Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts on Beer This week...

Was just thinking what an incredible week for beer this is. The Great American Beer Festival is kicking off, Oktoberfest is in full swing, and tomorrow is the 250th Anniversary of Guinness signing the lease on the St. James Gate Brewery. Sadly I am not at any of those events!!

But that's ok, I bought a couple bottles of Sierra Nevada's Estate Harvest 2009 and am enjoying that this evening while reading and living vicariously through all those at GABF and Oktoberfest who are tweeting and blogging about the fun.

By the way, I highly recommend the Sierra Nevada Estate Harvest. They brew with hops and barley grown on site at the brewery in Chico. This beer actually tastes like it was just harvested. Something about it just tastes so fresh and clean. Makes me excited to hopefully have enough homegrown hops next year to use in my own brew.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dogfish Head Chicha

Dogfish Head Brewery is known for creating ancient beers based on cultural traditions or archeological finds.  They have just announced their newest brew which is Chicha.  Chicha is a South American, mainly Peruvian brew that is mostly made from corn.

Check out Dogfish Head's video about the Chicha - it's very cool.  The thing I find most interesting as a homebrewer is that we get so caught up in things like PH measurements, gravity, color, and other details.  And here we have native Peruvians brewing in their traditional way to make Chicha - they chew the corn in their mouths prior to the boil instead of germination!! It just reminds me that as a homebrewer I need to remember that you can make great beer by experimenting with different techniques and ingredients.

It's too bad the Dogfish Head Chicha is only available at the pub, I would love to be able to try some but don't think I'll be getting out to Delaware any time soon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2009 Hop Crop

Well, not really a whole crop of hops.  More like a dozen hop cones on my Nugget Hops.  But I am optimistic for next year!  I planted new rhizomes this year in a couple different places in my yard.  In the spring I planted 2 Cascade, 2 Willamette, and 2 Northern Brewer hops varieties.  Last year I had tried to grow in pots, and that didn't work well at all, so this year I put them in the ground.

Here is a picture of the planter I made for Willamette and Cascade:

Both Willamettes sprouted up within a couple weeks, then only one of the Cascades.  Here is a closeup of the Willamette at about 4 weeks (in April).

Initially the Willamette got to about 6 feet then stalled out.  The Cascade went to about 12 feet and stalled as well.  I'm pretty sure that I over watered due to the heat, and got root rot.  The leaves turned yellow then dried prematurely.  But the Cascade is having a late summer resurgence with new side shoots.  I think one other problem is that the stone I used to outline the planter gets real hot in the sun.  I think it is just baking the hops.  For next year, I may have to switch out the bricks with wood, or widen the planter so the hot bricks aren't right next to the hops.

In the front side yard, I originally planted a couple Northern Brewer hops, but they never sprouted.  I dug them up and they were rotten.  Again, I probably over watered. So I planted a Nugget rhizome in mid May and it really took off.  I decreased the watering schedule a bit and added a drip to it.  It seems to really like the Southern California heat because it is up to about 15 feet now, and I even got some hops cones.  Not bad for the first year.  Here is a picture of the Nugget hop that I have strung up to the top eaves of my house:

And here is a closeup of the hop cones.  They are not real big yet, but have great aroma to them already.  Next year when this hop plant is established I hope to have enough of a yield to actually brew some beer with my own hops.