Ramble On

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Last 2014 Post from the Alexandria Hop Yard

Willamette hops.
One last post updating the hops I grew in the yard in Alexandria.  The Goldings bines - one new and one that is a year old, never amounted to much this year, and it seemed to be a recovery year for them.

On the other hand, my Willamette bine thrived.  It was in the same place that the Goldings had been last year, so that is something to think about.  Also, because I can't have a trellis there higher than eight feet, due to overhead power lines, there will never quite be the proliferation off of a plant in that location.

I'll spend the winter deciding what to do about the experiment...perhaps I will keep the two Goldings bines in their current location, where I can have a ten-foot trellis, and move the Willamette out to Luray and put it next to the shed, so it can grow over eight feet.

So while I move to the next stage of hop farming, I'll close this posts with a short description of the two hops varieties.

Kent Golding - designating the original Golding is no easier than sorting our the origins of the variety...even East Kent differs from Kent and certainly from American grown.  Most importantly, it tastes of English beer.  Very good storage.

Willamette - the most grown American aroma hop until AB InBev cut back commitment in 2008.  An alternative to Fuggle released in 1976, with a mild, spicy profile.  Versatile, its flavor works well with many styles.  Fair storage.

(Paraphrased from:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bugs and Slugs

It's typical that we see a praying mantis or two every year at Hawksbill Cabin.  For one thing, I suppose that is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, to have such a bug around and coming back year after year - the mantises and the toads and snakes.

So last Sunday I was looking out the window at the emerging beautiful day we had on our hands, and there was this young praying mantis crawling up the window.  I tend to see them a little later in the year, in September, when they are nearly full grown.  This little one was about two inches long - although the close-up makes him look much larger.

A little later, I took Tess around to the back yard while the coffee was brewing.  As we turned the corner on the gravel pathway, I looked down to find this enormous slug, larger than any I've ever seen.  We've had problems with them before, eating garden plants...this guy obviously got away with it for a long time!

It's nature.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Brewing with Fresh Cascades

The second 2 oz. hop application, top, and
the 1 oz. aroma batch.
A few weeks back I wrote about our afternoon of picking the hops neighbor Bill had grown in his backyard.  (The post is here if you'd like to check it out:  http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2014/08/sunday-hops-picking-in-luray.html).  Last Friday I broke some of them out to brew an IPA with.

I've adapted the recipe from a Black IPA kit I got (I have one batch that was completed faithfully to the kit recipe just going into bottles - with the exception that I dry hopped it with some of Bill's last year crop).  In this case, I used a 5-to-1 substitution ratio of the fresh hops to the dry hops the recipe called for - I used Dan's ratios to calculate the rate for that, since he told me that drying them reduces them to around 20 percent.

The aroma hops went in at the end of the boil.
I went with two bittering dosages of 2 oz. each, one at the start of the 60-minute boil and the second at 30-minutes.  Plus I put in a final 1 oz. for arome at five minutes before the end of the boil.  I plan to dry hop with a package of Cascade pellets, since that doesn't increase IBUs and this will probably be on solid ground in that department.

The beer will be in primary for another week, then I will transfer it to secondary for two weeks.  I'll also let it bottle condition for two weeks before drinking it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First World Problems

Water main repair in progress.
Wednesday night I got home to the sound of Mary tinkering away down in the utility room, where our furnace and hot water heater are located.  After she had finished, a little while later, there were still funny noises coming out of there.  The noise bedeviled us – we went down there several times to check them out to try and identify the source, but Mary had never been close to the pipe making the noise, and we never figured it out.

The next morning I went down to take my shower and get ready to work…but, no water!  I decided to skip it and take the dog for a walk, figuring it was a temporary thing. 

The hoard.
No such luck!  There were crews working on a major water main break a half block from us, and due to problems with that break we also had a secondary break up the street from us. 

