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Archive for July, 2011

Too Hop To Handle

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Last Saturday saw CAMRA’s latest Fest of Ale at St Augustine’s: Top Hop to Handle. After the mild and nuanced flavours of the Spring Sessional Fest of Ale, CAMRA swung the complete other direction by challenging brewers to cram as many hops into their ales as possible, and believe me, some of them were absolutely up to the challenge.

Specifically, Big River. Not only did they brew a nice big IPA for the event, but then they went and stuck a hopinator/randall on the end to further dull the pain. I didn’t get a picture of the beast, perhaps because the resulting beer was so hoppy I lost all sensation in my upper body, so I had to steal one of Leo’s. As always, for a much-better-than-I-could-do write up of the event, head over to his post. I’m not a journalist; I’m a beer snob.

I hop they cleaned that fish tank filter out.

So, what did I think of the event overall? Overall, I thought it was well executed. The brewers brought their A-game, for the most part. Noticeable disappointments where Phillips and Spinnakers, who brought unaltered versions of their Hoperation and Lion’s Head, respectively. I don’t know what kind of beer snobs you have over on the rock, but us big smoke-types expect more effort. Don’t get me wrong, I like both beers (especially the Hoperation, which is probably the best beer Phillips makes), but this is the city, guys.

Actually, scratch that. Nothing tells me I’m more wrong about Victoria beer types than the fantastic insanity-in-a-cask concocted by Dean from Lighthouse. Hands-down my winner of the event (and I was not alone on this one), Dean’s enthusiast use of New Zealand whole-leaf hops produced a beer so interesting I had to go back and ask him if it was based off of the Deckhand recipe. Yes, it absolutely had a certain saison-ness about it, but it all came from the hops, as he deliberately used a neutral yeast. Huh, you learn something new every day.

In the end, though, the hops had their inevitable effect, and I couldn’t taste freaking anything. About 90 minutes in, my tongue stopped tingling and was attempting to retreat into my nasal cavity to escape more punishment, and we still had half the beers to go. Luckily the provided tasting sheet listed the IBUs for most of the beers, and I proceeded through them from lowest to highest, so each successive drink was even more aggressive than the last, and thus I could actually taste some aspect of the brews.

Of course, this is akin to eating hot peppers in ranked order of Scoville Heat Units. It is a march to madness. Eventually my tongue (and face) had had enough. It gave up, took the ball, and went home. Extreme measures were taken; luckily Claire from Big River not only had that 151 IBU Randalled-IPA, but also a nice bag of fresh hop leaves…

Somewhat surprisingly, this is not the single worst idea I’ve ever had.

Looking back, I guess a hop festival had to be done. For next time, though, could we please just have a normal, regular cask festival? I love crazy beers, but I am also somewhat partial to actually tasting them from time to time.

Written by chuck

July 29th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Wet Hopping The Ground

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Phew, the blogeria smells a bit dusty. Sorry for the lack of Chuck lovin’ here recently, folk, but it’s summer. With summer comes patio weather. With patio weather comes Chuck on a patio drinking good beer and, hence, not blogging. And no snark from you wisecrackers about the weather. Look at a calendar. It’s summer, dammit, and I’m drinking my beer outside. Also, I seem to have had a spate of colds for some completely unrelated reason.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand: hops. As any good brewer knows or–for that matter–anyone literate enough to read a beer label (or in Driftwood’s case, see the purty pictures), hops are 25% of what makes beer awesome. In fact, they might very well be my favourite quarter-beer. Sure, barley, yeast and water are vital ingredients, but nothing else makes beer quite so… hoppy.

Thus, I’m fairly excited about Camra’s upcoming Fest of Ale Hop Edition. To celebrate, I traveled back in time to early spring and planted some hops. Or, rather, whined about it until Sharon did all the hard work.

We ordered a selection of new & old world hops from Left Fields, better known as The Hop Field Behind Crannóg Ales. They were kind enough to send us duplicates, so into the ground went two rhizomes each of centennial, chinook, zeus and fuggle. If you’re curious about growing hops, drop them a line. They deal with commercial growers mostly, but as I found out, no order is too small.

Pro hop grower tip: don’t order a bunch of plant-stuffed baggies to your place of employment.

It turns out that you don’t need a lot of space for hops (at least horizontal space). In this case, we repurposed some of Shar’s old veg planters on her balcony for hoppy goodness. They should be a good foot deep (at least), as hops are a root intensive plant, but honestly they’re a lot less picky than I’d feared. Within a week or so of planting, young vines had broken the surface and were straining upwards.

Move towards the light.

One thing no one really mentioned, though: these things move fast. In fact, I spent last Saturday hanging out on Shar’s couch and I swear I could actually see them grow, in real time. Given that they both tracked the sun and lengthen a good 8 inches that day, I might very well have done just that.

After just a few weeks.
If you fall asleep next to one, you will not wake up.

I’m not planning on a massive harvest of these babies; just a nice bit of leafy greenness to fill out the railing, and maybe a cone or two to plop in my beer for some per-pint wet hopping. First off, it’s the first year, and hops spend most of their first season of energy building roots. Second, while they do look purty on the railing, it’s not really the optimal format for maximal yield. If fortune does smile upon me and I get a tub of green gold… well then, you’ll just have to wait and see what insanity my crooked brain has cropped up.

Written by chuck

July 21st, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Beer and You

July Beer of the Month: R&B East Side Bitter

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I know, I know. July was about five days ago. I’m sorry. I was distracted by drinking beer on a sunny deck overlooking both the north end of the straight and a dramatic, miles long sandy beach. Sure, I guess I did technically have internet on my phone and could have done this post then, but I also technically had several more beers in the fridge, and we know who wins that battle.

So here it is at last, July’s Beer of the Month. I was tempted to go with something a bit more summery than R&B’s outstanding new ESB, but honestly I just can’t get enough of this beer, and I haven’t featured it before in a BOTM post, so here it is. I’ll not bother writing up just how much I love this beer again, since you can just go read it here if you’re so inclined.

Yes, I did just try to paw my monitor. Yes, I am pathetic.

If you see this beer, buy it. Buy lots of it. Not only is it great, and rapidly disappearing, but we also need to reward R&B for doing well by producing their first serious beer snob level beer. Good job guys; keep up the great work.

Written by chuck

July 5th, 2011 at 11:40 am

Posted in Beers,Breweries

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