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“Gardening for the Homebrewer” Book Review

As the temperatures warm and gardens are planned, home brewers and other DIY beverage enthusiasts might consider taking a swing at growing ingredients for their concoctions from home, rather than purchasing them.

Most people do not know anybody who has grown hops, barley, grapes, or other useful beverage ingredients in their home gardens, so it might appear to be a difficult task.

In fact, these plants are not terribly difficult to grow, harvest, and prepare on your own. The comeback of home craft beverage making has recently increased the popularity of raising these plants in backyard gardens.

You know the feeling of accomplishment, and the extra level of tastiness, involved with enjoying a beer or wine that you made from scratch. That feelin will be raised even higher when you make a beverage from scratch, using ingredients that you tended over the course of a summer and harvested from your own yard.

In the search to learn more about enhancing our home brewing through the garden we came across a very useful resource by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon, appropriately titled “Gardening for the Homebrewer.

What the Book Accomplishes

The authors of this book make sure to clearly state that they are first gardeners and then homebrewers. Their specialty is the typical brewer’s weakness – gardening – but they have enough knowledge about making beer, wine, cider, and other craft beverages to provide a useful resource for leveraging the garden to produce these drinks.

The book gives basic information about the process of brewing, fermenting, or otherwise preparing each type of beverage, but only enough to make sure that you know where each garden ingredient fits into the process.

The authors generally assume that you know what you are doing to the point that you can, for example, brew a batch of beer and feel comfortable making small adaptations to a recipe to work with the plants that you are growing.

Topics Discussed in the Book

The book covers the topics of gardening for making beer, wine, cider, perry, and liqueurs.

In general, each chapter talks about the various plants that can be grown for use in these beverages and provides the basic background about each plant, how much is needed for brewing, the regions where it grows best, and tips for growing it (such as space, soil, light, and water requirements, as well as management and harvesting tips).

In many cases, there is also a recipe included to illustrate how the plant can be incorporated into a brew.

As far as the beverages go, here is a little detail about what each section covers:

Beer Brewing

The growing, harvesting, and processing hops and barley is covered in detail, including the malting of barley. Neither of these are as difficult as they sound. Hops are especially reasonable for the novice gardener to start growing in many different climates.

Different plants and herbs that can be used to flavor beer are introduced, and considerations are discussed for planting a garden based on what you want to accomplish with your beer.

Wine Making

While much space is dedicated to the discussion of raising wine grapes, for obvious reasons, this book also discusses fruit wines and the pairing of various fruits and herbs for wine. The fruits that make great wine, and their growing properties, are explained in detail.

Cider Making

Although beer and wine making is going to be the most relevant for most readers, this book is really unique because of the information it gives about other drinks.

For the avid home brewer or vintner cider may seem like the cop-out chosen by those who can’t appreciate or handle a well-crafted beer or wine. If this is you, the chapter on cider making in this book will completely change your perspective and have you longing for the autumn apple harvest.

Did you know that hard cider was once a very prevalent beverage across North America due to the ease with which apples grow and the minimal equipment needed to produce the cider?

The diversity of cider apple trees across the United States was destroyed with the onset of Prohibition, when growers began to favor dessert varieties for eating, making it harder to find good cider apple trees these days.

In just the last few years there has been a reawakening of craft cider making and cider apple varieties are finally on the rebound.

This section of the book discusses the selection of apple varieties, finding the best site on your property for the trees, planting, grafting, and pruning trees, and harvesting, preparing, and fermenting the apples.

It is possible to grow some varieties of apples almost anywhere in the United States, so after reading about growing apples for hard cider at home you may well find yourself investing in the trees for this simple and delicious DIY beverage.

Perry Making

Perry is not as familiar as beer, wine, or cider, though it is quite similar to cider. It is in fact made in the same way as cider, only using perry pears (as opposed to “dessert” varieties of pears).

Perry is like a fancy cider, historically enjoyed by those on the higher rungs of the societal ladder.

