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Fresh Hop Ale 2011

I planted some hops this year!  I’d been wanting to do it for a while, but always missed the very small window to plant in the Spring.  This year I did, and get two varieties in the ground. I planted two rhizomes each of Centennial and Cascade.  I’m not overly familiar with Centennial, but it’s such a common “C” hop that I figured it’d be a safe choice.  I was told not to expect much for first year growth, but was pleasantly surprised.  I was able to get enough to do this batch and have a couple ounces of each left over for future batches!  It’s worth noting… picking hops from the vine is a LOT more work than I’d anticipated.  What a pain!

This was my first time brewing with whole hops, much less wet hops, so I was sort of winging it.  I’d also had yet to pull of an APA or IPA I was particularly fond of, so this recipe was just a roll of the dice.  I prefer my hoppy ales to be lighter in color, and not as copper, so I picked a really light and simple grain bill for this batch, modeled as an American Pale Ale.  As far as hop utilization, I found a couple places that suggested dividing the weight by 5 or 6.  I picked 6 and played conservative from there.  This batch is heavier on the Centennial than the Cascade, as I had quite a bit more of the Centennial to work with.

Ingredients:  Fresh Hop Ale 2011

All-Grain Recipe

  • 10.5 lb American 2-row
  • 1.1 lb Carafoam
  • 1 tsp 5.2 pH Stabilizer – added to mash
  • 1 tablet Whirfloc – added to during boil, boiled 10 min

Hop Additions

  • 2.5 oz Centennial Whole, Fresh (~10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • .4 oz Cascade Pellets (6%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 2 oz Centennial Whole, Fresh (~10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 2.5 oz Centennial Whole, Fresh (~10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 5 min
  • 3 oz Centennial Whole, Fresh (~10.0%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min
  • 5 oz Cascade Whole, Fresh (~6%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min

Yeast

  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.048 / FG 1.012
  • 4.76% ABV
  • Brewed 09/03/11.  Racked to Secondary 09/18/11.  Bottled 10/03/11.
  • Divided Fresh Hop weights by 6 for calculations in Beer Tools.

Brewing the Fresh Hop Ale

Prepared my strike water as usual by heating 5 gallons of water in a ratio of 3 gal RO to 2 gal Tap.  I used 3.6 gallons of strike water at 164° in an effort to get to 152°.  Aimed a bit hot and stirred to cool from 157°.  I also added 1 tsp of 5.2 pH Stabilizer to the mash.  I added additional RO and tap water to my brew pot to heat for lautering.  The 5 gallons turned out not to be enough sparge water, and I was only able to get just above 6 gallons of wort.  Should have had an extra gallon ready to add, but didn’t.  Added 1/2 gallon of clean water prior to fermentation.  Also had very low efficiency due to the lack of wort (usually do 6.5 gal).

The boil on this batch was FUN!  Fresh hops are bulky to deal with, but the brew pot looks awesome.  I’ve read plenty on not using fresh hops for bittering, but opted to do it anyway, using 2.5 oz of Centennial at the 60 mark.  I also used some pellet Cascade as backup.  I also used a 30 minute Fresh Hop step as an addition backup for some bittering.  In all honesty, I think the 30 minute addition was just so I could throw more of the bright green cones in to my pot…

I chose to do my final additions at 5 minutes and flame-out.  If I had it to do again, I think I’d push the 5 minute addition back to 10 minutes.  Probably similar, but I was pushing harder for aroma than flavor.  Someday I’d like to experiment more with addition times, at this point I make it up as I go.

After the boil, I cooled with my chiller, then strained in to the fermenting bucket. Getting all the whole cones out of the wort got pretty messy, and they held a lot of wort, so my final volume came up a little shorter than I’d hoped for.  I topped off the wort with about 1/2 gallon of water to get to 5 gallons.  This was the first batch in an eventual run of 4, and got used fresh yeast!  After pouring the yeast in to the wort, I pumped in about 40 seconds of oxygen.  When it was all said and done I capped the fermenter at 79°.

Drinking the 2011 Fresh Hop Ale

A week after bottling I cracked open one of these and was blown away… but not in a good way.  I don’t even know the words to use to describe the flavor of this beer at that point.  It was sweet and really tangy.  Easily the worst I’ve had a beer taste a week after bottling.  So I gave it another week.  That tangy flavor was still present, but it was mellowing out.  At this point it was okay, but the balance was really off.  A little too sweet, and bitter without really being hoppy.  I’d pretty much conceded that this was as good as it was going to get at this point, and more or less put it aside to drink better beers.  I’m glad I did.  5 or 6 weeks after bottling, this batch actually turned out pretty great!  My only guess is that the fresh hop character takes a little while to fade away.  I think boiling all the fresh hops took on a little bit too much off the ‘green’.  Once things had time to mellow, this is actually my best Pale Ale to date.  I recently had a Fresh Hop from a local brewery, and the two are almost identical.  Turns out I may not love Fresh Hop Ales, but this one was right about how it was supposed to be.  Good to know these Fresh Hop Ales need a little mellow time.  Mark this one as a success!

Contamination Update

Primary Explosion! Use a blowff tube.

NOTE:  My previous two batches were slightly contaminated.  I didn’t realize until just before bottling this one.  Luckily I’d realized my problem was likely connected to my bottling bucket.  Before brewing this batch I cleaned all of my brewing equipment with heavy duty brewing cleaner, and replaced all of my hoses.  This brew, and each batch since, are perfectly fine.  In fact they’re the best I’ve made all year.  A shame I was slowly ruining so many beers!

Also, I have included a picture of my Primary Bomb from this batch.  I opted for a bubbler airlock instead of a blowoff tube.  The result was a very messy beer fridge.

 

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