Ramble On

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recapping 2014: Backyard Hops

Homebrew and home grown hops.  What's not to like?
Not long after we bought Hawksbill Cabin, we met our neighbors Dan and Sally just up the hill.  They have what is probably the oldest house in the neighborhood – and one that probably has been the scene of many summer parties.  Along with everything else they are famous for, these days, Dan has a small hop yard and brews some delicious beer out in the barn, which we call Beaver Run Brewery.

Certainly the beer is a worthy topic, but I have posted on it plenty of times in the past.  Today I want to write a recap about home grown hops, which Dan introduced me to last year, (and I've learned a lot more about it through the Virginia hops growing community).  Now I've got a couple of plants going on, and some other friends and neighbors do, too – some of them growing second generation plants off of Dan’s rhizomes.
Dan, adding home grown hops at Beaver Run Brewery.

In Dan’s backyard, he has about a tenth of an acre set up with around two dozen plants, representing five or six varieties of hops - see the harvest post here.  The Cascade plants have been the most successful, but he also has Fuggles, Goldings, Centennials, and others.  I think one I am forgetting is Willamettes, but they haven’t done so well.

I frequently benefit from his production, and I’ve used the dried hops in several different brews – Cascades in ales, and the Fuggles in porters.  One thing leads to another, and I decided to put a couple of rhizomes in at the house in Alexandria.
My Willamette bine in Alexandria.

First I tried Goldings, which did produce in the first year, but not so much in the second; I also have a Willamette plant that produced a small harvest in the first year, so I used the hops during secondary fermentation of a recent batch of honey porter.
John and Bill picking Cascades.

Bill's fresh picked Cascade hops.
One of the highlights of the hops season for me this year, however, was the opportunity to help our friend Bill with his harvest of Cascade hops.  He got the rhizomes from Dan – I think there are six – and they were prolific, ready to harvest in the July-August time frame.  I was out for the weekend Bill decided to pick them, and invited myself along to help.

It’s hard to describe how rewarding it was, sweating profusely while picking those herbs, all of which we knew would be going to use to flavor and preserve some delicious home brews.  Only, who would be the brewer?  I was very surprised when Bill offered them to me.

I mentioned that his plants were prolific – we probably picked six pounds of wet hops.  If we were dehydrating them, that would come down to about a pound and a half – enough for thirty gallons of craft beer. 

Black Widow IPA - the first batch from Bill's Cascades.

So far I’ve used the hops in two five-gallon batches of what I am calling “Black Widow IPA” – it’s an adapted IPA recipe that comes out at around 7.5% ABV.  I’ve shared some with Bill, obviously, to acknowledge his green thumb, and with John, seen in the picture above helping with the harvest. 

I’ve even enjoyed a glass or two with Dan, so that this hop growing thing has come full circle.

This part of the brewing adventure still has a way to go.  I’m looking forward to the 2015 season to see what we get – and I still have a couple of batches to make with last year’s Cascades!

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