Like cider apples, true perry pear trees fell out of favor and have become hard to find. Perry is a beverage that has never had a large profile in the United States, but with the rise of craft beverages lately it has started to grow in popularity.

Just like with cider, this book discusses the selection of perry pear varieties, the grafting, pruning, and harvesting processes for the pear trees, and the process for preparing and fermenting the pears into perry (which has some slight differences from cider and takes a little longer).

Liqueurs

The book ends on a slightly different style of beverage, one that is not fermented at home but rather uses ready-made alcohol mixed with various ingredients from the garden to produce a fantastic result.

Liqueurs, sometimes called cordials, are mixtures of fruits and/or herbs with alcohol to which a simple syrup is added for sweetening. Infused spirits are the same, but without the syrup. Examples of these that you may recognize are Benedictine and Chartreuse.

If you have never made liqueurs or infusions before you will be capable after simply reading this section of the book. This is the only section of “Gardening for the Homebrewer” where you would not need to seek more informational resources in order to be equipped to start out in the hobby with no prior experience.

With beer, wine, cider, and perry it is advisable to either have knowledge of the process already or seek more fundamental instruction on how to carry out these processes before moving forward with the information in this book.

The great thing about liqueurs is that they are quick and easy to make. One or more herbs and fruits from the garden are added to vodka or some other liquor with at least 40% alcohol content, and the mixture is left to sit in a sealed container for hours or days and then strained off to provide the flavored liqueur.

With no fermentation to wait for, and herbs being some of the simplest and fastest plants to grow in the garden (or in a pot in your house), this is a great option for trying new flavors without a big investment in time and resources.

The book walks you through the selection and growing of the relevant herbs and provides some simple recipes that you can use to be enjoying your own liqueur within the next few days.

Overall Thoughts on the Book

Without a doubt, this book gets two thumbs up. It is written to be engaging and approachable for the average home brewer who may not have deep knowledge of gardening. The authors know what you need to know, and they give that to you without bogging the book down with extra information that is not necessary.

As was said earlier, this book is not the best resource to teach you how to make beer, wine, cider, or perry (though it will get you started on liqueurs pretty well). You will want to learn those hobbies through other means.

If you would like to take these hobbies to the next level by growing your own ingredients, however, “Gardening for the Homebrewer” is a must-have resource.

If you like to make you own beer, wine, cider, perry, or liqueur and would like to start growing some of your own ingredients at home to supplement the hobby, you need to take a look at this book.

Click Here to Learn More about “Gardening for the Homebrewer” by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon

 

11 Great Gifts for Wine Lovers

Finding the right gifts for a family member or friend can be tough, but it does not have to be if they are a wine lover.

Some of our most popular posts in the past have been gift ideas for home brewers (See Part 1 and Part 2) and gifts for beer lovers (Part 1 and Part 2).

Now we bring you the list of 11 great gifts for the wine aficionado in your life:

For Serving and Preserving Wine

1. Metrokane Houdini Wine Tool Kit

There is a basic set of tools that any serious wine lover is going to need in order to properly serve their wine, whether it be at a party or just for themselves.

This Metrokane Wine Tool Kit provides all of these necessary wine serving and preserving tools.

The kit includes a chilling carafe with a freezing stainless steel chilling core that is ideal for keeping white wine and rose wines cool.

The set also comes with an aerator which allows you to skip the use of a decanter for aeration, a corkscrew, and a preserver that allows you to save any leftover wine in the bottle for later.

Click Here to Read More About the Wine Tool Kit


2. Vacu Vin Wine Saver Vacuum Wine Pump

Leftover wine is the worst.

You don’t want the wine to go to waste, but you can’t get the cork back in the bottle and you know the wine will go bad if it sits out overnight.

Fortunately, a simple vacuum wine pump will solve the problem.

Simply insert the reusable stopper into the bottle and pump out all of the air to preserve the flavor of the wine for up to ten days.

Click Here to Read More About the Vacu Vin Wine Pump


3. Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal Glass Rouge 1-Liter Decanter

There are some unique decanters that make great discussion starters at any dinner party.  They work well as gifts for the wine lover who already owns all of the basic wine serving equipment.

