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Local Hops

When most homebrewers think of hops to use when brewing, they think of the small silver bags of pellets they get in a beer kit or pick up at the homebrew store (like Duluth Homebrew Supply ). But, where do these hops come from? It would not surprise you that the majority of hops that you see in these little packets are grown come from Germany and the Northwest United States. (Actually, in 2014 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Ethiopia actually harvested the most hops, followed by Germany and the US.) But, did you know that hops are grown around us in the upper Midwest? We are at the same latitude (around the 47th north) as Washington state where some of the largest US hop farms are located. Yes, our winters are a little harsher and summers a little cooler, but because of the similar latitude, we get similar sunlight for the hops top grow.

In Minnesota, there are 28 commercial hop farms according to the Minnesota Hop Growers Association (mhga.org). Wisconsin also has a number of commercial hop farms, many of them are members of the Wisconsin Hop Exchange (wisconsinhopexchange.com). Within 100 miles of Duluth there are four hop farms and a couple just a little further up the road.

At Duluth Homebrew Supply, we carry whole cone hops grown and packaged at Harbor Hops on Hwy 2 outside of Two Harbors. You can easily drive right by the farm and miss it. If you have gone to the start of the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon the past couple of years, you have driven right by the farm. This is a small 10 acre hop farm that is currently growing 18 hop varieties. At DHS, we are happy to have bags of whole hop cones of Crystal, Northern Brewer, and Saaz from Harbor Hops.

Part of the hop growing process is taking care of the rhizomes, the root-like structure that annually sends up the bines upon which the hop cones grow. These rhizomes are periodically thinned and split in the spring. These new rhizome pieces can then be planted to grow new hops. Harbor Hops makes their extra hop rhizomes available to home growers. If you would like to grow your own hops in your backyard, you can pick up rhizomes from us as DHS. We currently have great looking rhizomes of Brewer’s Gold, Centennial, Challenger, Crystal, Golding, Northern Brewer, and Saaz. How is the time to plant these rhizomes. Once they poke out of the ground, they are fast growers. You can almost watch them grow, sometimes growing inches in a day and can grow up to twenty feet tall in the right conditions. If you want to grow your own hops there are many great resources; books, blogs, articles, and forums (and maybe a future DHS post).

Harbor Hops hops have been used by local breweries. Our friends across the hall at the Fitger’s Brewhouse used 175 pounds of centennial right off the bine from Harbor Hops to make a wet hop beer last fall. Let’s hope they do it again. Many of the other hop farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin also work with local breweries making similar beers. There is something special about a beer with hops that were picked just hours earlier.

If you are not sure about growing your own, you can help pick hops at some of the local farms. Harbor Hops realized last September during their hop harvest that there was no way that they were going to be able to pick all the hops that grew while the hops were at their peak. So, they invited people to come pick a bine full of cones and take it home with them for much less than you can get from a store (even DHS) and much fresher.

Most of the hops you can use to brew are harvested, processed, packaged, and shipped around the world. Why not try something new and brew with some hops grown locally. Extend the local support from drink local, eat local, and shop local to brew local.

Duluth New Tribune published an article about Harbor Hops in April: Local hops add flavor to Northland brewing scene

Local Hop Farms from the Minnesota Hop Grower’s Association:

Aaron & Linnea Hansen – Aitkin

Harbor Hops – Two Harbors – harborhops.com

North Road Hops – Hovland – northroadhops.com

Six Finger Farms – Beaver – sixfinegerfarms.com

Squeedunk – Hackensack

Sunny Knoll – Brook park

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May 6th National Homebrew Day!

