Monday, 26 September 2011

Hop Harvest

The hop harvest is now complete.

I've been growing two main varieties. Target, a traditional English bittering hop and Bramling Cross, an English aroma hop.

Bramling Cross were far more prolific this year, mainly due to the fact that the other variety had to be moved at the start of the season, as I'd constructed some new frames to support the vines and it wasn't possible to erect these in their original position.

The Bramling Cross had very large vivid green cones and were ready to harvest a week or two before the Target. To be honest, I probably harvested them a week too late. Many of the cones had begun to be tinged with brown, but I couldn't pick any sooner as we caught the tail end of Hurricane Katia just when I wanted to harvest and it became too wet.

Bramling Cross

The Target cones are smaller and have a red hue about them. I didn't expect too much from them this year, having been transplanted at the start of the season, but they still produced a fair few cones.


Once harvested, the hops were dried, spread in a single layer on net curtain material in the loft. There was plenty of heat to do the job and they were dried in a couple of days.

I need to invest in a vacuum sealer, but for now I bagged them up and stored them in the freezer. I managed 850g (dried weight) of the Bramling Cross and 580g of the Target.

I've got a brew earmarked for the Target hops in a few weeks time. Before that, I'm hoping to brew a traditonal English bitter. Providing I get my broken copper back this week, I may be able to squeeze in the first brew this Thursday.

One downside to growing your own is the uncertainty over the acid content. The alpha acid is the source of hop bitterness, which is obvioulsy an important factor in getting a nicely balanced beer.

But, to be honest, unless you're trying to brew a competition beer, I'm not so sure that a percentage here or there is ultimately going to make too much difference.  According to the Murphy's web site, Bramling Cross come in the acid range of 5%-7% and Target 8% -10%. If I take the lower end of the scale, I don't think I'll go far wrong.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

National Homebrew Competition - The Result

I detailed the beers I had entered in this post. Beers were judged in accordance with BJCP guidelines and this is some of the feedback from the scoresheets. There were two for each beer;

1. Old Ale -  Aroma and appearance did well. 7/12 from one judge on aroma (although the other detected some oxidisation) and appearance 3/3. I lost points on the flavour - 'hops too dominant' was one comment. Overall impression from one was that it needed more malt complexity/richness.The other thought the alcohol was a little sharp. I was surprised with the comment to age it well, as it's already two years old.

Overall score was 30 (out of 50) - this puts it in the 'Very Good' category. 'Beers in this range may have minor flaws, or may be lacking in balance or complexity.' So, a good beer but not quite to style.

2. Pale Ale - Both judges gave this 3/3 for appearance and one a hefty 9/12 for aroma. Mouthfeel was a brilliant 5/5 with flavour 17/20 from one, 16/20 from the other. Both gave 8/10 for overall impression. 'A good beer, great balance'.

Overall score was 41 - 'Excellent' I was completely blown away by this result. I was awarded 3rd place in this category.

3. Best Bitter - Again, this beer looked the part with both judges giving 3/3 for appearance. 'Golden colour, great head and retention, strong beading.' Sadly, from here it went downhill. It was evident the bottles I sent were oxidised. 'Off flavours dominate a beer with great appearance' was the overall impression.

Overall score was 25 - 'Good'. A real shame this beer wasn't quite right. The bottles I had at home were fine, but I guess splashing during bottling had affected a few.

In summary, a good display for my first ever foray into the world of homebrew competitions.