This one liter decanter has a unique shape that is designed to let the wine aerate while the decanter is tilted on its side.

The decanter is made from a toughened crystal that is resistant to breaks, chips, cracks, and temperature shock. It is also dishwasher-safe.

Click Here to Read More About the Crystal Decanter


4. Sagaform Wine Carafe with Oak Stopper

Another fantastic option for serving wine with style is this two liter wine carafe with a more traditional design but an eye-catching oak stopper that gives it a unique look.

Click Here to Read More About the Carafe


For Cleaning and Displaying

5. Riedel Bottle Cleaner Beads

Wine decanters and carafes are difficult to clean out due to their interesting shapes.

Fortunately, the process can be simplified using cleaner beads. Simply swirl the beads in water inside of the vessel to get at those difficult-to-reach places.

These beads make a unique and very useful gift for any wine lover.

Click Here to Read More About Cleaner Beads


6. Wine Enthusiast Decanter Drying Stand

Once a decanter is cleaned it has to be dried, which is a process that presents problems of its own. Since most decanters are bottom-heavy they are difficult to stand upside-down for drying without tipping and breaking.

A decanter stand can be used to easily dry and store your decanters without the worry that an accident will occur. These make great gifts paired with cleaner beads.

Click Here to Read More About the Decanter Stand


7. Architec Air Dry Wine Glass Drying System

Just like decanters, wine glasses can be difficult to dry because they are so fragile and easy to break.

A good wine glass drying system like this one will solve that problem.

Click Here to Read More About the Wine Glass Drying System


8. Oenophilia Fusion Stemware Rack

Simplify your recipient’s life even more by combining the previous two gifts into one. Give them a stemware rack that holds 16 wine glasses plus a decanter for drying and storage.

Click Here to Read More About the Stemware Rack


9. Quirky Tether Stemware Saver Dishwasher Attachment

Washing wine glasses in the dishwasher is risky. The glasses are fragile and easy to break, and high-pressure water is shooting in every direction.

Avoid the worry by using these simple flexible dishwasher attachments that slide onto the dishwasher posts on either the top or bottom rack and hold the glasses securely.

Click Here to Read More About Stemware Savers


Fun Wine Gifts

10. Wine-Opoly Monopoly Board Game

A fun, unique gift that even the serious wine lover in your life may not yet have is Wine-Opoly.

Just like the classic Monopoly board game, this version brings all the fun while imparting interesting facts about wine. It can be played in the traditional style or in a one hour version.

Click Here to Read More About Wine-Opoly


11. Wine Barrel Cork Cage

On our honeymoon my wife and I bought this metal Wine Barrel Cork Cage at a local winery and have been saving all of our wine corks since. We write down the date on each cork so that we can go back and reminisce about all of our wine experiences since being married.

This cork cage is a fun memento and provides a great show piece to start up conversations about your wine hobby.

Click Here to Read More About The Cork Cage


Do You have a favorite gift for wine lovers? Share it in the comments below.

A Local Home Brewing Store: Submit Recipe, Get Store Credit!

We are always looking for stories from local home brewing stores, and a unique new store opened in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this week that caught our attention.

Wondering how to save money on your home brewing supplies? What if you could submit your original beer recipe to the store and earn store credit? The Homebrewer’s Clubhouse does this and more.

Here is our short interview with Jon from Homebrewer’s Clubhouse earlier in the week:

-What was the inspiration behind starting Homebrewer’s Clubhouse?

I started HBC because I love brewing, talking about brewing, and had a desire to promote the craft that I love.  I have been a stay at home parent for 4 years, and as my son approaches school age I recognized that I would have to find something else to do.  I wanted to do this most, so I went for it.

-How long has Homebrewer’s Clubhouse been around?

We’ve been open for a week, but the ideas been there for much, much longer.

-What makes Homebrewer’s Clubhouse unique/interesting?

