Home Hop Garden '18: April Update

The hop growing season is in full swing! There's been quite a bit of progress since my March hop garden update. I finally got around to rigging up my trellises last weekend. The pictures below show the "before" state.  The bines had grown long and intertwined with each other. Unlocking them required a delicate and patient touch. Unfortunately, I broke several long bines in the process. Next year, I'll get the trellises up sooner and avoid this problem.

Below is the "after" shot. It looks more orderly and the bines are dutifully climbing upward! We had a three-day stretch in the 80°s last week  It's amazing how growth kicks in during the heat.  I think each plant put on at least 4-8" in height in just a few days!

In a surprising turn of events, my laggard Willamette plant is currently the tallest at around 86". I was (and still am) considering trashing it after last year's abysmal performance (it produced just 1 hop cone). Maybe it developed a sense of urgency.  Next tallest is my Chinook at around 77".

Soil drainage is very poor in my sideyard, so I plant all of my hops in pots. I did experiment by planting one Zeus in the ground last spring. I didn't think it would survive the winter, but it did. It's hard to tell, but you can see it in the picture on the lower left. The width of the bine is unusual--it's probably 3x as thick as all of the others (including my other Zeus plants). Maybe it gets more nourishment from the ground? I'll keep a close eye on on this plant throughout the season.

Finally, in the picture on the lower right, you can see may small bines emerging. During the past week, I've been busy pulling these out. The reason behind this is we want the plant's energy to nourish fewer bines (we're hoping for a few tall bines, rather than many short bushy bines).

So far, so good. There's no sign of mildew or rot. We'll see you in a month!  How's your hop garden progressing?

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12th Annual Cheers to Belgian Beers, June 1-2

Cheers to Belgian Beers is back for its 12th season! Each year, a single yeast strain is selected by event organizers (this year it's Imperial Yeast Precious) and is used by brewers to ferment all of the beers served at the festival. In a new twist, brewers can make use of an additional yeast strain (Imperial Yeast Suburban Brett) to provide added flavors and complexity via a secondary fermentation.

As a homebrewer, this festival has become one of my favorites because it showcases the wide variety of styles and flavors that can be produced with a unique strain. Last year, Imperial Yeast's Gnome was the featured strain and it produced many delicious beers!

For more details about the yeasts to be showcased this year as well as event details, and pricing, please check out the news release below.

Scenes from Cheers to Belgian Beers '17

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The beer festival that’s determined by a dart throw: Portland’s 
Cheers to Belgian Beers festival announces details for 12th annual event

PORTLAND, Ore. (April 19, 2018) – The Cheers to Belgian Beers festival, which showcases around 75 Belgian-style beers brewed by Oregon craft brewers, has announced details for this year’s event. The 12th annual festival will take place June 1 and 2 at The North Warehouse at 723 N. Tillamook St. Hours are 1pm to 9pm on Friday and 12pm to 8pm on Saturday.

Advance discount tickets are on sale now at GetMyPerks, which is offering two tasting glasses and 16 drink tickets for $28 (a $40 value), while supplies last. Drink packages at the door will cost $20 for a souvenir beer goblet and eight drink tickets (only one glass and eight tickets will be sold to any one person at any one time).

The festival is donating $1 from every ticket package sold to House That Beer Built, a partnership between Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East and the local craft beer industry. This exciting new collaboration celebrates the strength and creativity of Oregon’s craft beer industry, along with its passion for community involvement. Participating breweries and businesses pledge to raise funds with the goal of collectively raising $75,000 to fully sponsor a home for a Portland family.  Learn more about Habitat’s work at Habitatportlandmetro.org.

What makes this festival stand out is the fact that every beer is potentially made using the same primary yeast strain: Precious. Precious is a classic Belgian yeast that features a very mild phenolic character balanced with moderate fruitiness. This year, brewers were also given the option to add a secondary aging strain, Suburban Brett, a brettanomyces yeast that shines when used in wood barrels, producing complex and balanced aromas of sour cherry and dried fruit.

To ensure diversity among the beers submitted—as well as show off the creativity of Oregon's craft brewers— the color and strength of each brewery’s beer is determined by a dart throw. Depending on where the dart lands on the board determines whether that brewery will brew a Belgian-style beer that is light or dark in color, with amber as the midpoint; and low or high in alcohol, with six percent being the midpoint. Breweries that hit a bullseye get a wild card and can select their own color and strength. The dart throw is held in January, giving the breweries plenty of time to determine their submission.

Portland’s Cheers to Belgian Beers takes place inside The North Warehouse as well as outside in the tented parking lot. Food is available from Urban German Grill and Monk’s Deli; Brewed Oregon will be selling Oregon craft beer gear and apparel. Street parking is available, but limited. Attendees are encouraged to take public transportation — the TriMet Bus Line 35 stops one block away and the Yellow Max Line stops two blocks away — or ride their bike, with complimentary bike parking available.

