Production is going well at the brewery, and things have settled out a bit on our 3 flagship beers. This has given me a bit of time and fermenter space to dedicate to some seasonal and experimental beers.
One of the toughest things about getting this brewery off the ground has been trying to make predictions about what I’m going to need from a raw materials standpoint. Grain isn’t too difficult as I can get that in stock pretty quick. Yeast can take a little while to get in (upwards of 2 weeks since I use some less common varieites), but hops, now that’s a different story…..
Hops are an interesting beast, because the demand for them is extremely high right now with all of the craft brewing expansion going on. This isn’t a huge problem for something like grain, which is on a yearly planting and harvesting cycle, but hops take at least 2-3 years to mature to the point of producing a good yield. This means that the hops that the growers are planting now will be available somewhere around 2015-2016.
So, in order to ensure that the growers are planting the right thing, they ask breweries to sign forward-looking contracts for the hops they are going to need 2-3 years in advance.
Which means that I had to pull out my handy-dandy crystal ball about 12 months ago and say “how much of each variety of hop am I going to want next year and the year after”.
If you recall, I wasn’t open 12 months ago.
So, as you can imagine, it was a bit difficult.
But, in the end, it’s looking like I’m actually doing pretty well so far this year. I’ve got the major varieties that I need for the flagship beers, and I’ve got some extra to play with as well. Part of this contracting process that is a little tough is predicting some of the varieties that you aren’t yet using in your beers, but you might want in the future. There are some varieties, ike Simcoe and Citra, which are actually sold out 2 years in advance because they’re so popular. So, in the spirit of experimentation, I put in a couple boxes of some varieties that are harder to get with the thought that I’ll find something to do with them.
About a month ago, the new harvest for this year got processed, and my first batch of these “what if….” hops came in.
Sorachi Ace is one of my favorites, it has a really nice lemon flavor with some slight tangerine taste to it as well. It’s an amazingly refreshing hop and I really like using in lighter beers. HBC 342 was a complete mystery to me, but who am I to pass up a chance to try out something new and interesting? I had seen some descriptions of “mild, pleasant, citrusy, and tropical, with some melon notes”.
So, in response to these hops coming in and trying to find out something to do with them, I’ve started a series of beers called the “Hop Project”. For the rest of this summer (and hopefully beyond), I’m going to be doing a lot of small batches to figure out what I want to scale up when I have the fermentation space. The hop-forward ones in that experimentation are just going to be dubbed “Hop Project”.
As many of you may have seen last week, the first one is on at the taproom right now.
Hop Project Part I is a take on a Belgian IPA. It’s a lighter beer in color and mouthfeel and utilizes both the Sorachi Ace and HBC 342 for some amazingly refreshing citrus and melon flavors and aroma. It’s then dry-hopped with Simcoe to give it a little more piney bite at the end and help combat a bit of the sweetness imparted by the HBC and Sorachi Ace. It finished quite dry and although we used our Belgian Yeast to ferment it, the belgian character is a bit subdued compared to the hop flavor. It clocks in at 75 IBUs and 5.3% ABV (yes, that’s the hoppiest beer we’ve had on at the taproom yet!).
The next beer in the Hop Project is almost ready to come out as well, and I liked it so much (even flat and warm, which is how I last tasted it), we’re actually going to be scaling it up to a big batch, which should be out in the next couple weeks as well.
Hop Project Part II is a rye lager brewed with Cascade, Sorachi Ace and HBC342 hops. It is based on a pilsnser with a dose of rye to give it a little spiciness without making it too heavy and a helping of HBC342 at the end of the boil to balance the dryness of the rye. It clocks in at 5.5% ABV and around 35IBUs. It should be on at the taproom next week.
The final beer that I wanted to bring to your attention was a little batch we brewed up with the fine folks at Hops on Birch a few weeks back. They all came over to the brewery for a staff party, and we fired up the pilot system for an english brown ale, which we’re calling “Hops on Brown”.
This beer actually has a little twist to it as well, as I’m trying out a brewing enzyme that White Labs (my yeast supplier) has been working with. This enzyme is made to break down proteins in beer during fermentation…… including gluten.
Yes, this beer is going to have a very low gluten content for those of you who have gluten sensitivities. I’m not going to call it gluten-free because I haven’t had it tested, but if you have a sensitivity to gluten, I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how you feel after it. Most tests that have been done on beers produced using this enzyme are testing with a gluten content of less than 10 parts per million.
We’re going to do a deep clean on one of the tap lines at the brewery and one of the lines at Hops on Birch and we’re going to have “Hops on Brown” on tap both places for first friday art walk this friday.
We’ve got a lot of really fun projects coming up at the brewery, so stay tuned and we’ll keep you in the loop!