I am striving to make it more than just the local home brewing store.  I plan to have a comfortable sitting area and a selection of craft beers to drink while chatting.  Customers can become members and submit their original recipes (along with a sample, of course) to sell in the shop, and get store credit as a percentage of the cost of the recipe.

-Do you have one great piece of advice for home brewers?

Don’t get hung up on guidelines. Competitions are great, but brew for yourself, break conventions, and constantly work to make something you can be proud of. It doesn’t matter what style guidelines say if you like the result.

-Are there any other interesting stories/tidbits you’d like to share?

We have a beer called 4 Eyes IPA that’s named for the 4 hops used to make it, but also because my brewing partner’s glasses fell off and right into the boil.  The beer tasted great, but it was perhaps the most expensive beer we’ve ever made.  Anything can happen on brew day!


To learn more about Homebrewer’s Clubhouse, and to access some of their great resources on home brewing, visit their website at:
www.homebrewersclubhouse.com

If you are in the Winston-Salem area stop by the store:
Address: 1312 S Hawthorne Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Phone: 336-293-4550

A Local Home Brewing Store: NewFarm

We always encourage you to get out and visit your local home brewing store for equipment, ingredients, and advice for your home beer, wine, and cheese making. Sharing ideas with a real live person will take your hobbies to the next level.

We reached out to home brewing stores around the country and asked a few questions to get to know them better so you can see the different offerings to be found at stores around the country.

The first store we talked to was a brand new company in Harwich Port, Massachusetts called NewFarm.

NewFarm offers a variety of equipment to help people grow their own food. This includes hydroponics, gardening, raising animals, and of course beer, wine, and cheese making.

Here is our short Q&A with Lindsay from NewFarm:

What was the inspiration behind starting NewFarm?

My husband and I started NewFarm as a one-stop shop to supply people interested in producing their own food, whether that be a flock of backyard chickens, organic gardens, or (of course) delicious homebrews. However, we also want NewFarm to be more than just a store… we see it as a gathering place where people can meet, share ideas, inspire one another, and learn from each other.  We want to build community locally while also creating great food and great brews.

How long has NewFarm been around?

NewFarm is in its first year, we opened March of 2014.

What makes NewFarm unique/interesting?

I think it is safe to say that NewFarm is the only store on the eastern seaboard with a room in which brewers can weigh out their base and specialty grains and then grab a bag of organic chicken feed for their backyard flock of chickens.

Do you have one great piece of advice for home brewers and/or cheesemakers? 

Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!  You can have the best ingredients, the best plan and execution, but if your great beer gets infected you have nothing to show for all your effort.

Are there any other interesting stories/tidbits you’d like to share?

Cape Cod was carved out by receding glaciers, coffee was discovered by a goat farmer and beer was used to pay the laborers who built the pyramids….if that’s not interesting I don’t know what is!

To learn more about NewFarm, and to access some of their great resources on raising animals and gardening, visit their website at:
www.newfarmstore.com

If you are in the Cape Cod area stop by the store:
Address225 Cranberry Highway Orleans MA 02653
Phone508-255-0205

How to Build a Kegerator

Among the most popular upgrades for home brewers of all abilities is to keg beer instead of bottling it. Using a keg has many advantages, but keeping the keg of beer properly cooled while also keeping it accessible can be difficult.

The kegerator is the solution to this problem. This small refrigerator with a built-in tap allows you to both control the temperature of your keg and fill up a pint of beer whenever you would like.

Many home brewers, prefer to build their own equipment. If you are among them, we highly recommend you check out the excellent infographic at PartSelect that walks you through building a kegerator, step by step.

How to Build a Kegerator Intro

 

Click Here to read more about How to Build a Kegerator.

Have you built your own kegerator? Share your stories and tips in the comments below!

Off-Flavor Alert: Beer Tastes Sharp or Spicy, or “Warming”

Most home brewers, unfortunately, are familiar with the “alcoholic” off-flavor even if they do not realize it.

High alcohol content is desirable in some beer styles, such as barleywines, but it is problematic in many lighter beers.

This is a harsh, sharp, or spicy flavor that provides a “warming” sensation when consumed.

