Category Archives: Hops

Randy Williams IPA

This is the story of my latest brew, called Randy Williams IPA. For a long time I’ve been looking to get back in touch with my American side, and do a massive strong multi-american-hopped monster. I want to change my name to Chuck, Randy, or Duke. I’m getting the urge to chest bump people and rock out, and to greet every misfortunate event and depressing situation with an inexplicably optimistic can-do attitude. I’ll need Randy Williams for this.

Malt Sack

There are two immediate antecedents to my glorious conclusion (Randy Williams). The first is that  homebrew stockist new kid on the block Donal, of bestbrew suddenly out of the blue was offering 25KG sacks of Munich malt, kilned by the famous Bamberg Maltster Weyermann for only €26! Couple that with his free shipping at the moment! Couple that with €5 discount if you become a friend on facebook (yes I am now friends with a shop). Only 21 clams! I can’t turn down a bargain. They must have fallen off the back of a truck. But what is a Weyermann truck doing in Athlone? It’s a long way home to Bamberg, and that is a mystery for another post.

But what was I to do with all this munich malt I asked myself? I already had all the malt a boy could want, after the recent massive barrel related purchase from Bairds in England, and this included an unopened bag of Munich. What was I doing with so much specialty malt anyway? Then I remembered that Munich ist kein specialty malt, it’s just a darker, sweeter base malt. Base malt is any malt that is capable of self converting, that is, it contains enough enzymes to convert its starches to fermentable sugars. The more you roast or stew a malt the less of this it has, so you couldn’t brew a beer of all dark malt. Base malt makes up 70-90% of the malt bill in a beer, sometimes 100%. Even in a stout, pale malt can male up 80% or more of the grain bill. The palest malt is Pilsener malt, at about 2 srm. Then Pale malt such as Maris Otter is about 3 srm. Munich on the other hand is about 5 srm, at least my Munich from Bairds is, there are different grades. So it shouldn’t be much darker than a normal pale beer.  Randy Williams should clock in at about 8.5 srm

Odell IPA

The second antecedent is that the other night I picked up my first ever bottle of Odell IPA. Up until then I had thought Dogfish Head’s 60 minute and Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo were the pinnacle of US IPAs, but I was wrong. They are fine beers, but Odell was something really special. It’s true of course that I had been amassing certain american style hops with a thought to making an Epic IPA, and so I decided I needed to find out what was in Odell and make something similar. I trawled the internet and I hope that what I came up with from the various tips and speculation won’t be too far off the mark.

Munich Hopper Randy Williams

At the same time I thought, why not do an all Munich grain, extremely hoppy american beer? And so that’s what I did. The body that the munich malt gives it should be more than a match for my massive american hop schedule.

And Who is Randy Williams? He won gold at the 1972 Olympic games, for the long jump. So you could say it’s a gigantic American hop in Munich.

Here’s the recipe, and some pictures from the brew

It seems 12KG is just about my upper limit for mashing

Randy Williams IPA, 35L, OG: 1.077, 8% ABV, 68.4 IBU, 8.5 SRM

  1. Munich Malt  10KG
  2. Carapils            1KG
  3. Acid Malt       400G

The hopping is immense.

  1. Magnum 35G   60 mins
  2. Chinook 35G    30 mins
  3. Centennial 25G, Chinook 25G, Cascade 32G, 10 mins
  4. Simcoe 25G, Columbus 25G, 5 mins
  5. Amarillo 30G, Centennial 25G, Knockout
  6. Simcoe 50G, Columbus 50G, Dry Hopped

the 5 hop additions ready to go

Yeast is two packets of Safale 05. I added 1tsp of gypsum and 1/2 a tsp of magnesiumto the mash. The mash was 1hr, 65c, PH was 5.4 (due to the acid malt)

A Tun of Steaming Mash



Filed under Beer, equipment, Hops, Recipe, Uncategorized

Hop Hupdate

Just like Jack and the BeanstalkJust a short post, my mid-season hop growing update. Let me introduce the gang- from left to right we have Taurus (a super alpha hallertauer variety), Hallertau, Northern Brewer, Tettnang, and Fuggles. The Fuggles bine is in its third year now, It is now supposed to be at its maximum in terms of yield. Last year it produced plenty of hops, so this year I’m hoping for even more. The others are all two-year olds, and they gave me a small yield last year, but have all come on spectacularly this year, particularly the Hallertauer, I’m expecting a good harvest from it. I’m not sure what to use my Hallertauer for, I don’t make that many European style beers, and Hallertauer is a big favourite of the lager family. Perhaps I will use them in a lager if it gets really cold again this winter, but as it stands I don’t have a dedicated fermentation fridge so I can’t really lager.