In 1988, the US Congress declared May 7 as National Homebrew Day. Homebrewing became legal in the United States just ten year before this on October 14, 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed bill H.R. 1337 into law. This bill, among other things, contained an amendment (Amdt. No. 3534) calling for equal treatment under the law for home winemakers and home beer brewers. Adults would be allowed to brew 100 gallons per adult, up to 200 gallons for a household, for personal use and not pay taxes on this home brewed beer. With the declaration of National Homebrew Day, the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) created an associated event to celebrate. The AHA Big Brew Day is held annually on the first Saturday in May. Homebrew clubs, shops, and other homebrewers around the US and the world celebrate by brewing common recipes and having a unified toast to homebrewing.

The 2017 Big Brew Day, again Saturday, May 6, has homebrewers brewing three recipes from the book How to Brew by John Palmer at various get together events across the US and beyond. How to Brew is one of the most widely referenced homebrewing books for beginning brewers. This being said, even an experienced brewer often refers to the book. As someone that has been brewing for years, I still keep mine handy and know right where it is for when I have a question. This year’s recipes include an IPA (Rushmore American IPA), a Saison (Battre L’oie Saison), and an Oktoberfest Lager (Klang Freudenfest Oktoberfest Lager). Each Big Brew Day event will be brewing at least one of these recipes with experienced homebrewers. One of the great things about the homebrewing community is that experienced brewers are so welcoming to new and perspective brewers. Big Brew Day Events are no different.

In addition to brewing, Big Beer Day features a simultaneous toast. This year’s toast is at 1:00 pm ET, 12:00 pm noon CT, on May 6, 2017. Even if you are not at a Big Brew event, join well over 10,000 other homebrewers and raise a glass of a favorite beer. Cheers to brewing at home!

More information of the AHA Big Brew Day: Big Brew for National Homebrew Day https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/aha-events/national-homebrew-day/

 

 

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It’s Spring-ish, Time to Brew!

As the weather begins to turn from winter to spring, we can begin to think about brewing outside again, or at least brewing outside comfortably. I (Nate) brewed my first batch of the spring just last week. My equipment sits dormant for the winter in the basement. Where does your equipment sit when you are not brewing regularly? There are some questions to ask yourself before breaking it out again for the “brewing season”.

Does my equipment need to be cleaned?With the extended time sitting somewhere, even if it was cleaned thoroughly before being put away (and I hope it was), it doesn’t hurt to give your equipment an inspection and a quick cleaning before brewing for the first time. Unless you see something growing (blah!) or obviously see some dirt, this does not need to be a super sanitize clean. A quick wash in warm soapy water should be enough. Make sure you give everything a good rinse after. Look at your brew pot, funnels, hydrometer, and such.

Does plastic equipment need to be replaced?

If you are like me, you use the same auto siphon, wine thief, and bottle filler over and over and over… Give each of your pieces of plastic equipment a look. Maybe a clean is enough. Maybe it is time to replace it. If it looks like there are tiny scratches or even cracks (I’m thinking about my auto siphon here), it may be time to replace them before you begin brewing for the year. Each of these items aren’t that expensive and I always feel good using new equipment, even if it is not a new toy. Other small pieces to look at are airlocks and stoppers. Do you know where they are and are they actually clean? If not, get some new ones.

Does your plastic tubing need to be replaced?

All that clear plastic tubing you have that isn’t as clear as it was when it was new, replace it. This plastic tubing is one of the leading causes of contamination in you beer (or other fermented beverage). If the tubing is starting to get foggy, starting to turn yellow, or even feels a little tacky/sticky, you are better of just replacing it. It would be a shame to have your first batches of the year become accidental sours at best (soured IPA, yum).

Do you have hops in the freezer that can be used?

I always end up with half an ounce of this hop and a third ounce of that hop that didn’t go into a brew. I close them up as best as I can, seal them in a plastic bag, and stash them in the freezer to be forgotten and buried. Do you have a collect of hops in your freezer? If you stored them well, away from air and frozen, they might still be good. Before I even decided on my recipe for my first brew of this year, I made a list of all of these hops I had so I could think about them as I choose my what I am going to make this year. Remember to give them a smell before you use them. If they don’t smell good anymore, they aren’t going to taste good in your beer. (There are some styles that traditionally use old, “cheesy” hops. If you are keen enough, maybe some of your older hops can go this direction.)