What Causes the Off-Flavor?

The alcoholic off-flavor is caused by the presence of fusel alcohols, as opposed to the ethanol alcohol that is usually found in beer. Fusel alcohols are produced by yeast when fermentation takes place at a temperature that is too high, usually over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are other less-common causes of alcoholic off-flavors as well. Excessive amounts of yeast used in the fermentation can cause this flaw, as can leaving beer on the trub (the settled out proteins and debris) in the fermentor for too long.

Can This Off-Flavor Be Fixed?

Unfortunately there is no way to un-ferment the alcohols out of the beer. When the alcoholic off-flavor is present in a beer it is there to stay.

Can This Off-Flavor Be Prevented?

The alcoholic off-flavor is quite preventable. The most important factor to consider is the fermentation temperature.

Every yeast strain has a different ideal fermentation temperature range. It is the brewer’s job to know that range and to find a method to hold fermentation at a consistent temperature on the low end of that spectrum for the duration of the fermentation.

If the beer will be fermenting for an especially long period of time it may be beneficial to transfer it into a secondary fermentor after a couple of weeks. This will get the beer off of the trub after most of the fermentation is complete, and it will promote a finished beer with higher clarity.

Have you experienced the alcoholic off-flavor in your brewing? How did it affect the beer?

Off-Flavor Alert: Beer Tastes Like Green Apples or Pumpkin

The unintended flavor of green apples or fresh pumpkin in beer is common, especially early in one’s home brewing career when patience for the fermentation process might be lacking.

Green apple is not a desirable flavor in any beer, and pumpkin is only acceptable in a few styles.

What Causes the Off-Flavor?

This off-flavor in beer is caused by a natural byproduct in the fermentation process called Acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde is an intermediate stage between the sugar that the yeast begins fermenting and the final product, ethanol, given off by the yeast which provides the alcohol content of the beer.

Many off-flavors are caused by poor sanitation, but most often the green apple off-flavor exists because there simply was not enough time allowed for fermentation of the beer. The beer is still “green.”

In rare cases the green apple off-flavor might be caused by either oxidation of the beer or a bacterial infection. If an infection is the culprit, the essence of green apple can be especially intense.

Can This Off-Flavor Be Fixed?

Fortunately, the green apple or pumpkin off-flavor will usually go away with more time allowed for the beer on the yeast for fermentation.

Further fermentation will convert the acetaldehyde into ethanol, removing the green apple flavor. This process can take longer if the beer is strong, with a high specific gravity at the beginning of fermentation.

It can also take longer if the yeast being used is weak or not enough is pitched at the start of fermentation.

Can This Off-Flavor Be Prevented?

The simple way to prevent the flavor of green apples or fresh pumpkin in your beer is to be patient with the fermentation. Allow plenty of time for the yeast to do its work and the results will be improved.

Along the same lines, sufficient levels of strong yeast need to be pitched to encourage a strong fermentation. Determine the expected starting specific gravity of your beer and ensure that you have enough yeast to handle it. A calculator like the one over at MrMalty can be very useful for this.

Check the manufacture date of your yeast. Liquid yeast packs lose their viability quickly after a few months. A yeast starter may be required to build up the number of yeast before fermentation.

Finally, prevent the introduction of oxygen to the beer during transfers into a secondary fermentor or bottling bucket. Flush your fermentor with carbon dioxide and ensure that your transfer lines are secure to prevent oxygen from leaking in. This will prevent off-flavors due to oxidation.


