Category: hops

Field BierI’ve always been intrigued by Agrarian Ales. The…

Field Bier

I’ve always been intrigued by Agrarian Ales. The brewery is located on a working hop farm in the Willamette Valley. I’ve never visited the tasting room, but it looks cozy. And the concept of farm to bottle beer is everything I’ve ever wanted. 

They’ve recently started self-distributing in Portland, so I picked up a bottle of their Field Bier. It’s a simple, tasty saison made with only Belgian pilsner malt, nugget hops grown on the farm, and classic French farmhouse yeast. It’s a balanced, gulpable beer. It reminds me of a certain brew I made a month back, but of course cleaner and properly carbonated.

Hopefully, we can get out to visit this summer. The folks at Agrarian are currently crowdfunding a new taproom. A sudden change in zoning law made it illegal to use the old barn to serve beer. In the meantime you can still visit the brewery and drink among the hop bines on sunny days. If your passing through Eugene, Oregon, make it a destination.

OverripeTanya, Nate’s new girlfriend, made a tropical fruit…


Tanya, Nate’s new girlfriend, made a tropical fruit salad for Easter. I can identify a mango is on sight. Passionfruit is a bit of a mystery flavor, but I remember the shape of it. Papaya? Guava? What’s that even look like? When a new beer comes out boasting juicy, tropical papaya flavor, I had literally no reference point, until now. Thanks to Tanya I can tell you straight up: juicy papaya tastes like feet. 

Well, overripe papaya tastes like feet. Papaya is a tricky fruit. People say it tastes melony, maybe a little peppery and musty. As it ripens the distinct funkiness of the fruit can get out of hand. The papaya at Easter had gone nasty. But I learned a lesson. I have a distinct sense memory for papaya. And that is exactly Block 15′s Tropical Slam Sticky Hands smells like. 

Tropical Slam is a special variation on the “hop experience ale” brewed with

Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic, and Apollo hops. It is a stinky beer. Hop aromas spill out of the can reeking of cannabis and very ripe fruit. That’s not to say it’s not tasty. The papaya funkiness fades into a nice pineapple and mango flavor with a round solid bitterness. It’s dank and tasty – if you can get past the body odor.

Pilsner + Cascade + RusticIt’s been two years since I last tried…

Pilsner + Cascade + Rustic

It’s been two years since I last tried homebrewing. My last attempt was such an unmitigated disaster that poured the gunk down the drain and locked away the sanitizer. It just seemed too much work for so little. The ingredients for this batch cost twenty bucks, and only made a gallon of beer. That’s an expensive six-pack. It would be just as rewarding to spend that money on actual beer.

However, I’ve been reading Lars Garshol’s blog about tiny farmhouse brewers in Scandinavia and the former Soviet republics. Where brewers are making amazing beer without any modern equipment and bizarre yeast strains. It’s all very rustic – wooden equipment, superstitious screams,

brewers who would rather measure temperature with the skin of their elbows than thermometers. it makes brewing sound as easy and natural as cooking.

Then an old friend of mine bought his first home brewing kit. It sounded so fun. So I pulled out the old pots and pans, and, on a random Wednesday morning, I buckled by tiny brewing partner into the back seat and went looking for ingredients. I wanted to make something quick and easy. I grabbed three pounds of Pilsner malt, a packet of Cascade hops, a pouch of Imperial Yeast’s Rustic strain.

I had my beer: Pilsner, Cascade, Rustic. 

Well, I had the ingredients for my beer. We took everything home and started heating up water. I put the pot on the stove, and we poured hot water over our grains. An hour and a half later we pulled out the bag of mash and poured in more water. We turned up the heat, and when the wort started to boil, added some hops. An hour and a half later, tossed in the remaining hops and shut off the heat. It took some time to cool, but then those tiny yeasties went to work straight away. 

It was simple, but there were a few hiccups. I dropped the thermometer in the cooling wort. Whoops! That’s fried. Also, our tiny apartment stove couldn’t handle the pressure. Five hours of constant use was too much for it; the burner completely collapsed. The price of this brew just went up another twenty dollars.

For the few weeks I was convinced this was all a big mistake. It was fun, but it’s too much hassle, too much money. In those two weeks, my buddy texted with questions. Why does his beer taste smokey? Is it bad? And as his beer went off the rails, I was convinced mine wasn’t far behind. I mean, can you even bottle condition in a growler?

Well, yes you can. Last weekend I opened the first one and heard the hiss. I saw the bubbles. I made beer.

And it isn’t half bad. There’s still a lot of yeastie particulate floating about, but it tastes like beer. It’s got great yeasty esters throwing off all sorts of banana and clove notes. There’s actual depth to the body. And the bitterness is sharp but layered. I made an actual beer. It feels amazing.