The festival is seeking volunteers, which receive a festival goblet, eight drink tickets, a t-shirt and free admission after their shift (an OLCC servers permit is not required to participate as a volunteer server at this event). To sign up, visit https://www.events-connect.com/ctbb/volunteer.

Cheers to Belgian Beers is produced by the Oregon Brewers Guild and sponsored by Boelter, Imperial Yeast, Country Malt Group, Great Western Malting, and the Portland Mercury  The event is for ages 21 and over. Follow @OregonCraftBeer on social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, #ctbb18.

About the Oregon Brewers Guild
The Oregon Brewers Guild is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the state’s craft brewing industry and the common interests of its members. Founded in 1992, the Oregon Brewers Guild is one of the nation’s oldest craft brewers associations. The Guild comprises 175 brewing companies, 125 associate/supplier members and more than 4,000 enthusiast members known as S.N.O.B.s (Supporters of Native Oregon Beer). To learn more, visit OregonCraftBeer.org.

McMenamins Releases Foggy Dew + Terminator in Cans

Ever since their first can launch back in August 2016, McMenamins has been routinely releasing both new beers and old favorites in 16 oz. cans.

Last month, the brewery launched Foggy Dew Irish-Style Lager and Terminator Stout in cans. Detailed descriptions of each beer below were provided by McMenamins.

Foggy Dew Irish-Style Lager

A few McMenamins Brewers found themselves working away to a traditional Irish tune, dreaming of black and tans. Inspired by the sounds of fiddle and fife, they crafted Foggy Dew - a crisp, straw-colored lager that's balanced, but low in hop bitterness. Whether this beer finds you for St. Patrick's Day or any day, we hope the wind is always at your back and may the sun shine warm upon your face.
  • Malts: Baird's Pilsen, Best Acidulated, Best Light Munich
  • Hops: Nugget, US Golding, Sterling

Terminator Stout

Black as the darkest night, rich as the most decadent dessert, Terminator is for the true stout lover. This is a full bodied and flavor packed ale which draws its robust complexity from kiln-baked specialty grains. Look for a wide array of toasted, chocolate, nutty and coffee-like flavors in every pint! The devoted swear by it, and it remains one of our top selling ales year after year.
  • Malts: Premium 2-row Malt, Munich Malt, 40L Crystal, and Black Barley 
  • Hops: Chinook and Cascade 

McMenamins sent me samples of the cans pictured above. They taste as good as they look!

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Fort George’s 3-Way IPA — 2018

Fort George Brewery recently received label approval from the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) for the 2018 installment of their popular 3-Way IPA. What can we learn from this label? 

First, it's a collaboration between Fort George, Holy Mountain, and Modern Times. Second, it's an an unfiltered IPA that weighs in at 7.2% ABV.  While the label doesn't indicate, I expect it's a Hazy IPA. Last year's 3-Way (pictured below) was the first Hazy IPA I tasted, and I loved it! I expect this is more of a good thing.

If Fort George follows its typical release schedule for 3-Way, it should be available during the summer (June - September). I'll be looking forward to this one!

Fort George 2018 3-Way IPA Label

Fort George 2017 3-Way IPA

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Haze Craze: Offshoot’s Relax [it's just a hazy IPA]

Last year, The Bruery launched Offshoot Beer Co. The Bruery was never known for producing hoppy beers. That situation was finally resolved with Offshoot, which focuses solely on IPAs and its permutations.

While brewing hoppy beers is not unique, Offshoot's business model is. Until now, Offshoot's beers have been sold exclusively through the brewery, the Bruery's beer societies, and a direct to consumer interest list.

With the release of Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA]™, a new year-round release, Offshoot will make its beers available through craft beer stores throughout Southern California, Northern California, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. This small distribution footprint will enable the brewery to ship its beers cold and maximize their hoppy freshness.

Offshoot sent me a sample of Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA]™.  As you can see from the picture below, it's opaque. It looks like a glass of orange juice. Preferences vary, but this is what I want to see in a hazy IPA. The aroma is full of fragrant tropical fruitI noticed guava and pineapple. In taste, citrus notes of grapefruit and mandarin orange are dominant. It’s light bodied and has a creamy smooth mouth feel. Overall bitterness is moderate and it finishes with lingering citrus notes.

If you like hazy IPAs or are looking to explore the style, this is one to try. For more details about Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA]™ or Offshoot’s other limited release IPAs, check out Offshoot's website.

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Relax - it’s just the first canned hazy IPA released from Offshoot Beer Co. outside of the brewery EVER!