This year I got good results from using last year’s Fuggles as a massive late hop addition in a Saison, I used my Norther Brewer as the aroma and flavour hops in my steam beer , and I used the Taurus as a bittering hop in my Kölsch, though I think I overestimated how bitter it was as it turned out too sweet. That’s the problem with using homegrown hops as anything other than flavour and aroma, you don’t know how high the alpha acid content is, and alpha acid (AA%) is what determines the bittering potential.

Unfortunately the Tettnang is going through a rough period at the moment, I think it may be under attack from little

New Tenant

greenfly. I’ve noticed a lot of them about at the moment, the warm still weather can’t be helping. I have been spraying the underside of the leaves with soapy water which helps apparently, it dehydrates the little bastards and they die. Just the other day a ladybird landed on my shirt as I was walking  home from the shop, and I carried him carefully to the Tettnang plant and deposited him on a leaf. Hopefully he’ll set up shop there because ladybirds can eat up to 5000 aphids in their lifetime apparently. More of that sort of thing!


Filed under Beer, Hops

Kölschy Bogman!

This weekend I brewed a Kölsch. Kölsch just means Cologne-ish, and it is also the name of the dialect they speak there. During Carnival, the festival that starts in november (at 11.11 on the 11th of November- hilarious Germans!) and runs until Ash Wednesday, hoards of Köln folk wander around under the twin towers of the Dom, swilling lots of this beer from a little glasses called a stange. They dress up in odd costumes and listen to extremely silly oompah music, and for some bizarre reason three men pay lots of money each year to dress up as Virgin, a Prince, and a Farmer. they look very silly, particularly the virgin.

In any case, the beer is quite nice, so I decided to brew some. It is a light beer, not too hoppy, very pale in colour, displaying some of the dry crispness of a lager. Mostly though, I wanted to brew it because I like a good pun in the title of a beer. It has long been my belief that you should think of a witty title, and then brew the beer to fit. I apply this maxim to my academic philosophical studies also.

The beer is called “Culchie Bogman”. For those non-Irish among you, a “culchie” is how Dubliners refer affectionately to our rural cousins. sometimes they embrace it, sometimes they don’t, it doesn’t tend to bother us. If any of you want to read up more on the culchie, here is a link to their annual festival.

To make matters even more fantastic, my friend Maeve, the talented artist kindly offered to do a label for the beer. I will handsomely reward her with… em… beer. When it’s ready. Here is Maeve’s blog containing some beautiful artwork.

I think the label is fantastic, so I hope the beer can live up to it. Anyway here is my recipe:

“Culchie Bogman” Kölsch. 35L

Pilsener Malt 2.9KG

Pale Malt 2.5KG

Wheat Malt 750G

Munich Malt 680G

Hops: Taurus 21G, 60 mins

Saaz 28g, 15 mins

Hallertauer Mittlefruh 33g, 15 mins

1.5 tsp Irish Moss, 15 mins

Wyeast “Kölsch” 4L starter.

Other Notes: .5 tsp Calcium Chloride, Calcium Sulphate added to filtered strike water. Mash at 65c for 60 minutes. Ferment at 17c, Lager at 7c (or whatever temperature it is in my shed in a week or so’s time!) for 3-4 weeks

A further note: the Taurus and the Hallertauer hops are my own homegrown ones, and as such I have no idea how bitter they are. I guessed 12% aa for the Taurus, and 4% aa for the Hallertauer. I suspect that even though that is the lower end of the guideline for Taurus, that they are not in fact that bitter. In any case hop bitterness is not the most important factor in a Kölsch, and I was only shooting for 25 bittering units.

Here are some pictures of the brewing process.

This is my mash vessel, a picnic cooler with a stainless steel false bottom. I fill the cooler with the grains and start to add the water, stiring as I go.

the temperature is 65c so I close the lid, cover with a blanket and leave it for 60 minutes. It lost about 2 or 3 degrees but that’s ok when the weather is cold.