Do you have the small ingredients you use for each batch?

I always use some additive ingredients in each batch. I try to remember to get more immediately after I use up what I have or when I notice I am running low, but there is always the time I forget until brew day. Why not take inventory now? For all-grain brewers; do you have your water chemicals you use? minerals? salts? acids? maybe 5.2 if you are being as simple as possible but still paying attention to your mash pH. If you are measuring your pH, do you have enough buffer, cleaning, and storage solutions? I always through a finning agent at the end of the boil; whirfloc or irish moss. Do you have enough left from last year to get you started? I also like to give my yeast enough support as they can have. I like to add some yeast nutrient or energizer to the end of the boil. Do you have some to help have healthy yeast?

Do you have enough cleanser and sanitizer?

Since we are talking about ingredients, what about your cleanser and sanitizer. Remember you cannot sanitize something that is not clean. We already talked about giving your equipment a quick inspection and clearing before your first brew day. But, how do you clean your equipment before putting it away temporarily until your next brew? (Trust me, it makes it easier to brew again if it is clean already and you don’t have to clean it before brewing. Also, what about your fermentation vessels? How do you clean those? I like to use a brewery cleaner (I love PBW) to save myself some elbow grease. Don’t forget to check your sanitizer levels. You don’t want to be brewing and go to prep your fermentation vessel (glass carboys for me) and find that you are out of your favorite sanitizer. Might as well get some when you are getting your ingredients for your brew.

If you brew outside, if your propane tank full enough?

This happens to me about once a year; I am in the middle of a boil and the propane runs out. I know, I should just get a second tank so that I always have one full for brewing outside or grilling, but I just haven’t bitten the bullet and bought a second tank. Check your propane level before starting to brew. Remember, as propane expands (as the propane in the take does when you are removing some to brew or cook hot dogs) its temperature decreases. With it still being cold out, if you are not careful, your propane tank can freeze. To help prevent this, you can put your take in a water bath (more thermal load to give heat to the tank), maybe even with some of that extra warm water from your mash.

Are your measuring tools calibrated?

The start of the “brewing year” is a good time to make sure all the tools you use to measure the numbers of your beer are calibrated. Most dial thermometers have an adjustment screw. Some digital can be adjusted. If your thermometers are off, at least knowing how far off will help. Or, start the year with a new one. Maybe you get that more accurate cooking thermometer with a timer and temperate alert built in that you have been looking at. If you use a pH meter, you are probably used to calibrating it repeatedly. What about your hydrometer, or if you are lucky enough, a refractometer? Both of these can be checked with pure, distilled water. They should read 1.000 SG. Refractometers are easy to adjust. Hydrometers are a little more difficult. Again, maybe you need to just know how much it is off or get a new one.

How are you going to cool your first batch?

I usually use an immersion chiller from my outside hose to chill by beer. With the groundwater here and Lake Superior, it is usually pretty cold and easily can lower the temperature to pitching temp in the time it takes me to get some of the rest of by brew cleaned up (and maybe open a beer). It was a good thing that I thought ahead before my first brew. I must not have fully drained my hose last fall. It had some ice in it blocking the way. I’m glad I checked this and had a plan. I would not be able to cool with my immersion chiller outside but can use it from the utility sink in the basement. I decided to carry by kettle with 6+ gallons of work downstairs. If you don’t have an immersion chiller that you can attach to a utility sink, or cannot carry your brew pot down stairs, you need to think about how you are going to cool your wort. Can you use your usual method at this time of year? Do you need to try some other method? Back when I brewed in apartments and before a built my immersion chiller, I used to place my kettle in the sink, bathtub, or big plastic party tub with ice water. Maybe this is what you do now. Maybe you need to go back to this method early in the year.