Controlling Fermentation Temperature

What is the most basic and critical factor that drives the fermentation of your beer? Obviously, the yeast. Did you realize, though, that the temperature at which fermentation occurs will dramatically affect the flavor of your beer?
Each yeast strain has a narrow range of temperatures at which the ideal fermentation will occur. Too warm, off-flavors will be formed in the beer. Too cold, fermentation will not be vigorous enough to complete.
When I started home brewing beer I was letting it ferment in the hallway of an apartment without air conditioning, in the middle of summer, at temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees. I did not realize at the time that this is what was causing my beer to have some funky off-flavors.
The ideal fermentation temperature for most types of ale yeast is in the mid-60’s Fahrenheit (lager yeasts like it cooler). In many areas it is difficult to keep fermenting beer at this temperature because it is too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.
Even with forced air heating or cooling your house, there is likely to be a several-degree swing in temperature
There are some tricks that can be used to help the beer ferment at a steadier temperature, though:

Keeping Beer Warm Enough

Carboy Parkas

If you have to ferment you beer in a basement or garage in the winter (I’ve even had difficulties in an unused spare bedroom in the winter) you likely will not have the sufficiently warm 65 degree ambient air temperature that you need.
A simple way to keep your fermentor warm enough (if you are fermenting in a carboy, rather than a bucket) is a carboy parka. These come in many different variations, but they are always a fitted cover that is meant to provide insulation to reduce temperature fluctuations.
These work especially well because the process of fermentation will naturally heat up the vessel, in some cases as much as ten or fifteen degrees, and the parka will keep this warmth in. Carboy parkas also have the benefit of blocking out harmful UV rays from the beer.
Some carboy parkas are really basic, and some nicer ones (like the one pictured below) are made of a more insulated material and come with handles for moving the carboy easily.

Electric Carboy Parka with Handles

Electric Carboy Heaters

If a carboy parka just isn’t enough to keep your beer up to fermentation temperature then an electric carboy heater (like the one pictured below) is the way to go. These are simply electric heater pads that hook up to a temperature controller to keep your beer at a very specific temperature. They can be used on glass, plastic, and metal fermentors.There is not any guessing involved about the temperature, like there might be with a carboy parka. Electric carboy heaters will keep your fermentor warm enough no matter the conditions.

Electric Carboy Heater

Keeping Beer Cool Enough

Swamp Coolers

The most basic method of keeping a fermentation vessel cool enough in hot temperatures is commonly referred to as a “swamp cooler.” This term refers to keeping the fermentation vessel in a tub of water filled up at least to the level of the beer in the fermentor. Since water is more resistant to temperature change than air, it will not heat up as quickly or cool off as quickly as the air in the room. A floating thermometer can be placed in the swamp cooler, or an adhesive thermometer label called a Fermometer can be placed on the outside of the fermentation vessel to monitor temperature.
Even outside of avoiding temperature extremes, it is easier to control the temperature of the fermentation when the fermentor is surrounded by water. If the water is too warm it is easy to add ice or a frozen bottle of water to cool it off. It is even possible to set up a pump to circulate water from a tub of ice water into the swamp cooler. The pump can be activated by a temperature probe if the water in the swamp cooler gets above a specified temperature .
If it is difficult to keep the fermentor cool enough you can also wrap it in a towel, with just the bottom of the towel touching the swamp cooler water. The towel will wick water up to cover the fermentor, and as the water evaporates away it will naturally cool the fermentor. For an added boost to the cooling, place a fan nearby and have it blow past the vessel to encourage more rapid evaporation.
If the water in the swamp cooler gets too cold, an aquarium heater can be dropped in to heat it up.
Swamp coolers are a great option if you are looking for a way to automate temperature control without committing a lot of money or space to a converted chest freezer (see fermentation chambers, below).

Fermentation Cooler Bags

A simple alternative to swamp coolers are Fermentation Cooler Bags, like this one, that are essentially the cooling version of a carboy parka.
Cooler bags are made of heavy-duty insulated material into which you place your fermentor and bottles of frozen water. Each one-liter bottle of ice will typically cool the fermentation temperature by about five degrees Fahrenheit, down to about 30 degrees below the ambient room temperature.

Fermentation Cooler Bag

Fermentation Chambers

A more sophisticated method of stabilizing fermentation temperature is to build a fermentation chamber.

