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Hops!

My hop rhizomes appear to be ready to get into the ground.

Centennial hop plants

Hop rhizomes are basically clippings taken from established hop plants that can be planted to start new plants. The vines can grow up to 20 feet or more. Eventually hop flowers or cones will sprout. But early Fall they can be picked, dried, and used to brew.

Hops are one of the main ingredients in beer. The oils from the hop cones provide bitterness to offset the malt sweetness. They also can provide flavor and aroma when added late in the boil or in the fermenter itself (called “dry hopping”).

The other main components to beer are water, malted barely, and yeast. The quickest explanation I can offer is this:

Malted barley is combined with hot water in a vessel called the mash tun. Typically the resulting temperature of the mash (the water an crushed grain combined in the tun) is in the 150°-156° range. The higher the temp, the more unfermentable sugars remain, resulting in a sweeter wort (wort is the liquid drained from the mash tun, leaving the spent grain behind). The lower the temp, the fewer unfermentable sugars, and the dryer the beer. “Fermentable sugars” are converted to alcohol by the yeast in the fermenter.

The wort (basically sugar water) is run off from the grain into a boil pot. It is then boiled for roughly an hour, and hops are added (the longer the hops are in the boil, the more they contribute to it’s bitterness, with late additions being for flavor and aroma, as stated earlier). Once the boil is done, the wort is chilled, moved into a fermenter (bucket, or glass jug (aka “carboy”) in the case of home brewers), and yeast is added.

The yeast eat up the fermentable sugars, creating alcohol, and CO2. After a certain period of time (differs with style of beer and different yeast strains) the ferment basically slows and stops. It can then be moved to another vessel for dry-hopping, aging, or conditioning to serve/bottle.

That’s brewing 101… partly. The biggest factor in getting drinkable beer (and not have a batch go “bad”) is sanitization. Basically, brewing is mostly being a janitor (especially in a real brewery setting). Everything the cooled wort touches needs to be clean and sanitized.

That’s the generalization of all generalizations, as each of the steps above can have volumes written in detail. All for now!

Cheers

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