ORANGE COUNTY, CA - Relax - it’s just a hazy IPA. But not just any IPA. This is the first year-round release from Offshoot™ Beer Co.

Starting this February, fresh 4-packs of Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA]™ will be rolling off the canning line and into craft beer stores throughout Southern California, Northern California, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. For the first time ever, cans from Offshoot Beer Co. will be available beyond the brewery.

Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA] embraces the new way to enjoy IPA - unfiltered, fresh and full of hop flavor and aromatics... without the bitterness to stand in the way of kicking back with a juicy beer. It features a combination of Citra, Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo hops, imparting fruity, tropical and citrusy notes to complement the round, soft mouthfeel of a hazy IPA.

“Offshoot Beer Co. has allowed us to branch off in new directions, continue our passion for experimentation and explore the art of  developing hop-forward beers,” said Patrick Rue, founder of The Bruery and its hoppy offshoot, and one of just 16 individuals to earn the title of Master Cicerone®. “Now such a pursuit will be within arm’s reach for fans of independent craft beer from coast-to-coast looking to relax with a fresh can of hazy IPA any day of the week.”

Experimental and barrel-aged beers from The Bruery and sour and wild ales from Bruery Terreux are distributed in nearly 30 states. Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA] will cover a much smaller footprint to ensure cans are shipped cold and arrive in peak condition at fine purveyors of craft beer in select markets. 

Since the launch of Offshoot Beer Co. in April 2017, cans have been sold directly from the brewery and exclusively to members on its Interest List. The most exclusive members, those in the company’s Reserve Society and Hoarders Society, enjoy an ongoing discount and priority access to every can release from Offshoot Beer Co. To date, Offshoot Beer Co. has canned 20 different limited release hoppy beers - including hazy IPAs, double IPAs, triple IPAs and a cream IPA with fruit. One of the brewery’s first releases, Fashionably Late, was named the #2 IPA in America by Draft Magazine in 2017.

“After nearly a year of developing special releases, we couldn’t be more excited to dial in a fresh new beer that’s available year-round to even more fans,” added Rue. “If you’ve been wondering what it would taste like if The Bruery made a hazy IPA, this is it. You won’t find a more approachable and accessible 4-pack on the market.”

Hops: Citra, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo
Malts: 2-row, oats
Yeast: London III
ABV: 6.8%
Availability: year-round (4-packs of 16-oz. cans and draft) in select markets

Looking for fresh 4-packs of Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA]? Use the Beer Locator to find beers from The Bruery, Bruery Terreux and Offshoot Beer Co. Cans of this latest release will premiere at the Tasting Rooms at The Bruery and Bruery Terreux on Friday, February 2. It will also be offered to List members via offshootbeer.com for shipping within California through February 4. Relax [it’s just a hazy IPA] will begin its voyage to Northern California, Southern California and Washington, D.C. markets the week of February 5.

Join the Offshoot Beer Co. Interest List for additional information and access to the brewery’s limited release beers. New limited release beers from Offshoot Beer Co. will continue to be released monthly via offshootbeer.com to List members, and available to pick up in California and Washington, D.C., or ship within California.

Find @OffshootBeerCo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Home Hop Garden '18: Preparing for the New Season & March Update

My home hop garden is off and running for the 2018 season! I'm always amazed by how quickly hop bines grow. The top row of the collage below shows how my Chinook plant progressed during the month of March. From left to right, you can see how it has grown. The last two pictures on my the bottom row show one of my Cascade plant's growth during late March. While most of my other varieties are doing well, I was surprised to see the Chinook (my champion of 2017), is off to a slow start this year.

Hop Plant growth during March

Although I'm happy with my results from the 2017 growing season, I did a fair amount of preparation last fall, which will hopefully lead to a better yield this year.

The first thing I did was let the bines dry out before cutting them down last fall. I read that this practice allows the plant to transfer additional energy to the root system. It seemed reasonable to me, so I cut down my bines in late October. As you can see in the picture below, they had turned yellow by that time.

Dried Hop Bines in October

The second thing I did was transplant most of my plants into bigger pots. Since I was going through the trouble, I decided to improve the soil at the same time. I purchased a yard of Super Grow Topsoil, which is a blend of sandy loam, garden compost, cow manure, mushroom compost, and horticultural pumice (pictured in my truck below).

Getting the plants out of their old pots was quite a challenge as the root systems had breached the drainage holes (also pictured below). With the help of tin snips and some careful maneuvering, I managed to get the roots out intact. I've read that during the plant's first year of grown, much of the growth is focused on root development. After transplanting, and seeing the roots, I can attest to this fact.

Time will tell if this work was worth the effort. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to another season of hop growing!

Top: Root systems of 1st year hop plants. 
Bottom: One yard of soil blend 

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