Thursday, April 1, 2010

The rhizomes are in! The rhizomes are in!

My mother will fall out of her chair if she ever reads the following statement:
I was stoked to do some gardening the other day.
It's not much of an exaggeration to say that I owe my education and station in life to my absolute disdain for landscaping. Growing up, my folks got into the landscaping and irrigation business. That meant that for much of my teenage years I was on the working end of a shovel. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. There are few shittier jobs that weeding greenhouses, digging irrigation trenches and fitting PVC pipe in the Florida sun. In fact, the only job I can think that's worse is raising tilapia in makeshift backyard ponds. I did that, too. I hated that, too.
So the irony wasn't lost on me when I was picking up my hop rhizomes the other day from Maryland Homebrew and working out locations to plant them with the missus. Maybe if those damn plants of my youth were hops and the irrigation lines were full of beer I would've stayed in the business.
No, probably not.
Anyway, I bought five rhizomes: two Willamette, two Cascade and one Centennial. Since then, I've done a bit more research on growing hops -- including listening to an excellent Brewing Network show on the subject -- and realized I should've had at least two rhizomes of each hop in case one of the rhizomes doesn't take. Oh well, I'll keep my fingers crossed that I got a robust Centennial plant. Because hops are vines, I needed a place for them to climb. While I could have done something as simple as hang some twine from the roof, I decided to plant a post along my fence line and run some lines for the hops to climb.

All three varieties are primarily flavor and aroma hops. While I'm willing to grow my own hops, I didn't see the need to screw about with bittering hops, like Columbus, when hop pellets work just fine. With the three hop varieties I bought, I'm hoping to have enough cones this fall to wet hop a few batches of beer. We'll see.

I also picked up the ingredients for my next batch of homebrew. I've decided to do another IPA, but with an ABV in the 6 to 7 percent range. Rather than following Charlie Papazian's recipes, which seem to produce 3 to 4 percent beer, I'm going to use the recipe for his Palilalia IPA as a framework for my own IPA. Lucky for me, the folks at Maryland Homebrew are patient and knowledgeable people who looked over my recipe and stopped me from making an undrinkable toxic wash: apparently four ounces of Warrior hops is WAY too much for five gallons. We dialed it back to one ounce of Warrior and I'm going to use some of the Simcoe I picked up to help with the bittering and flavor. I was also buying too much amber and crystal malt.
So what did I learn: 1. You can't just double the amount of ingredients from one batch to another; 2. hops have different amounts of alpha acids, so they can't necessarily be treated the same; and 3. when in doubt, check with the guy at the homebrew store.
I'll provide more details when I get to brewing (hopefully this weekend). But I've had some success with my first two batches, so we'll see how I do once the training wheels are off.

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