Montana and Idaho Breweries: Over the Mountains and to the Beer…

We made another trip out to Montana and Idaho for the holidays, drinking our way along. One of these years, we’re going to have to stop in Spokane, but this year we hit Wallace, ID, and Bozeman and Belgrade, MT, again.

(pictures coming soon — hopefully)

Wallace Brewing
During 2008’s snOMG (or Snowpocalypse), the missus and I ventured east to Montana for the holidays. We arrived at our halfway point — Wallace, ID — a little frazzled from crazy roads and a harried departure. There, we discovered a little restaurant called the 1313 Club, and its tiny neighbor brewery called Wallace Brewing. It wasn’t open, but this year, we made it back to Wallace before the tasting room closed.

Generally, the beer at Wallace felt weak compared to many of my favorite Oregon breweries. For one, I think most of their beers had an original gravity of under 1.045, translating to low ABVs. The body mostly wasn’t there. Their cream stout felt nice and bitter. The Red Light amber had a decent malty sweetness.
Continue reading Montana and Idaho Breweries: Over the Mountains and to the Beer…

Brewing Fresh Hop Ale with Homegrown Hops

One of the questions I hear a lot is, “will I get enough homegrown hops the first year to make a fresh hop beer?” And the answer is “maybe.” As you can see from the photo, I got a whopping 2.1 oz of homegrown Cascade hops my first year. An IPA was NOT in the cards.

It seemed like a good time to bring this up, because if you’re going to plant hops to use this year, you need to do it in the next week or so. (And because I stumbled across these photos and realized I never used them. Ha!)

2 oz of Cascade Hops
2 oz of Cascade Hops

Continue reading Brewing Fresh Hop Ale with Homegrown Hops

Pre-Season: BBQ in the Rain

My lovely wife picked up Barbecue Secrets Deluxe by Ron Shewchuk for me at the library a while back, and I haven’t been able to put it down since. This has caused a number of problems, including the fact that I can’t read about making BBQ without this weird Pavlovian trickle of drool running down my chin. The solution is to chew on jerky while reading, I’ve found.

Delicious BBQ with a Weber and a Smokenator
Delicious BBQ with a Weber and a Smokenator

Shewchuk is apparently a hot dog of the competitive BBQ world (what kind of awesome job is THAT?), but more importantly, he writes with the kind of infectious glee that makes you want to stay up all night nursing a brisket to perfection. And so I’ve been dreaming about what the 2009 BBQ season will bring. Continue reading Pre-Season: BBQ in the Rain

Growing Hops: What I Learned from Year One

Growing hops for the first time last year turned out better than expected: I actually had a decent crop and was able to brew a beer with it. And frankly, if I’d known then what I know now about growing hops at home, I probably could’ve made a much hoppier brew. (update: See the fresh hop ale recipe and homegrown hops photos.)

So here’s a few tips I’ll take with me into Year Two of growing hops at home:

  1. Keep watering the hops. I grew mine in a raised bed, and it can get a little dry. Don’t soak ’em, but keep it moist. Especially in the first year.
  2. Don’t be stingy with the compost. Again, especially in that first year where you’re trying to get that little hops rhyzome to bloom. I used mushroom compost, and added a few handfuls to enrich the soil when I planted, and then once during the early summer. I think this year I might add compost a little earlier and a shade later.
  3. Keep the bugs at bay. This was the biggest limiter I had with the hops in Year One. A little bug soap goes a long way when you start noticing little crawly critters on your beloved hops.

All in all, I can’t see why any homebrewer with a little patch of sunlight wouldn’t try growing hops themselves. It’s ridiculously easy and incredibly satisfying to toss your own homegrown hops into a batch.