Most fermentation chambers are built from an insulated container such as an old refrigerator or freezer. A temperature controller is used to regulate the temperature of the chamber. If the chamber is kept in a cold area, such as a garage, a heater may actually have to be placed in the chamber to keep it from getting too cold.
Monitoring the temperature of your wort in a fermentation chamber is a little more tricky than doing so in a swamp cooler. The wort will heat up and cool down more slowly than the air in the chamber, so to obtain a more accurate reading you need to either add a temperature probe to the wort, or add a probe to a container of water that is also in the chamber to mimic the wort temperature.
A nice piece of equipment that will help regulate your fermentation chamber is a switch that can be activated by a temperature probe. When the temperature in the chamber falls outside of the specified range the switch will activate either the refrigerator or the heater as necessary.
Have you tried any other methods of controlling fermentation temperature? Tell us how they worked for you in the comments below!
Note: For you to reference, we do our best to link to versions of the items that are mentioned in our posts that are sold by home brewing stores (or the direct supplier) via Amazon, which is a familiar and comfortable site for most users. We do receive a small commission for any purchases that you make via Amazon, at no extra cost to you, which helps to support the upkeep of this site.

8 Quick Questions About Aged Hops and How to Age Hops

Aged cheese, aged wine, aged liquor…aged hops? When and why would you used aged hops?

1. What Are Aged Hops Used For?

Aged hops are used in beers that are spontaneously fermented, which means that they are exposed to open air to allow natural yeast to enter the wort and ferment it. No yeast is added by the brewer. These beers are fermented in wood barrels for at least a year, sometimes several years, and take much of their flavor from the wild yeast and bacteria that enter during the open-air exposure and that exist in the wooden barrels.

This style of beer, known as Lambic, is not known for its hop bitterness. Its unique, sour flavor actually requires minimal hop bitterness. When hops are aged they lose their bittering properties, but they do not lose their ability to prevent infection in the beer. This is why aged hops are perfect for brewing Lambic: they protect against wild bacteria infecting the batch, but they do not give the beer much bitterness.

2. How Are Hops Aged?

Hops are aged by simply letting them sit in a dry place, such as an attic, for one to three years. Home brewers most often place the hops in a brown paper bag and then leave them to age.

3. Why Do Hops Have to Be Aged for So Long?

As the hops age they go through phases that are described as “funky” and “cheesy” due to their aroma. After sufficient aging, though, the hops will lose any aroma and flavor that they once had. A full year of aging will diminish flavor and aroma in most cases.

4. What Type of Hops Are Aged?

Whole leaf hops are used for aging because hop pellets do not age quickly.

Some sources recommend aging hops that are low in alpha acid, which is what causes the bitter flavor in hops. Essentially any variety of hop can be aged, however, because the goal is to rid the hops of flavor and aroma anyway.

5. Is There A Way to Accelerate Hop Aging?

You can rapidly age hops by heating them to 150 degrees F in an oven for up to twelve hours, but with a caveat: it will make your house smell horrible and the smell may linger for days!

6. Is There An Alternative to Aged Hops?

If you are brewing a Lambic but can not find aged hops, or do not want to wait a year or two for them to be ready, there is another option. Replacing the aged hops in your recipe with a very low-alpha acid hop variety will give similar results. If you do this, aim for a final bitterness between 10 and 15 IBUs for the beer.

7. How Many Ounces of Aged Hops are Necessary for a 5 Gallon Batch?

Recipes vary, but Lambics often use 3 to 4 ounces of aged hops. If the Lambic is going to become a fruit beer even fewer hops are used – only 1 or 2 ounces.

8. Where Can I Buy Aged Hops?

Try these home brewing suppliers for aged hops:

Hops Direct
Freshops
Seven Bridges Cooperative

Have you ever aged hops? What process did you use and how did it turn out?

Simple Advice from a Home Brewing Professional

Last week I was in my local home brewing supply store asking an employee about the finer points of a specific brewing process that I was about to try for the first time.

He gave me a very non-specific, but helpful answer.

“For hundreds of years illiterate Germans were able to brew incredible beer by throwing hot stones into wood vats to boil wort. They didn’t even know what yeast was. Just try things out and you will be ok.”

So, there you have it. Sometimes we need to stop thinking so much about making beer, and just make beer!