September 22, 2011

Notes on a Brewday: Harvest Season

We are in the midst of harvest season. In Minnesota, it comes earlier than elsewhere. Hop cones are flourishing, grapes are ripening. For us homebrewers, it means one last big warm-weather brew day.

For the last few weeks, I've been watching my hop cones develop and mature. Almost two pounds of Centennial was harvested earlier, for use in some Dead Ringer IPA.

The Centennial matured earlier than the rest of my crop this year. It has given me time to plan out recipes, gather grain, and do yeast starters for the rest of my 5 varieties.

The rest of my hops were ripe, flowing with lupulin, the weather was beautiful, perfect for 4 different batches of beer. All wet-hopped with fresh home-grown leaf. All brewed all-grain. All in one day.

An ESB, a Northern English Brown Ale, a batch of NB's Extra Pale Ale, and the Twelfth Night Stout. All great batches to kick off the season, and last into winter.
Multitasking was critical for such a monumental brew day. It was not the biggest brew day I've had, but it was close. We harvested hops while mash water was heating for both of the first two batches was heating. Kept harvesting through the mash, checking periodically to make adjustments, but things were going well.

A stuck sparge threw off the schedule a slight bit during the first run off. No big deal, I had all day to handle small little hiccups like that. The second one ran off fine, and crystal clear.

The next two batches went off without a hitch. A quick decoction on one to bring it up to an alpha saccharification rest, and develop some melanoidins and additional malt character.

I've got a Horizon based IPA and Pale ale to brew next, then I have to decide what to do with all of the extra Goldings and Willamette, and use or dry the rest of the Cascade before it turns.

All in all, a great way to kick off the fall season. Next up, fresh grapes and wine. It's a great time of year to make room in the fermentors.

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