This is Part 1 of a series on how to grow and brew your own beer – within reason, of course. Over the year, I’m growing my own hops, building my own brew setup, making my own recipe, brewing a batch, fermenting it and then bottling it.
Full transparency: I am neither growing the barley nor culturing the yeast. Also not blowing the glass bottles. Or creating the water – I understand it’s difficult, although there’s all this Hydrogen and Oxygen just lying around.
About two years ago, I read one internets that stated “You can’t grow hops in Texas.” Without experience or data to refute this supposition, I let it stand – that is, until I visited Jester King in the Texas Hill Country and saw hop bines, with cones growing. This irked me. Stupid internets! Why did I let them stand in the way of awesome? As my friend Lars would say, “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” – and I decided to grow my own hops.
I’ve grown hops before – in New York, where a careless landscape company kept molesting my bines (yes, just as dirty as it sounds), yet I still got a good 12’ of healthy growth. This time, I elected to grow two Comet and two Centennial – not for any particular selection of hardiness, just because I wanted to. Two are in large planters, and two are in-ground, and it’s difficult to say which will have the harder time. Over the course of a year, a hop crown (root stock) grows to be about the size of my head, and a container is fine at first. Also, this Dallas soil is clay, so the in-ground bines don’t have the advantage of drainage.
Update: we have sprouts! All four bines have put forth growth. This is excellent news. Since you start with little dirty twigs about the size of a cigarette, it’s very gratifying to see the first sprouts of awesome. Thus far, the Comet are growing faster than the Centennial, and the containers faster than the in-ground. This may be the result of better drainage, looser soil, healthier bines, or any number of factors; I’m no farmer. Only time will tell.
And now; a beer review.
Hop ō Thermia
70 ibu, 8.5%
The ibu-abv ratio is actually more in favor of maltiness than hoppiness on this one – and the flavor echoes the sentiment. A coppery, slightly toasty flavor introduces itself to the mouth with some mineral elements that say there are similarities to Alaskan Amber here. Not quite the full mineral crispness of a good Düsseldorf Altbier, but there is definitely some malt there. If you know your IPAs, you’ll probably say that ratio sounds more like an East Coast IPA than a so-cal, and you’d be right. Even the usual pac NW IPAs are closer to a 1:10 ibu:abv. It leads in with the malt punch but brings a good dose of hoppy after – more flavor than bitter, and some good resiny notes, but not too sticky. Clean and pleasant, like you’d expect from Alaskan. Available as part of their Boundary Range pack, and pouring a lovely darker IPA shade of aged copper with a killer serving of hoppy head crowning it.