I start to run off the liquid into the boiler. I have to recirculate the first couple of litres because they are usually a little grainy, the grain bed starts to act as a filter after a little while. When the liquid gets near the top of the grain bed I start to add more water, being careful not to disturb the grain bed itself, so I use a plastic lid to stop this happening. This is called “sparging” . I switch on the boil kettle which is a converted Keg. When it starts to boil, I add the first hops addition, in a muslin bag so they don’t clog up later. I add the other hops at 15 minutes to go, along with irish moss, a seaweed (not in fact moss) that clumps some of the protein molecules together that cause hazy beer, thus allowing for a clearer beer. It’s important to cool the liquid as quickly as possible once the boil is over, because it is unstable when hot and prone to oxidisation, picking up other bad or stale flavours, but worst of all, if it cools slowly it is far more likely to pick up airborne microbes and nasties that might spoil it. I use a copper coil that attaches to a hose, which cold tap water runs through acting as a heat exchange. This cools it down pretty quick. The cooler goes in the boil for 15 minutes before the end to sanitise it also. When it’s all cool enough I open the floodgates and it pours forth in a beery stream that would make your heart race. The plastic storage box is what I use these days as a primary fermenter, it has a capacity of 80L, which means plenty of headspace. It is made from food grade polypropylene, same as normal homebrew fermenters, but it was very cheap, and it’s see through so I can see all the action. This method also aerates the wort (the unfermented beer) which is very important, because although the whole yeast conversion is normally an anaerobic process, it does need oxygen to get started. All that frothing and pouring from a height is perfect for my purposes! 10 hours or so later, and it has already started to ferment, there are little bubbles exploding up from the bottom and shooting up to the top, where all the yeast eating the sugar and multiplying themselves cause the bear to have a frothy creamy head. It’s only getting started in this picture but now, a day or two later it is about 5cm thick. It smells fantastic. My yeast strain, Wyeast’s “Kölsch” is supposed to have an almost winey charater to it, but it should produce a fairly dry beer at the same time. I’ll just have to wait.


Filed under Beer, Hops, Recipe

De Hoppepluk

hop harvest

First Post, first hop harvest

Welcome to the blog! My first post is to record a happy, hoppy event, my first hop harvest! I recently returned from a holiday in Belgium and France, where I gazed at the hopfields that surround Poperinge. Not surprisingly the area is home to several excellent breweries, including St. Bernardus and Van Eecke in Watou, and of course the iconic St Sixtus abbey where Westvleteren is produced.

Poperinge has a hop museum, where I found this postcard. I was amused to learn that the flemish for the hop harvest is “De Hoppepluk”, and the harvesters themselves are referred to as, you’ve guessed it, hoppeplukkers! I returned home to see my own pride and joy, my Fuggles bine which had grown so impressively all summer in full flower. Several weeks later and I decided that it was time for my very own hoppepluk.  Here I am, intrepidly scaling the bine.


This being a test run, I decided to collect only some of the flowers. I was not entirely sure that they were ready. The guidelines I had found in various places recommend that the flower should not stay compressed when squeezed. Check. They should feel drier than young cones, even papery. Check. They should perhaps be browning around the edges. Check. Lupulin (the yellow powder that causes the bitter taste and smell of hops) should be apparent. check! So off I went. I guess that I took about a quarter of the largest flowers off the bine, mostly around the top. These were being battered the worst by our windy weather lately in any case, so I thought better off than on. One other issue was that my Tettnang bine, which is new in this year had made a very close acquaintance with Mr. Fuggles, so I’m not sure there aren’t some Tettnanger interlopers in there too. I tried to stick to the other side of the plant though.harvested This is how much I harvested. When I removed all the flowers that little 5L bucket was about half full. I was very happy with the yield of the Fuggles bine this year, since last year it only grew about 4 ft, and produced nothing. I got it in the ground too late. This spring it started sprouting in early march, I think, and grew voraciously. Apparently next year will be even better. I read that the first year a plant produces only 30% of its potential, while year two gives more like 70%. I have some German varieties (Halltertauer, Taurus, Norther Brewer) that were new this year from Eickelmann which have produced a good cluster of flowers near the top. When the hop is picked I think it is about 70% or more water, and this should be dried down to 10% or so before storing, or mould may set in. I considered building an oast, and I may next year, but after extensive (30 mins) testing I decided my oven was up to the job, since on the lowest fan setting it can hold 35°c . I read that some commercial oasts use more like 60°c, so I decided to go with 45°c.

ovenI used baking cooling racks, which were actually slightly too large, the smaller hops kept slipping through. I think Hessian sheets or some other coarse material might be better in future. They dried overnight, about 17 hours in all, which may have been a little too much, as they were quite brittle. I think I will go with less time or a lower temperature next time. When I weighed them there were 55 grams. I put them in two ziploc bags, and squished the air out by placing the bags under a large book (times atlas) and pressing down hard, then zipping while all the air was out. almost as good as a vac pac!

Here are some more pictures of the final dry yield from my first dry pickings, my hop-squishing method, and the finished package, which I popped in the freezer.

LupulinAnd finally, a pic of the lupulin that was left behind! It’s the yellow powder you can see on the bucket. When you rub or touch it it gets all resinous. Of course I couldn’t resist licking it off my fingers. Euuuuuugggggh, I still shudder to think how bitter it was. It was very, very bitter. But strangely refreshing! Hops are a bitter bitter sweet addiction.


Filed under Hops