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I am become Death, Destroyer of Hops

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This weekend was the day of reckoning for my hops. I woke up early, donned a pitch black flowing robe, and picked up my trusty 12′ tall sickle. What? Too dramatic? OK fine, the truth this time. I rolled out of bed, stubbed my toe on the dresser, swore, cut my finger while rummaging through the drawer for some scissors, swore, and then threw on what could only be considered “pants” in the most generous interpretation of the word. And then swearing. Because it’s fun.

The end result is the same, though, so at least allow me the vanity of drama. It’s worth it when the product so demanding of my time and effort is this:

Yes, that’s an Instamatic picture. No, I’m not proud of that fact.

Trendy iPhone filters aside, those are some lovely smelling hops. They’re not as fully mature as would be ideal, but the suddenly sour weather and a virtual plague of hop-eating insects conspired to make this a now-or-never kind of decision. For every three or four cones I managed to salvage, another one to two had to be sacrificed to the great compost in the sky. The drawback to immature hops is a slightly grassier tone than ideal (or so I’m told), but there’s no way to know for sure without experimentation.

Another lesson from harvest: keep your eye on those tricky Centennials. Sharon and I had though we’d managed to keep things relatively equal in terms of space available to each strain of hops, but the Centennials were sneaky, interweaving bines with the other varietals such that it was hard to tell which was which, and generally choking the ever-loving hell out of all the other hops. The end result? Well, let’s just look a the harvest:

Don’t you just want to dive in and role around in them? No?
That’s not normal you say? Huh.

The types of hops, starting from 12 o’clock and going counter clock-wise:
12:00 — Fuggle. Yup, that’s about it for that type.
9pm — In the bag, earlier round of Cascade, now dried
6pm to 7pm — Two small piles of Zeus, not sure why they’re separated.
4:30pm — Round two of Cascade. Note how many are almost dead. Stupid bugs.
1pm to 3pm — Centennial. Yes, all of that is Centennial. Hard to tell from this pic, but that pile is also about 10cm tall in the middle of the cookie sheet.

Plans for the hops are not finalized, but so far about 1/2 of the early Centennials have been handed over to @mezzoblue to add aroma to his next batch of pale. I’ll likely use the Zeus and Cascade for fresh-hopping some R&B East Side Bitter, and some of the balance will go towards hop tea and, of course, hop ice cream.

But wait, there’s more! The dominance of the Centennial isn’t limited to what you can see there. We only harvested about 80% of the hops on the bines. The other 20% looked waaay too green and young, and hopefully now that we’ve massively pruned back the tangle they’ll mature properly. Yet again, 99% of the hops still on the bine are Centennial. Those bastards. When those are ready, they’re slated to go to @TariqKhan110 of Big Ridge to wet hop a cask of… something (any news Tariq?).

That’s it from hop-land. I’m going to cram one up each nostril and fall asleep for some hop-dreams now. What? Again with the not normal? You guys are such prudes.

Written by chuck

September 19th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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