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Royal Oak Beer Fest Saturday 1/17/2015

This Saturday is the Royal Oak Beer Fest at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. Kerry got us tickets for Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it even though I really don’t know a lot about this event.

There seem to be a lot of these small beer fests popping up all over the place and many just offer bottles of beers that you can find at the store. However, some times breweries bring special beers that you can’t find anywhere else.

I’ll be sure to report back about our experience. If you go to their site it looks like VIP tickets are still available, but general  admission is sold out.

Royal Oak Beer Fest 

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Time To Go Back To School

It might be time to pack my bags and head back to school again.

WMU Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Craft Brewing

I’m not really sure what to think about these college brewing degrees that seem to be popping up everywhere.  On one hand it is really cool to see that craft beer is growing at such a rate that universities are taking notice and tailoring programs towards it. However, on the other hand, I have to think that at some point there is going to be a plateau for all of this followed by a huge die off.

Hopefully things continue to build and the big boys just keep giving up their market share to support it.

Anyway, it’s Thirsty Thursday at the Mighty Penguin Brewing bar and I’m thirsty. First round is on me.

The Hops Are Coming, The Hops are Coming!

Would you have thought that you could grow one of the most characterizing components of your home brews right in your back yard? Well you can, and it all starts with a hop rhizome.

Unless you are really into the craft beer scene, or a home brewer, hops are probably a very single dimensional ingredient in the brewing process. Most people know that all beers have hops, but not everyone knows that there are many different varieties of hops. In fact, hops are one of the most identifiable, flavor defining components of your beer. Not only can hops vary the bitterness of your beer from a nice easy drinking blonde all the way up to a hop head’s dream IPA, but different hops can give unique aromas and flavors to your beers as well.  Beyond the different varieties of hops, the area in which hops of the same variety are grown can have drastic effects on the flavor, aroma, and bitterness of the hop. Hopefully in another post some day soon I’ll be able to delve more into the varieties of  hops.

As you may, or may not know, hops grow on a vine. It’s a vine that, over the course of the summer, can grow upwards of 20 feet. They look like small, green pine cones hanging off of the vine. Below you will see a picture of a single hop flower, then a farm full of hop vines.

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Hopfendolde-mit-hopfengarten“. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Chmelnice” by LudekOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

To get these wonderful little creations we must start with rhizomes. Rhizomes are small sections of root. They are planted at the base of something they can climb up as they grow, usually twine. This is a picture of a Rhizome from Northern Brewer.

Typically for the amount of hops the average home brewer uses in a batch of beer the cost is low. Most recipes will use an ounce or two of pellet hops for an average cost of less than $5.00. Therefore, building your own hop farm isn’t really for the purpose of cost savings. However, things like being more self sufficient, knowing exactly what is in your beer, and being able to say more of the beer came from your own hands are all great reasons to plant a rhizome or two in your back yard.

Pre-orders for the coming growing season’s hops usually begin in January and run through March, with Rhizomes shipping in April. Last year I was late to the party and ordered a few rhizomes in May, but delayed planting them until June, something I would highly advise against.

In another post I’ll go more into depth on the planting and growing process, but since we are just starting to get into the snowy season here in Michigan there is plenty of time for that discussion at a later date. Today I just wanted to let everyone know that the hops are coming and that some of the large brewery supply mail order companies are beginning to accept pre-orders for the 2015 crop. Please see the links below for a couple of the current pre-order hops that are available.

Adventures In Home Brewing – Hop Rhizome Pre Order

More Beer – Hop Rhizome Pre Order

Thanks and have a Hoppy Wednesday!

Force Carbing A Little Debbie

One of the things a home brewer has to struggle with is patience. Everything from waiting the 70 minutes for your mash to the three weeks for fermentation to the time it takes for bottles to carbonate all require patience.

Sometimes there are opportunities to skip ahead in the process.

There are a couple devices avaliable that allow you to force carbonate small amounts of your beer, assuming you have kegging equipment.

The first device I bought was the Carbonator.

This is basically a ball lock keg post that you screw onto your average soda bottle. You then apply a little CO2 and purge the air while it fills. Shaking the bottle allows the CO2 to mix into your beer and carbonate it.  Right now I have one of these in use on a 2 liter bottle of the left over base beer for my hard root beer.

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The best thing about the Carbonator is that if you keg you already have the required connections to pressurize the bottle.  Just pop a fitting off of a keg and use that for a quick second.

The only drawback is that if you need more than a couple they are a little spendy. That is what led me to the next thing I’m going to show you.

Another setup that I found is considerably cheaper to do multiple bottles. It’s only drawback is that you will need to dedicate a CO2 line to it’s filling adapter.

Kent Carbonation Cap

Kent Carbonation Barb

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The blue piece gets attached to a CO2 line and the white cap with o-ring go onto the bottle.

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In my kegerator I have two dedicated lines for force carbing. One with a standard ball lock fitting and one with this.

Tonight I decided that I would force carb a small sample of the Debbie Does Amarillo Dirty Blonde Ale.

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After it chills I’ll be able to get a good sense of what the final product will taste like.

Even if you aren’t a brewer these caps, along with a CO2 source,  make for a great way to preserve unfinished portions of beer from opened growlers.