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Posts Tagged ‘garden hops’

Just a quick update of various movements of beers between different buckets, kegs and bottles. It may not look much but then you didn’t have to clean the stone out of the bottles and kegs with a pipe brush and a hosepipe…

The Boxshed Top Secret Autumn Ale finished secondary fermentation, dropping nice and clear. We put 25L into a primed King Keg, which was kept in the warm to build up some pressure and to allow venting of oxygen before being transferred to my bruv’s house down country lanes in the passenger seat of an ageing hatchback. A further 19L filled a cornie for the Boxshed, while several bottles were primed and filled as testers and treats. All are now in cold conditioning, in one shed or another!

The Boxshed Dark Garden ’09 finished primary fermentation and has been siphoned into clean FVs for 5-7 days of secondary in readiness for racking off to a similar selection of kegs and bottles to the Autumn Ale, which has by the way now been given a (hopefully) beguilingly dull name.

*Hopefully there will be news of another brewday later in the week – watch this space*

A few grainy pictures of various transfers:

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Here are a couple of videos that were taken during the recent Dark Garden ’09 brewday that we’d forgotten about.

We haven’t got a free video editing tool to hand (any ideas of the best option, please leave a comment and let us know) so they’re a bit rough and ready and are just raw brewing clips, but you might find them interesting, who knows?!


A vigorous rolling boil is important, but so is nursing it through the first ten minutes or so to stave off a boil-over!


The bitter wort comes out with enough force to aerate the brew and add the yeast during the flow. We alternate between FVs every 5L to keep each vessel’s contents consistent.

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It’s taken a week or more to get this brewday post up on the blog. The day job may not be as much fun as either brewing or drinking beer, but it certainly consumes a lot more time and energy. What can you do, eh?

This brew revisited a very successful recipe from a year ago, with a few tweeks. The original idea had been to create a modern hoppy mild in the style of Darkstar‘s formidable Over The Moon. It worked pretty well, and we drank the whole 20 litres ourselves with nobody else really getting a snifter.

The ’09 variety is much the same brew with a few exceptions: it’s a 50L brew length, the roasted barley has been reduced significantly in favour of more patent malt, the yeast has been swapped over to Nottingham Gervin, and ALL the hops are now from Boxshed garden Fuggles and WGV goldings plants. It truly is a Boxshed Dark Garden brew.

The details of the brew day have been lost in the protein haze of time, but everything went to plan over about six hours and the brew has already fermented out. The dark wort was great fun to mess about with and the smells were a treat, particularly the blend of malts and the Fuggle coppers. We can’t wait to get planning the recipe for this year’s Seasonal Stout now.

Anyway, enough with the words, here are some steamy pictures:

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This year’s hop harvest may have seemed a lot of fiddly work at the time and a hot slog on a sunny September weekend, but it proved well worth it in the end. And at an average price to homebrewers of around a fiver per 100g for new crop hops this year, ‘growing yer own’ is fast becoming an essential boost for those Winter milds, poters and stouts.

The hops had been drying in the makeshift ‘loft oast’ for around ten days when we ventured up to retrieve them. It took a little while as its best to handle fresh hops as delicately as possible in order to retain as much lupulin as possible. All three varieties were nice and dry and just needed packing in bags for storage. I say just….

Now, packing hops is a massive pain in the backside. We don’t have a vacuum sealer and perhaps one of those might be a good idea next year, but even so. Our method is to cram hops into zip lock bags so tightly that there is very little air inside. The bags we use are heavy duty 10″ by 7″ jobs bought in bulk from eBay a while back. If you work and work at it, you can get 100g inside each one, dry weight after taking the bag itself into account. I can’t lie, it’s not easy, but it is very effective and each big is literally ram-packed.

Anyway, check out our efforts below. It took a while, and our fingers were pretty stained and bitter for a day or two afterwards, but it was quite a haul for just three small plants. We now have 400g WGV, 300g Fuggles and 133g Bramling Cross from the 2009 harvest. Not bad at all and perfect for seasonal milds and that all important batch of Christmas Dry Stout!