With the weather turning warmer, yes it is relative, it is time to begin brewing outside again. Be prepared before you brew. It will make the session go more smoothly and you will remember how much fun it is again. If you don’t do a little prep work, your day might be a little more difficult. But then, what homebrew day goes absolutely perfectly? I’m sure there are things I missed and already forgot I did (or should have done). As Charlie Papazian says, “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.”

 

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Homemade Dog Treats Using Spent Grain

treatsA simple recipe to keep every member of the family happy with your brew hobby!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups spent grain**
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Take all the ingredients and mix in a large bowl, until it looks pretty evenly mixed up.
  2. Spread the mixture on a 12 ¾ x 9 x 2 pan (Placing tinfoil underneath helps with cleanup).
  3. Press the dough around until you’ve got approximately an even inch of thickness.
  4. Bake for about 30 min at 350 F to solidify them.
  5. Remove from the oven and if you’re feeling creative, use a cookie cutter to make shapes, or take a knife and cut them into squares.
  6. Reduce the heat to 225 degrees and bake them on a cook sheet for four to five hours. It may take longer for thicker treats.
    • Make sure that you bake the treats until they are completely dried out. If they aren’t totally dry, they can become moldy.
  7. Store in an air tight container.

**IMPORTANT REMINDER: Be sure there are NO HOPS included with the spent grain.  Hops are toxic to dogs and can cause extreme illness or death.

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Helpful Hints to Keep Your Brew “Brewing” in the Cold

There’s nothing better than an ice cold beer. But here’s a few tips to make sure your brew doesn’t get “ice cold” too early?

shieldCarboy Shield:  Use a 4 in 1 carboy shield to insulate your carboy.  The shield fits snuggly around 5 and 6 gallon carboys, conserving heat and protecting your brew from the harmful effects of light. As a bonus, the padded insulation also helps protect the glass from any accidental damage.

Brew Belt: A Brew Belt will help maintain a constant brewing temperature of 68-75° F for up to 8 days. The 15W belt comes with two spring sizes to fit most fermenters.belt

Digital Temperature Controller: The digital controller has a digital display with adjustable differential. It can be used to either heat or cool a fermentation environment. When hooked up to a refrigerator, it turns the compressor on when the ambient temperature rises above your programmed temperature; when hooked up to a heater, it activates when the temperature drops too low. A sensor probe monitors the temperature inside while the readout displays it in either Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Heating Pad: Place a heating pad underneath your fermenter and let the process of convection do its thing. As most pads are unregulated, you’ll have to keep an eye on the temperature and be mindful not to overheat your fermenter.

bulb100 watt Light Bulb: Place a 100 watt bulb approximately 12 inches for your batch to warm up the temperature by as much as 8-10° F.  Back the bulb away, or use a lower wattage to affect less of a temperature increase. Be sure to cover your carboy with some sort of blanket to protect it from the potentially harmful effect of direct light.

Aquarium Heater: Put your fermenter into a tub or larger bucket and fill the outside container with warm water. Using an aquarium heater (available at most pet supply stores) heat and regulate the temperature of the water.

Polish Ingenuity: Wrap a blanket around your fermenter and keep it in a box.  This will help to insulate your wort and minimize temperature fluctuations… Side Note: we did our best to include duct tape into this recommendation, but couldn’t come up with any logical uses. However, it’s always best to keep a roll nearby, just in case.polish flag

Location, Location, Location: Take a few days and monitor the temperatures, or fluctuation in temperature, throughout the areas in your house you typically place your fermenter. This will allow you to find the ideal storage space. Also, avoid placing your fermenter directly onto cold flooring, particularly cement, which are usually many degrees below ambient room temperature.

Brew a Lager.  Take advantage of the cooler temperatures to brew a cold fermenting beer.  Lager yeasts work better at an average temp of 45-60° F (Ales require 60-75° F).

snow beer