Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homegrown Homebrew!

A batch of homebrew made with entirely homegrown organic hops is currently cold conditioning at work, the joys of working at a brewery. The style? Good question. I believe the recipe was something like, 8 lbs of pilsner and 2.5 lbs of caramunich II. Hop profile was brewers gold and nugget for bittering, and cascade and centennial for flavor and aroma. Its going to get more cascade and centennial dry hopped in the keg. Add some English Ale yeast and you have my first harvest ale. Harvested enough hops for another brew or so too.

Just sent four beers from work to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO. Tavern Ale, Dortmunder Lager, Oak Barrel Stout, and Copperhead Alt Ale. I think our best bet for a medal is either the Copperhead or Dortmunder.
Hops next to a soybean field, soybeans are
part of the three crop rotation on the
Eastern Shore

Hops growing a hundred yards from a tributary of the Chesapeake

The second of three harvests

Saturday, August 1, 2009

America's first co-operative brewpub

Read about this new brewpub in a Beer Advocate and thought the idea was really cool. Check out their site at Black Star Co-op.

Could this happen in Chestertown?!?

Evolution Craft Brewery

Ventured to Evolution Craft Brewery in Delmar, De last weekend for a few tastings. It was well worth the trip! The tap room is beautiful and has a great vibe to it. Behind the bar is a large window showing the brew house. Got a tour of the brewery with a few tastings from the fermenting vessels thanks to my friend Wes, an assistant brewer there. Their beer styles are typical for a new brewery, but are very tasty, and only seem to get better with each new batch as the head brewer, Geoff, tweaks the recipes. Looking forward to returning to fill up my growlers.

Check out the head brewers blog at

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Hop yard at a local farm.

Hard at work. Having a New World Wheat next to some fermenting vessels.

The Brew House, where the magic happens.

The Centennials are doing really well, they seem to enjoy the Maryland climate.

The Nugget variety was planted last year and is already producing a lot of cones. This variety is high in Alpha Acids so I plan on using them for bittering rather then flavor or aroma.

Fermenting Revolution by Christopher O'brien

10,000 years ago our nomadic ancestors settled down and began growing and harvesting grains in order to have a reliable source of food. Beer was a staple of their diet that provided carbohydrates, vitamins and a source of clean water. Human’s settled down into agricultural communities, creating societies that beer played a very large role in. Whether it was religious or social, basically any occasion called for some variety of beer drinking.

So in a sense our ancestors stopped their nomadic ways to consistently produce beer, and in turn produced simple cultures that evolved into the complex societies we now live in. Societies that have increasingly exploited the earth and its natural resources, and recently we are starting to see the effects of years of misuse in the degradation of our environment, from the oceans to the mountains. If beer is one of the causes of such a destructive force, why can’t it turn into a solution?

At least that’s the opinion of Christopher O’brien, author of and Fermenting Revolution, as well as a growing number of craft brewers from Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Great Lakes and many more. This “green” beer movement has produced breweries entirely run on wind and solar power, with revolutionary technology that ferments spent grains into ethanol, with rampant recycling, where local ingredients are used as much as possible. There aren’t many other industries that have embraced the sustainability movement as much as craft breweries.

So heres to drinking locally, thinking globally and having a great time while doing it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A New Beginning

It's official, I'm living out every homebrewer's dream and going on the pay roll at Fordham Brewery. They are owned by Coastal Brewing Company, which also owns the Rams Head restaurants and venues, and just purchased Old Dominion Brewing. I just finished my first week and it was everything I was dreaming about. The sweet grainy smell of the mash, the dank bitter aroma of hops by the pound and the taste tests are but a few of the many reasons why I love my new job. I've been homebrewing and honing my skills as a beer geek for 2 and a half years and cannot wait to expand my knowledge on a professional level.

The Nugget

The hops are all doing amazingly well. We've been getting a ton of rain and they love it. Makes watering a snap when you don't have to do anything. Most of the plants are within reach of the hose and get watered regularly, but some require water being carried to them and rely more on rain. Since my last blog the second year plants have just exploded up their twine. Already flowering, the Nugget is producing long dense cones that should be high in Alpha Acids (one of the bittering compounds of beer).

All ten of my new rhizomes have sprouted and are doing well.

A plot 10 by 6 feet has been tilled in preparation for the barley.

For all of the plants I use a light organic fertilizer called plant tone (5-3-3), once when I plant and then once more midseason. I also spray Neem Oil to protect against insects and fungus. However I pruned some leaves off of the mature hops that lucked to have powdery mildew.

I'm going to set up raised beds and plant the barley this week. I also plan to do more research on malting because its definitely the largest challenge in growing and drinking my own beer. I've been referencing mainly The Homebrewers Garden by Joe and Dennis Fischer. It has a lot of valuable information about hops, herbs and grains. There is a lot of good information out there that just needs a little time to be found. I'll post more links as I find them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Go Local or Go Thirsty

My goal is to brew a beer using ingredients that I have grown organically. There are several reasons why, first it's a lot fun watching the plants grow and so is brewing beer, why not combine the two. Second, I believe sustainability is the key to our future, and it doesn't get much more earth friendly then to grow your own, be it food or beer. Third, Kent County, being the most agricultural county in Maryland, is reliant upon a three crop system, corn, soybeans and winter wheat. Why not grow things we actually use, instead of something the government will subsidize and use for the mass production of beef or high fructose corn syrup. So this blog will chronicle my adventure into homegrown homebrew.

It will also be giving updates on the first commercial hop farm in Maryland, and one of the few in the Mid-Atlantic, being started right here in Kent County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. They have planted over 200 rhizomes and are planning on selling fresh hops to local breweries. In the U.S. hops are currently commercially grown in the Pacific Northwest; Oregon and Washington, because of the humidity in the Mid-Atlantic leads to diseases such as downy mildew. There are ways around these diseases, like picking resistant varieties as well as fungicides.

So I hope you enjoy the blog, please comment and let me know what you think.

Hops, Humulus Lupulus, are used in brewing to add floral, spice and other bittering flavors. I began growing hops last year with moderate success. First year hop plants spend most of their energy on establishing roots, so more yield can be expected from mature plants. Last years plants are around 2 feet (pictured) and are growing vigorously each day and exciting to watch. Hops are bines, which means they cling to some sort of structure using hairs extending from the stem. A hop yard can have several different types of trellis systems to support the plants. I'm using two different types; hooks attached to an overhanging roof and a may pole system (one pole with hops encircling it). Basically I've used whatever scrap wood was lying around, but hops will grow on most structures where they get full sun and the soil drains well.

I've got ten plants, hopefully all producing some sort of harvest. The varieties include Cascade, Centennial, Mt Hood, Nugget and Brewers Gold. Each plant will grow several shoots but I cut all but 6 for mature plants and three for first years. This aids in cone production (cones are the flowers of hops which are used for brewing). I replant all extra shoots in pots so if anyone is interested in growing hops I'd be happy to give you some to start your own yard. Rhizomes (the roots of hops) are also available online and are inexpensive. I get my rhizomes from and are happy with their service.

I also plan to grow barley for the first time and will plant 2-row and 6-row varieties soon. The seed was hard to find online but I eventually did and would be happy to share where from if anyone is interested.