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A free September weekend following several days of dry, windy weather billowing through the Boxshed garden, seemed as good a time as any to bring in this year’s hop harvest.

We finally got stuck in at lunchtime on Saturday, and were still at it on Sunday afternoon. Be warned that harvesting hops with any degree of care takes a lot longer than you might think, particularly when you only have a couple of plants and they feel a little precious after months of bine twiddling, feeding and watering.

Just to remind you, we have just three varieties here, which are each grown along wires stretched across two fence panels apiece. These plants are now in their second year, and the difference in the number of hop cones on all plants compared to year one was obvious from the early Summer months. The WGV Goldings went crazy once again, tangling themselves up with all manner of other plants and even managing to grow across the other side of the fence and across the roof of our neighbours’ garage. The Fuggles were perhaps the most impressive this year though, with fewer but impressively larger cones than the WGV. Particularly pleasing was the improvement in the Bramling Cross, which struggled to produce any cones last year but looked really attractive this time round and offered up plenty of bunches of good looking green hops to pick.

We aim to harvest our hops in early September after several days of dry weather and just before the cones start to turn brown. This year all the hops seemed to mature earlier than in 2008. I wouldn’t say they were all ‘papery’, but they were certainly full of orange-yellow lupulin (the good stuff) and would have certainly gone past their best if another week of rain had set in. So down they came.

Our harvesting technique isn’t particularly refined, but seems to work just fine. We use chunky kitchen scissors to cut down manageable chunks of bine from the wires in lengths of about a metre at a time. We then snip each cone at its base into a bin liner stretched over a fermenting bucket and throw spent bines and leaves into the compost or brown bin. We have ripped off the cones by hand in the past, which can be quicker, but I worry that we lose a lot of lupulin this way, so probably waste a lot of time with all the over-careful snipping.

We managed to harvest an overflowing 25 litre fermenter bin full of WGV, nearly as much Fuggles, and around half a bin of Bramling. We were really pleased with this, as well as the quality of most of the cones. Frankly, as you’ll see in the photos, we couldn’t really handle many more hops using our current drying technique (but piles of newspaper pockets would work just fine, no doubt).

The next step was get the things drying, and we decided to use the technique that worked best last year – the loft oast! The idea is that a combination of scattering hops at a single depth on a dry absorbent surface, warmth from the house below and a hot airy loft gets the hops dry quickly and without any fear of mould or rotting. It worked a treat in 2008, so was a no-brainer this year. Of course the increased volume of hops made it a trickier operation. We ‘carpeted’ all available loft space with cardboard removal boxes stored for the purpose, then began scattering from the far end, leaving obvious gaps between the three varieties. Once we were done and ‘painted into a corner’ back by the loft hatch, we surveyed our green pungent crop like hydroponic drugs barons before retreating back to the house below for a week or two.

So all-in-all, a successful and very satisfying Harvest ’09 so far, with plenty of hops drying away happily above our heads. Take a look at the gallery below if you’d like to see for yourself how it all went, and feel free to drop us a line if you want to share your own hop harvest tales or ask anything at all. We’ll post an update soon once all the cones are dry and we put them in storage.

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Plenty of East Anglian sunshine with the occasional traditional deluge of rain is literally suiting our hops down to the ground!

Apart from some help from the hose during drier spells, plus a bit of evening bine twiddling, they’ve pretty much been left to themselves this year, and we’re really pleased with progress, especially for the little Bramling, which was a late starter.

See for yourselves!

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An update on the progress of our three hop plants. Despite me clumsily butchering the roots of the WGV and Fuggles in order to take some quite simple plantable samples for my dear old bruv, all is going very well indeed. The WGV and Fuggles will be used in as many batches of Dark Garden as I can muster in the Autumn. The Bramling Cross is a rather more reserved old stick, and if we get any cones at all for use in aroma additions I’ll be very happy.

Here are some photos from lunchtime today:

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