Sunday, January 29, 2012

ZIPA: From Vine to Glass!!

Colleen and I have been trying to grow our own hops for a few years now. But, at first it was quite challenging to get the proper conditions growing hops in a rubbermaid container on her back porch in Dorchester. It was fun, but we only ended up with a few hop flowers; nothing worth brewing with. Last year, when Colleen moved out of Dorchester, we transplanted the hops to my dad's garden in Bedford, where the soil was better and he got much better sun. At first, we weren't sure whether the transplanted hop rhizomes would survive the winter. In a moment of worry and need for satisfaction, my dad encouraged me to order two more fresh, new rhizomes....just in case. So in addition to our three year old Cascade and Fuggles plants, we had first year Pearl and Zeus. Who knew what was to come? But before we knew it, we had three of four hop plants climbing faster than we could manage.

Our vines were overwhelming the garden, forcing us to build creative trellis systems just to keep up with the ever-growing bines. In the end, we had several ounces of Cascade, Fuggles, and surprisingly, Zeus! The Zeus actually produced the largest yield, resulting in about 9 ounces of large hop flowers (after drying). The Pearl struggled a bit and produced no actual flowers. I am confident for next season, though. So now the question is: What to do with all these hops?!?!? We decided first to vacuum seal them in small portions and freeze them.

We couldn't wait long, though, and this winter brewed our first beer with them. Dad and I decided to really showcase the hops to get the full potential and flavor of one hop variety, and brewed a single-hop IPA all with Zeus. What is it called? What else! A Zeus India Pale Ale--ZIPA for short. Right now, the ZIPA is in the secondary fermenter sitting on a few ounces of hops, going through a process called "dry hopping." In a week or two, we will bottle the beer. Then after a few weeks for carbonation, it will be ready for consumption. I'm very excited!! We still have to decide what to do with the other hops in the freezer, but however they're used, I know it'll be great. I'm actually thinking of making some mead and dry-hopping with Cascade. That would be so good! And before you know it, spring will be here and we'll begin growing the hop vines all over again, hopefully getting even a better yield than last summer! I know I've been quite delayed with my posts. I just can't keep up. But, I have many pictures and notes to share, so I promise to catch you up on what I've been drink...and creating! I'm actually very excited about my Imperial Smoked Stout I just bottled. So, more on that later. Cheers!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One of the Many Rewards of Getting Engaged!

Yes, I got engaged! I am the lucky man who has the privilege of marrying Ms. Colleen Barber. I can't wait. This is obviously enough reward I need. However.....

I currently have in my possession two bottles of Sam Adams Utopias. I believe they are from 2007 and 2009. I have resisted opening either of them in the interest of saving them for "special" occasions. I'm sure between 2008 and now I have experienced several special occasions, but none of them felt Utopias-worthy. Deciding to open a $150 bottle of beer needs to be carefully considered! With that being said, I cannot think of any better occasion than celebrating our engagement to finally crack open the 2007 Utopias. What else could be more of a special occasion?! So, this weekend, I plan to sit down with Colleen, my parents, and my brother to share this amazing ale. Stay tuned for my evaluation!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When in Kauai.....

Here I am, blogging to you straight from Kauai! I won't go into great detail, but this place is amazing. I am loving every minute of it. And of course, while I'm here it is a necessity that I explore some of the local brews. Here is the first I have tried: Fire Rock Pale Ale from Kona Brewing Co.

I'm actually quite impressed! It's nice and hoppy with a mild bitterness. What tastes unique, compared to many pale ales I've tasted, is a really flavorful maltiness and great mouthfeel. It is slightly sweet, a bit bready, and has a nice roasted/toasted flavor. I really enjoyed this beer, and if I didn't want to ruin my amazing beach body, I could easily drink several. It is perfectly balanced and not too strong at 5.8% abv. If you ever have a chance to try it, I highly encourage it. And obviously, if you ever have the chance to visit Kauai, it's a must!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Homemade Pino Gris

Here are a few pics of my first wine creation! It's a Pino Gris from a kit. This kit makes 6 gallons, so roughly 30 750ml wine bottles. The process is extremely easy once you have the equipment. There isn't any brewing as in beer making. You simply mix the juice with water, add some nutrients, add the yeast, and wait. It's slightly more technical, but not much! The only struggle I have had is keeping the temperature relatively steady, given our crazy heat this summer. The pics here are after a few weeks of fermentation as I'm now transferring it to a secondary fermenter. The original gravity was about 1.074 and the gravity right now is 1.000. So, the abv at this point is about 9.5%. It's very light, crisp, and slightly fruity. It needs to ferment a bit more and age a bit, but this one is supposed to be ready earlier than other wines. So hopefully I can have it ready to drink before the heat dies down so we can enjoy it as a nice, light summer wine. And at $2/bottle, I can spare a few bottles to some worthy friends and family. Any takers?

Super Healthy Summer Smoothie

I know I just recently posted a smoothie pic, but here's another.
Sorry for the low quality shot. I'm sitting on my newly-sanded porch, so I sacrificed your viewing pleasure for my comfort. It's not the prettiest smoothie, anyway. But, it's good! Here's the recipe:

-About 1 cup organic Kale (from our CSA farm share with Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA)
-About 1 cup blueberries
-About 6 strawberries (fresh picked, frozen)
-1 frozen banana
-2 cups water

Needs something else but overall it's good!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mead Me

Tonight I'm drinking some of the Orange Blossom Honey Mead I made back in 2009. So good!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Smoothie Time!

Here's evidence I don't just drink beer! This is just a simple blend of orange juice, frozen strawberries, frozen mango, and frozen unsweetened cranberries. Adjust the amounts of the various fruits based on which flavor you want to come through more. Healthy, refreshing, and delicious. And, since all the fruit was frozen, it came out extra thick without needing to add ice. This will be an amazing drink to make again in the middle of summer...perhaps with a touch of rum!