools and things to run properly. Overall, it can be at least $500 right off the bat to start it up. Bottling can be done on a much lower budget. Priming sugar can be bought in small bulk for a low price. Bottles can be bought too, or you can reuse ones that you have already used (make sure to sani clean them and not use bottles that were twist offs). All and all, it can be under $20 easily if you reuse bottles. Point to Bottling. 

The last category is quality. I could go into the differences of the “purest” way of brewing and so on, but there isn’t a real difference. As long as you did it right, your beer will come out carbonated. There is a possibility to over carbonate in bottles if you add too much priming sugar, but if you just follow directions you should be ok. Point goes to both here. 

So what is the better option? As I have done both I would have to say….keg, kegging is the only option. Bottle is cheaper, but it is gowd awful to put caps on each bottle (yes by hand) and have to wait for it to carbonate. There is also the chance of messing it up and not putting the priming sugar in (yes it happened and I blame my roommate at the time).  Yes, you have to drop cash for the keg system, but if I could go back in time I would tell younger me to spend it and keg. As I said before, I can have it ready in a few minutes and if I really want it in a bottle, I can pour into bottles or growlers from the tap and cap it for later. 

Thanks for reading and your support. As always, make sure you leave your words of wisdom below and if you have questions on this or other topics, make sure to ask as well.

Grain vs. Extract

Hello and welcome to Hops, Brew, and Blog, where we will talk about the art of brewing. Brewing is a fun hobby that anyone can do. We will talk about everything from cloning beers you already love (and hopefully making them cheaper than buying), to experimenting with recipes no one has tried yet. We will also talk about the debate items of brewing including brewing with grain vs extract, what hops are better, the friend-breaker of liking IPAs, and many more. So sit back, grab your favorite brew (if you can) and prost!

For our first post, we’re going to dive right in…Grain vs Extract when brewing. Everyone has a say in this on whether you want all grain because it makes your beer a “pure brew” or some say you won’t be able to tell the difference so why take the extra time. Well, I am here to share what I have experienced in my time brewing. And there is a simple remedy to the debate that some might know. 

First things first, what is the difference. For those new to brewing, having a grain brew is using the actual grains you want. When you go to the local store for brewing, they will have tubs on tubs on tubs of different grains to choose from. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know the differences (heck, it is still for me sometimes). When you get your grains, you need to crack them. You can do this at the store or at home if you can. You then take those cracked grains and use them in the brew to start (we will go through the brewing process in a different blog, best to stay away from that rabbit hole while down this one). Now, there are other steps that can be added because of grains or more tools needed as well. If you are new to brewing, that can also push you away from using grains. In the end, you will have your beer, enjoy your beer, and make sure you saved what you did to make again. 

Now for extract brewing, there are fewer steps involved. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the grains available, you just have to go down a different aisle at the store to find them. They are labeled very simply as the beer you are trying to make (lager extract, ale extract, and so forth) and the only choice is either a dry version (DME) or liquid version (LME). It doesn’t really matter which type you pick. LME is like a syrup so it can make things very sticky, but easier to pour into your pot with the steam and heat while the DME is a powder that is easier to clean but the steam makes it harder to pour in what you want. Speaking of pouring, that is all you need to do. No extra tools and anything extra steps. Once you have your temperature in the pot, you pour in what you need and stir. For a new brewer, that makes the job easier. And, like the grains, in the end, you will have your beer, enjoy your beer, and make sure you saved what you did to make it again. 

Now some say that only the purest of beers are all grain and that extracts will taint the beers. Some say that it is still beer that I enjoy so I will stick with extracts. Do you need to do an all grain brew if you want to share or even enter into a competition? Not really. When I first started brewing, I knew the owners of a local brewery near me at the time. I asked the very same question. And the answer given…not a lot of people can tell the difference. I now compare it to gin. To most people, gin tastes like a pine tree. You could line up different brands of different cost and in a blind tasting, most drinkers won’t know the difference. The person that will know the difference are those that have been drinking gin for most of their lives. They are the connoisseurs of gin and can tell you everything about each bottle. They have their favorite and if that isn’t used in the gin martini, they will know it. The same can be said for this. Yes, you will get someone that can tell, but most times, especially when drinking yourself or with friends, it won’t matter as long as it came out to what you wanted it to be. 

Now it is time for the trick. I say trick, but really it is a kinda obvious step to make. But what you can do is a mix of both. This is how I brew. You get a few main grains to steep in your pot, but you will also use some extract as well. Again, will people know the difference? Probably not, but it is a nice middle ground if you want to eventually do an all grain after some practice. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I know homebrewers that do all extract and I know people that do an all grain brew as well. There are no turf wars over this. And in the end you brew you. 

I hope you enjoyed the read! If you have any thoughts or anything about this topic please let me know. I love learning more myself. All brewing is welcomed here. Cheers!