Month: October 2017

July is now behind me, and I couldn’t be happier to see the back of it. The British summer has caused serious problems – problems that cause me to question whether we’ll even get to the harvest.

As well as looking at how the ingredients are coming along I also pay a visit to a brewery to talk brewing equipment with their resident brewster, in case I get that far…

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It’s mid-June, and the plot feels as if it’s all starting to come together. The hops are off up the strings like rockets, the barley has spread out to create a rich, if a little short, canopy and now I’ve closed the tap the water butt is filling up nicely.

I start the process of collecting samples to be analysed by 2 researchers at the LSI lab at the University of Exeter and experience my first taste of storm damage…

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For those that have been following the project on this site, social media or through the podcast you’ll know that the growing season is now behind me and if I haven’t got the hops and barley yet it’s not going to happen.

Barley right after harvest

Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that I think I’ve just about done it. The wind, rain and storms that have plagued the summer have seen a serious drop in the amount of barley that I was able to grow – amounts like 25 – 30kg that were talked about at the start of Growing Beer quickly became fantasy and the actual harvest ended up being just under 8kg. This is likely to shrink further during the upcoming malting (taking place as I write) and whilst I’m not sure what the final figure will be, it will be enough for a brew, albeit a rather modest one.

The hops are a different story altogether though, they’ve produced more than enough of those all important cones. The Goldings and Perle had smaller harvests, but the Fuggles and UK Cascade varieties offered up a huge yield – each one more than able to brew the final beer with alone. Once picked, each variety was individually dried in a dehydrator to stop them from rotting, compressed into airtight bags (to reduce oxidation) and then popped in the freezer to preserve them for the brew later in the year.

Ben with the hops

Water is quite easy, as I’m collecting from the water butt and pumping it through a camping filter that will help to purify it ahead of boiling as part of the brew. Yeast is not as straight forward, but the good news is that I have found two different strains that are going to be used in some test brews over the next couple of days – neither of them are the strain I was hoping for, but they should ferment. How much they ferment, what impact they have on the beer and whether I’ll have to add in another, more traditional yeast alongside I don’t yet know.

It’s been a crazy year so far and nothing has gone quite as expected, but as it stands we’re just 2 weeks away from the final brew and 6 weeks from the tasting – when I’ll find out if all the efforts result in something that can pass as a drinkable beer. If you want to find out more about the various challenges don’t forget that the podcast is out now!

It’s the start of May, and I’m happy to have come through heatwaves and rock-solid soil to finally be able to sow the barley seed.

I check up on the hop growth and take a trip to Amsterdam to meet Joris Hoebe – a man who is combining a city-wide campaign to reduce rainwater runoff with a love of brewing. Handily for me this involves making beer with rainwater…

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It’s March, and while life is beginning to pop up across the plot it’s not all wanted.

I report back on the early hop progress, deal with some unwelcome guests and get some much needed advice on how to grow barley…

This episodes’ guest is Steve le Poidevin – he works for Crisp Malting and is providing some expertise on the different types of barley, when I should be growing and harvesting, and what problems I’m likely to encounter throughout the summer.

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It’s February, the rubbish is gone but the weeds are very much still here and I need to start planting.

I construct the hub of activities – the shed, foolishly involve my family in decision making and hit the road as I go looking for guidance to get me started with the hops.

This episodes’ guest is Ben Adams – he works for international hop merchants Charles Farams, so knows a lot more than me about the varieties, growing and flavours of hops than me. He’ll also have a good idea of what problems I may come across.

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or Stitcher, whilst I’ll be adding more players/services soon.

  

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