The Haze Craze2017 was the year of absolutely thick fruity IPA…

The Haze Craze

2017 was the year of absolutely thick fruity IPA smoothies. Some were dead good. Some were just bad. But the consumers demanded haze, and the brewers delivered.

I’ve never seen a fad catch on so quickly, and strangely, without the reflexive backlash. There seems to be a few middle-aged beer writers who hate the yogurty new IPAs, but from every corner you see small and large breweries trying to catch the wave with their own interpretation of the New England style – maximum haze, almost no bitterness, tons of fruity hops.

But when Sierra Nevada makes a hazy IPA the trend is dead, right?

Hazy Little Thing looks the part, opaque and orange, sporting a fluffy head and thick body. It tastes ultra fruity – that unnamable citrus flavor of Mosaic hops. If this doesn’t push the hazy trend into the mainstream of the mainstream for years to come, or –god willing– it will signal the end of the fad. 

Personally, I’m done with the haze. Correction, I am done with the hunting for haze. There’s a certain mania that follows these beers. Every release is turned into a craze, fueled by social media and general fear of missing out. You have to drink a hazy IPA the day it was canned – always canned, why canned? – or your doing it wrong.

More than the flavors and the floaties, the manipulated scarcity is the worst thing imported from New England. Breweries like Tree House and the Alchemist before them have perfected the hype machine, and now, every brewery is trying to do the same thing. Every Instagram and Twitter is a mix of hazy IPA, pastry infused stout, and a barrel aged sour. It’s a great time for people who love queuing, but I stopped waiting in lines years ago.

Beer Sans-GlutenLast month, Jeff at Beervana wrote about his…

Beer Sans-Gluten

Last month, Jeff at Beervana wrote about his experience at Ground Breaker Brewing, a totally gluten-free brewery. Owner and head brewer James Neumeister uses sorghum, lentils, and toasted chestnuts in place of barley and wheat. It sounds like a weird mash, but as Jeff pointed out, “By sixteenth-century standards these ingredients would have been entirely normal.”

More important to me, Jeff says the beer tastes good. And unlike some gluten-free beers, they look and feel like normal beers. They roast and toast the nuts and lentils by hand to get exact flavors, just like malting. When you add it all together, I think Jeff’s right, Ground Breaker might be “the Most Interesting Brewery in Oregon.”

We’re sensitive to the needs of the gluten intolerant. Sarah and I haven’t eaten meat in almost a decade and – spurred by a lactose intolerant baby – have eaten an almost entirely vegan diet for the last three years. (Full disclosure: I got a whole milk latte by accident last week, and I drank it.) I hate it when people assume vegan food is gross, so I figured I owed Ground Breaker a try, if only to see what lentils do to a beer.

I defy you to find a problem with Ground Breaker’s Dark Ale. It’s their flagship for a reason. It’s dark, ruby edged and roasty.

I got a whiff of something odd on the nose, but it was quickly subsumed by a wave of black coffee.

The body is full and flavorful. The full mash includes belgian candi sugar, which must enhance the dry finish. I got a whiff of something odd on the nose, but it was quickly subsumed by a wave of black coffee. The beer has depth and would easily pass as a porter at any bar.

The IPA No. 5 on the other hand has a few more issues. The coppery color is a little dark, but it is crystalline. It’s hard to get a barley beer that clear. The hops are spot on. Citrusy Crystals are on full display, bright and fresh. The malty replacements come out more with every sip. The color says crystal malt, but it’s not quite sweet. And then there’s the lentils. Like I said, we’re vegan. We can taste lentils. There’s a savory flavor that’s off putting in a beer like this. The IPA is admirable, if flawed.

Would I drink Ground Breaker again? Sure. I would definitely suggest Ground Breaker to any friends going gluten-free. They make good beer, full stop. No need to qualify it. 

New Hops!Hopsworks has a brand new IPX on draft and bottles….

New Hops!

Hopsworks has a brand new IPX on draft and bottles. It’s fruity and fresh, though there is a hint of Hopworks house bitterness. Is it the house yeast? Bad packaging? Thank god, it fades if you let the it breath, leaving behind a soft apple and lime flavored beer.

The secret to the flavor is Strata hops, which recently graduated from the Oregon State University and Indie Hops breeding program. Strata started with the chance pollination  of a Perle hop. Testers described the flavor as tropical and citrus, and dank – smelling of cannabis. My taste buds detected more light, ephemeral flavors like watermelon.

You may have tasted Strata a few years back when it was experimental hop X331, but you can soon taste it properly in beers from Sierra Nevada, Fort George, and others. Worthy Brewing is already making a new Strata hopped IPA, StrataSphere, look for it in bottles soon.

BACK IT’S THE MUTHAHOPPIN BREW GODSUm, yes, that is a reference…


Um, yes, that is a reference to the worst– and that’s saying a lot– Limp Bizkit song.  Did you expect anything less?