I made coffee with some bottled water and figured I’d tell Mary when she got up. She immediately decided she needed to go to a grocery store to gather some water to hoard…she was gone a while, I figured she must be joining a bunch of water hoarders.

Our heavily infrastructured street.  Any number of
things could go wrong!
I’d planned to pen her a note since I needed to leave for work: “Mary, I needed to get to work.  Busy day ahead, plus I need to relieve myself.”

The water service was back on by mid-morning – it was a pretty big deal, as you can see in the photo.  Apparently my situation of having skipped my morning shower did not offend anyone either.  At least as far as I know.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Page County Grown Farm-to-Table Dinner - 2014

Melon Salad
It’s become one of our favorite events in Page County – the Page County Grown Farm Dinner at the Mimslyn, which they’ve been holding in August every year since 2011.  Although this year’s event was not paired with the farm tour as it had been in the past (the tour is now offered as part of the Page County Grown Century bicycling event in October), there is still a good time to be had right in the middle of the summer harvest season.

Lamb Sausage Ravioli
This year’s format was similar to the past ones, with locally grown produce and entrees paired with wines from Wisteria (who, coincidentally, is celebrating their 5th anniversary this year).  Mary and I were joined by Brendan and Cathy, who have been coming out for the event the last few times as well, and our table had two couples who heard about the dinner from the bed and breakfasts they were staying at.  No doubt everybody had a good meal, but I think everybody had a great time as well!
Short Ribs

Quite a few of the farmers were at the dinner, but this year the ingredients each one provided weren’t credited.  No matter, it was just as tasty as ever, with plenty of interesting twists and takes on more traditional offerings.  I forgot to snap a photo of the gazpacho course before digging into it – trust me, it was great…our table voted the lamb ravioli as their favorite, but there weren’t any complaints about anything on the menu.
Blackberry Cream Torte

During dinner, our friends David(Public House Produce) and Jared (Skyline Premium Meats) stopped by our table to talk with the group.  David checked off some of his classic tall tales, mostly made up, about some intern he once had on the farm.  Jared shared the story of Trio Farms and examples about where beef like his winds up on tables in New York and D.C. 

After dinner a bunch of us went down to the Speak Easy for after dinner drinks and more fun socializing.  I’ll close with a link to the Page County Grown website, if anyone wants to check out the organization:

Friday, August 8, 2014

I Grew a Hop - 2014 edition

Last week, when I wrote about Dan's hops, I had all but given up on the plants I have in the backyard at Alexandria.  In fact, I wrote of the season as a loss at the time and I wasn't planning to give any more updates on the Alexandria hops.

That all changed earlier in the week after Mary came in from checking on the tomatoes and told me that I had some hops on the Willamette bines.  This plant grew robustly this year, but since nobody seems to have any luck with the variety, I just assumed I had a decorative plant here.  But to my surprise, there are little green cones all over it now.

Not enough to make a batch of beer, but enough to maybe dry hop some future batch with.  I'll keep an eye on them and harvest them soon, probably within the next week.

In contrast, the Goldings are having a recovery year.  I've diagnosed the situation as a hazard of transplanting - I set them back to the first year level.  So next year I should see them come back into production.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sunday Hops Picking in Luray

A great big Cascade cone.
A few weeks ago Mary and I went to visit our friend Bill in Luray.  He and his wife host happy hours out in the yard while the music plays down at the plaza on Friday nights, and we were lucky enough to be out for one of those summer evenings.

Bill planted some hop rhizomes in the backyard last year, all Cascades from Dan - this is their second year and the bines are really producing for him.  He was at the bicycle race on Saturday and told me he was planning to pick on Sunday if I wanted to come by.  So I did.

It turned out that another friend from the neighborhood, John, was there to help as well.  I figured we could make it quick with three hands working.  They had chosen a Lagunitas offering as the official refreshment, so - so much the better!

