Monday, May 26, 2008

My First Year Hop Garden

With all this talk of hops shortages and hop crisis, I decided to try to grow some of my own hops. I’m not alone. There seems to be thousands of home brewers, in the same boat as me, growing their own hops. I ordered my 4 hop rhizomes from the Thyme Garden. They were Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Nugget. They were all planted in early/mid April and I have had various results. I am sure everyone has different results and it comes down to each individual rhizome. Here’s what I got now.

Centennial Hops
The Centennial hops are by far my best growing hops. They are about 4 foot high and I have 3 bines climbing up the twine right now with one more about to grow.

My Hops - Centennial

My Hops - Centennial

Nugget Hops
The Nugget hops are growing pretty nicely. They are about 8-10 inches high and I have 2 bines that are starting to look for the twine to climb. They should be climbing by next weekend or so.

My Hops - Nugget

Cascade Hops
My cascade hops are growing, but I had a slight issue with them. I used Bone Meal as a fertilizer and my dog thought it was a delicious treat. So he decided to lick at the Bone Meal and accidently stepped on one of my 2 bines that were growing. They were both small, but it seems to have stunted the other one. So it is only about an inch or two high and hasn’t gotten any bigger in 3 weeks. I am hoping once the shock settles, these will start growing again.

My Hops - Cascade

Chinook Hops
These are a no show. From what I understand, the Thyme Garden ran out of Chinook, so they had to fill their orders from another company. The Chinook rhizome seemed to be the smallest, so maybe I am just being impatient. I will let it be. There’s not much I can do now.

My Hops - Chinook

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cheap Mash & Lauter Tun for only $55 or Less

I’ve only been brewing for a short while, but I sure have caught the bug. I have brewed eight beers so far using extract and steeping grains. This morning, I brewed a Belgian Wit. The Wit recipe called for mini mashing a pound of flaked oats, a pound of German wheat malt, and 2 pounds of pilsner malt. This was my first mini mash.

I have been reading up on moving to all-grain and figured I just need to do it. It will only help me fine tune my recipes and help my beer be everything it should be. I did a bunch of research and decided batch sparging is the method I will be first using. Denny Conn’s article on batch sparging was a great help on how to build a mash tun for batch sparging. So I went out this weekend and picked up everything I needed from Walmart and Lowes.

I found my 50qt Rubbermaid Cooler at Walmart for $28.99. I went with a slightly larger cooler because I plan to do 10-gallon batches of high gravity beers. The cooler seems it will do the job perfectly. It claims to keep ice for 5 days in 90-degree weather, so I think it will keep a mash temperature for an hour. It is possible to use almost any cooler with batch sparging. If you have an old cooler lying around, it is possible convert it back and forth between a cooler and a mash tun. This will cut the price in half. You can also find coolers at yard sales for cheap to cut down the price.

I then headed over to the Lowes and proceeded to pick up the parts to make this cooler a mash and lauter tun. I used the directions I found on the Fly Guy MLT page and updated the parts for this cooler. They are as followed.

Parts inside the tun
  • All stainless steel ¼” hose clamps x 2
  • Brass square head plug (Watts A-737)
  • ½” x 30” braided stainless steel supply hose
  • 3/8” female barb adapter (Watts A-298)
  • 3/8” MIP x 2” brass nipple (Watts A-787)
  • Seal from plastic spigot of cooler (shown below)
Parts outside the tun
  • 5/8” O-ring (preferably heat resistant, if you can find one)
  • 5/8” fender washers
  • 3/8” threaded ball valve
  • 3/8” male barb adapter (Watts A-294)
You will also need some plumbing Teflon tape.

I’m not going to go step by step on how I assembled the tun because you can find the direction on the Fly Guy MLT site. However, I can say it was very easy. The hardest part was cutting the stainless steel supply hose. I tried doing it without any power tools and no saw, but that didn’t work so well. I then remembered I had a metal cutting blade adapter to my RotoZip. A hacksaw would work just as good, but I didn’t have one around. Once it was cut, it took some finagling to get the inner hose out.

Here are some photos of the completed mash & lauter tun.

Mash Tun

Mash Tun - Ball Valve

Mash Tun - Stainless Steel Braid

Mash Tun - Internal Connector

Now I need for my Wit to complete fermentation so I have space to brew another beer. I will post about my first full all-grain brew once I brew it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

National Homebrew Day - My Honey Blonde Ale

Saturday May 3rd was the National Homebrew Day’s Big Brew. I wanted to participate in the big brew with a bunch of people, but my schedule didn’t allow it. I did squeeze in a brew though. I ran to my local homebrew shop and picked up some ingredients for a Honey Blonde Ale. I formulated the recipe in my head as I was driving to the store.

Every beer I have brewed so far has been dark or hoppy. My wife finds these styles repulsive. This beer is an attempt to brew a crowd pleaser for the people who don’t like a beer with complex flavors.

I am writing this post as the wort is boiling and the recipe goes a little something like this.


  • 2 cans - (6.6lbs) of Coopers Light Liquid Malt Extract (one at 45 min and one at 15min)
  • 1 lb - of Orange Blossom Honey (at flame out)
  • 8oz – Crystal 10L (steeped)
  • 4oz – Victory (steeped)
  • 1oz 4.0% Liberty (70min)
Did anyone else brew? If so, leave a comment on what you brewed.