After not posting (but still brewing) for way too long, here comes another double dose of hop insanity!  Over a year after our last quintuple IPA marathon, after countless solo experiments, Chad and I have reunited to irresponsibly use hops!  We’ve got two sides of the same lupulin drenched coin– a monster West Coast Double IPA and a new school juice machine NEIPA.  This time we’ve got several secret weapons:  years of disolved oxygen reduction experiments (thanks carboy caps and CO2 tank!) and the most deadly weapon:  CRYO HOPS!  PHENOMENAL LUPULIN POWER! Itty bitty pellet space.

First up comes Destroyer of the Universe:  Born of a fever dream of Chad’s (as in he really had a dream that the best IPA brewed ever used honey) and my excessive love of Amon Amarth and Double (Triple?) IPA.  Citra and Centennial hops were selected to compliment the Orange Blossom Honey.  We used a 225 ppm SO4/ 75 ppm Cl ratio, plus some old school resinous hops to make this monster give some dank double kick bass and death growls to it’s melodic tremolo picking of citrus and floral.

  • Grain Bill:  .5#honey malt, 14# Rahr 2-row, 3# Rahr Pale Ale Malt
  • 1oz Centennial, .5 oz Nugget First Wort boil 90 min
  • Extra second runnings added after 30 min of boiling down the wort
  • 1 oz Chinook boil 15 min
  • 1 oz Simoce boil 10 min
  • 1.5# Orange Blossom Honey flameout
  • 1 oz Centennial, .1 oz Citra, .5 Nugget Flame Out
  • 1 oz Chinook, 1 oz Simcoe, 1 oz Centennial, 1 oz Cryo Citra whirlpool
  • 2 packets of US-05
  • 1oz Citra, 1 oz Centennial Dry Hop day 4
  • 2 oz Simcoe Cryo dry hop 4 days before bottling.

Our as yet untitled but soon to be cleverly named NEIPA went the opposite direction.  150 ppm Cl/ 75 ppm SO4 ratio, no Irish Moss, and super juicy hops will make this a hit with all the #HazeBros.  A little Nugget and Simcoe should add that little hoppy edge that reminds you that you’re still drinking an IPA and not 8% orange juice.  I don’t know if it was the 30 minute boil, the wheat, or the lack of irish moss, but this looked like straight hop haze going into the fermenter.

  • Grain Bill:  .25# honey malt, 1.5 White Wheat, 10.75 Rahr 2-Row, 3# Rahr Pale Ale Malt
  • .5 oz Nugget First Wort boil 30 min
  • .5 oz Simcoe, .5 oz Nugget boil 15 min
  • 1 oz Mosaic Cryo, 1 oz Citra Cryo, 2 oz Galaxy, .5 oz Simcoe Whirlpool
  • 2 smack packs Wyeast 1318 London Ale III
  • 1oz Mosaic Cryo, 1 oz Citra Dry hop day 3
  • 1 oz Mosaic Cryo, 1oz Citra cryo  Dry hop 4 days before bottling.

During the Brew Day we sampled some tasty brews from Bearded Iris, Creature Comforts, Blackberry Farms, Monday Night Brewing, Green Bench, and Evil Twin.  It was a surprisingly non-disaster brew day, the only hiccup we encountered was that I left my scale for measuring the mineral additions back in Georgia.  We were unsuccessful in finding a scale that measured fractions of a gram until we decided to hit up the local head shop.  Success!

Fresh Hop Round UpWe’ve been drinking fresh hop ales for about a…

Fresh Hop Round Up

We’ve been drinking fresh hop ales for about a month now, and we’ve come up with a helpful set of fresh hop principles.

Lesson one: don’t mess around with your fresh hops. 

Someone at Hopworks thought it was a good idea to dump a load of fresh Centennials into a yeastie saison. It’s all yeast, no hops. I don’t even like it as a Belgian yeast bomb. Level Beer – a new outfit located near the airport – made a similar mistake. They’re first can release is a fresh hopped version of their Ready Player One saison. It’s super light and pretty pleasant, but again, the yeast covers up any real hop flavor.

Lesson two: drink it fresh! 

One again, Double Mountain has bottled two different fresh hop beers. We got a bottle of Killer Red pretty soon after the release. It was pretty tangy and sweet. The Killer Green was a several days older. It was pretty plain. Killer Red was juicy with spruce tips and red currants. It had zip and zing. Killer Green was mostly pine and citrus, with a hint of fresh sparkle, but it was almost all gone.

Lesson three: try to be restrained. 

Fremont’s Filed to Ferment is pretty good. It’s got a fresh hop zing, but on the back end, it’s all vegetables – green bell pepper in particular. I can’t decide if that’s a function of excessive hop material or just an Amarillo hop flavor. I’m leaning toward the former. I can see how some would taste it as a flaw, but I still liked the beer.