We packaged the fresh hops in 14 one
gallon freezer bags.
John and Bill instructing me on how
to pick hops.
We picked the cones directly from the bines for a half hour, then I asked Bill if he expected another harvest this year, or if this was going to be the only one.  He said just this once, so we decided to cut the bines down and pick them while sitting around a table - the work went quickly then, to the sound of good tunes and tall tales.

Tragedy struck when we ran out of Lagunitas, but these resourceful guys had a fallback, and we finished the job with Yuengling.

With some of Bill's harvest from last year I made a batch of "Tax Day IPA" - there are still a few bottles left.  The first year Cascades delivered a beer that is right on the threshold on IBUs for an IPA - around 55.  Bill still had a few ounces of those left, and he offered them to me - I will use them to dry hop a Black IPA that is just about ready to go to secondary fermentation.

We picked enough hops to fill 14 one-gallon freezer bags.  I might not be handling these correctly, but I've put them all directly into the freezer.  I just ordered the ingredients for two more five-gallon batches of Black IPA, and plan to wet hop those with part of this crop.  I estimate I'll need six ounces of fresh/frozen hops for every one ounce of dried or pelletized hops called for in the recipe.

In the meantime, there will be 15 gallons of beer laying around, all made with local hops!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Page Valley Road Race - The (Aerial) Video

Photographer Shaun Galang was out on the course of the Page Valley Road Race Saturday taking photos.  He also has a quadcopter out there and took aerial videos, which he compiled into the montage embedded below (note that there is music associated, a great tune, in fact, but watch your volume!).

In case the video is taken down from YouTube, there is a link to a blog post about his experience working at the race here:  http://cedarmeadestudios.com/2014/08/02/down-time/

Bicycle Races are Coming Your Way

Over the weekend I volunteered to drive a wheel van in support of the Page Valley Road Race, as I did earlier in the year with the "Tour de Page County." Since it was my second time supporting the races this way, I had a little more time to watch and learn what's needed in this function - and I found I was really enjoying myself being part of the race.

The road race is one of several races promoted by my Page County neighbor Chris, who is one of the owners of Hawksbill Bicycles in Luray.  This race attracts riders from all over Virginia and the mid-Atlantic, and it benefits one of the local causes, Choices, which is a non-profit social services organization supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. (Links to the Page Valley Cycling organization and Choices follow at the end of the post.)

There were a total of three races during the day, with several fields in each, so three wheel vans were involved.  The route took us along a couple of back roads I was familiar with, especially since the race starts pretty close to Hawksbill Cabin.  I tried to take some photos while being as safe as I could - some of them accompany the post.

The bike races are one of several "active tourism" events in Page County - they have a significant impact to an economy that truly needs positive inputs.  I wrote a post about the Page Valley Cycling events last year, linked here:  http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2013/01/page-valley-cycling-gives-back-to.html

The links to the organizations I mentioned above are here:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dan's Hops - August Harvest

It's harvest time for backyard hops, and neighbor Dan sent me along a couple of photos of the haul this year, including this one of dry hopping a batch of his Flat Tail IPA. From the looks of it, these are Cascades, although he should have quite a few other varieties available as well.

In past posts I've mentioned his hopyard.  There are about 20 plants of several varieties in there, and it is maybe a tenth of an acre.  He climbs a ladder and hand selects the cones that are ready for harvest, going back in the yard several times during the harvest.

At this point I'm going on record that my growing season was a failure - I set the Goldings bines back by transplanting them, and none of us has had any luck with Willamettes, except as a decorative plant.  And that is where my hopyard stands for 2014.

Meanwhile, here's a second photo Dan sent along, of the harvest in progress.  I'm sorry I couldn't join him - but I did contribute those buckets!

From here, he'll take them in for drying - although he did save some for dryhopping as shown above.  Then he packages them and freezes them for use all year long, picking out the ones he needs for each recipe.

At this stage of the game, the hopyard produces enough for his brewing every year, although he does buy some from time to time for specialty recipes.  And he even has enough to share!