Lesson four: sometimes a simple beer is a better beer.

My favorite fresh hop beers so far have been super simple. Fresh Prince from Gilgamesh Brewing is a basic IPA – no bells, no whistles – but I like it a lot. It’s got a real bitterness to it. The fresh Centennials add extra floral notes on top of a dry bodied beer. 8 Pound Pale from Full Sail does the same thing. Fresh hops add a little sparkle to a balanced pale ale – fresh grass and sharp citrus. Nothing complicated, just a shining nice beer.

If you’ve got some fresh juicy hops, let them shine. Don’t make a porter. I’m looking at you Hopworks and you’re Cascadian Dark Ale.

Fresh!It’s that time of year again. Back school shopping, one…


It’s that time of year again. Back school shopping, one last barbecue, and the return of fresh hops

The northwest had a very wet spring and a long dry summer, and the hops are ready a few weeks ahead of schedule. No matter, our friends at Ex Novo Brewing were ready. As the first cones left the field, they were firing up a batch of Eliot IPA. They tossed in the fresh, sticky Centennials and let them do their magic.

The result is a beer bursting with floral flavor and aroma. The smell is out of this world. It’s like burying your face in fresh cut flowers. The flavor fresh and green – like herbs right from the garden, like foraged fruits. The citrus flavor is subtle – there’s no mistaking it for orange juice. The whole thing just sparkles and shimmers as you drink it. It’s out of this world.

Get it while you can. Fresh hops can’t last long off the bine. A few hours and they get all soggy, so you can only get this flavor during harvest season. 

Hop TerrorGigantic Brewing is relaunching their Ginormous…

Hop Terror

Gigantic Brewing is relaunching their Ginormous Imperial IPA this summer as a rotating seasonal. Each new brew will highlight a new hop. Mark 1, on shelves now, features African Queen hops grown in South Africa. It’s a little surprising they were able to find enough. South African hops are currently in short supply. 

In May, South African Breweries Hop Farms – the same SAB of SABMiller, recently merged with A-B InBev – told American buyers they would not be selling anymore hops to the American market this year. Of course, there were dozens of news stories from Food & Wine to Paste Magazine saying InBev was “commandeering” the whole hop market for themselves and their American breweries. In reality, it’s more complicated than all that.

SAB has a virtual monopoly on all hops and malt made in South Africa, and the region is in the middle of a long drought. According to SAB their yields have fallen and they have an obligation to sell hops to their African breweries first, and – as part of their monopoly – they are legally required to provide hops to small South African breweries. Local brewers have their own problems with the arrangement, but it’s not true AB is hoarding all the hops for their own High End brands.

American brewers – particularly Modern Times in San Diego, which was an early adopter of South African varieties – are rightly pissed. Many will have to reformulate recipes, but the bigger issue is fear that a super conglomerate like A-B/InBev/SABMIller/WTF could pull a similar move here in the States, crippling small brewers. It’s unlikely, but the South African example doesn’t bode well.

But the entire South African hop growing region only harvests 1000 metric tons, a small segment of that is exported, something like 40 tons. Last year, American hop farmers harvest something like 40,000 metric tons of hops. InBev’s massive buying power could hypothetically shift the supply of certain popular varieties, no doubt about that, but as Jeff Alworth pointed out, we’ve been here before

Anheuser-Busch was once the biggest buyer of hops in Oregon, gobbling up 75% of the entire harvest. When A-B got a better deal elsewhere, they cut their contracts. Oregon growers were screwed. I doubt any one of them would enter into the same arrangement again. That is of course, assuming farmers grew the hops In-Bev brewers wanted. The majority of the hops currently grown in South Africa are high alpha acid varieties. They work great adding bitterness to just about any beer, but they are not the aroma hops everyone in the states is clamoring after.

The current trend is toward new and exotic flavors. Every autumn hop growers in America harvest experimental new varieties. Brewers test the waters with new hops with odd names, often just a string of letter and numbers. Some of those hops go on to become trademarked commodities, like Mosaic and Citra. Others are rarely heard from again. Southern Passion and African Queen are just the latest runners in this race for novelty.

The thing is, maybe these hops everyone is worried about aren’t even that good. I’ve only had two beers I can confidently say were brewed with African Queen hops. One of those was that new Ginormous IIPA up top and it’s not great. It’s got a really hard flavor, dense and jagged. It’s very green, very unripe. It could be the hops or the malt or the water, it could just be the beer, but I am getting no hint of flavor worth fighting over. 

Wake me up when someone take away all the Cascade hops, all the Centennial. That I’ll get up in arms over. But that’s a terrifying and very unlikely future. More Cascade hops were grown in Oregon alone last year than all the varieties grown in South Africa combined. I think we’re safe.