Make your own free website on
Jim's Beer Page
Last update: 6 Nov '00

to Jim's Hop-Growing History

Batch X (ten) is fermenting away in the local shop. Split into both ale and lager, it will last longer and teach me new things about the brewing process - possibly including a lesson on the sanity of putting all my favorite ingredients together in a single batch!

Jim's Brewing History

ALE 1: IRA (India Red Ale) - an amber variant of the proprietor's pale-ale recipe
Thu 1/14
Very encouraging first sample! Dark and thick but not painfully so; Brian preferred it to his recipe. I added six peppercorns to the 1-liter bottle at home - it was already carbonating!
first taste
Thu 1/28
Not ready for my b-day, but much smoother for the Super Bowl.
Sun 4/4
Closing ceremony at Easter dinner. All spoke well of it, from Dennis to Michelle. An hour later, VW ale was previewed.
ALE 2: VW (Vienna Wheat) - An off-the-cuff Octoberfest knockoff, using ale yeast instead of lager. Less dark and bitter than IRA.
Sat 3/13
Added more Tettnanger since the AA% was low. The two hops smelled distinctly different.
Fri 3/26
A head-cold left me tasteless (even the bock was mild!), but others assured me I'd like it. All I detected was the sulfuric aroma from the yeast -- but I loved the color!
first taste
Sun 4/4
Soon after the IRA was disposed of at Easter, the VW was poured. Still pretty, and the aroma had cleared. A nice, subdued flavor compared to IRA, and definitely less hoppy.
This stuff is GREAT!! It compares favorably to for-profit beers - gentle carbonation, moderate color and clarity, great balance, and flat-out yummy. Other than a tad more bitterness this will be hard to improve on.
Well received at Larry's 50th and at two after-work events.
Sat 7/24 Closing event at Scout Lake. Highly reviewed throughout its career, its fame now carried by batch five.
ALE 3: Willamette ESB, aka Waldo Gold - A spontaneous brew that took advantage of Tom's interest and a free kitchen!
Wed 4/7
Comparing my cereal-grain blonde wort to Tom's ball o' tar was shocking. Can these both be ales??
Fri 4/23
Another odd-smelling brew, much lighter color than expected at the time. After exhaling, it also proved to be a non-bitter brew, so ESB was discarded in favor of Waldo Gold label.
first taste
Sat 5/1
After ~10 days the odor was gone, leaving a gentle flavor to go with the lighter color. Marcia proclaimed it her birthday beer, so it's time to make another batch!
Another winner as tested at Taylor's b-day party. Tom's bock also much enjoyed.
Sat 6/26 Well received and greatly praised at Marcia's party! The peppercorn version drew special comments from nearly everyone who tried it - two dozen per liter is a good, round number.
Sat 7/24 Closing event at Scout Lake. A very good brew!
ALE 4: Ivy Bush ale (Bitter Smoke) - Use the smoky peat grain, and make the bitter that Ale 3 failed to be. A good Middle-Earth brew?
Fri 5/14
All goes smoothly yet indecisively; I finally settle on Cal yeast as originally planned. That grain is smoky!! Some Fuggles were held back for dry-hopping, will be added in one week. Hydrometer reading 1.057.
Fri 5/28
God what a mess. Bad valve, overfilled bottles, a nudged spigot lead to splatters and puddles. The final hydro reading leads to exactly 6% beer. Somewhat stinky yeast now smells familiar.
first taste
Sun 6/6
DAMN that's tasty!! I'm sure glad some of the VW ale remains to be compared; I thought it was mighty good once. This will make the Scout Lake trip worth the drive! And this stuff is only one week old!!!!!
The smoked grain produces a bite similar to stout, but much softer. The overall effect is, once again, a malty beer with great balance but no overt hoppiness. I'll get it right when the Nugget hops are ready!
Sat 6/26 Also well thought of at Marcia's party, this will be the guest star at Scout Lake.
Sat 7/24 Everyone is clamoring for the peppercorn version, but this batch didn't have one. Still receives high praise, though.
ALE 5: VW Turbo Smoke - Born to hop, the IBU of ~75 conforms to John Barleycorn's Pied Piper Pale. Still a touch of smoke, and other ingredients intended to approximate the VW ale. Also a test of the Nugget / Tettnanger team.
Wed 6/30
oops - tossed in a LOT of Nugget, leaving ~½ oz. for the second toss. Waited to 20min before adding the rest, then the Tettnanger on schedule. We shall see! Sure looks dark for a pale ale, though. By picking up the tab on Tom's kettle I earned a glass! Hoppy 6th lunaversary!
Tue 7/13
Sweet and yeasty, with a bitter finish. Not as bitter as I had hoped, but the taste buds had plenty of competition. With luck and time, a new classic is born. Three peppercorn bottles this time, the 32oz flip-tops.
first taste
Tue 7/20
A touch sweet, and not as bitter as I expected.. still plenty of time for its maturation, though!
Sat 7/24
Grand Opening at Scout Lake. I'm not sure if Anyone tasted it; very much their loss! This has settled out nicely in just a few days, with the sweetness replaced by a tasty balance slightly tipped to the bitter side. The smoky aftertaste is quite subtle. Three bottles of peppercorn await the patient relatives.
ALE 6: 5808 mild - Lightweight, with homegrown hops and a touch of smoke grain.
23 Aug
Added medium Crystal so the color qualified as a US Pale Ale. All went smoothly, but I had less hops in the bags than I thought - 1+ Tettnanger, 1½ Willamette. Still smelled awfully good, though!
3 Sep
Used plenty of small bottles this time. All went smoothly, and the East Coast yeast wasn't too skunky.
first taste
Quite flavorful.. but not as hoppy as I would have liked. Doesn't feel like a mild ale!
later Lesson learned on a low-alcohol beer. If you add less malt and less hops, you risk a beer that tastes yeasty. I suspect that's what I have here. It's not entirely bad, but not as well-balanced as I had hoped.
ALE 7: Millenium Ale - The '99 holiday ale, it would be darker and richer, with a few appropriate spices thrown in.
10 Nov
Added roast barley to the usual suspects (Vienna and peat-smoke), then threw in a mix of clove, peppercorn and orange peel for about 15-20 minutes of boil. All went smoothly.
24 Nov
Used less sugar for priming, as most of my brews have been more carbonated than my preference. Bottling went smoothly except for my continuous sip-stealing. This stuff is quite yummy, with a clove aroma, good balance and tasty blend of spices. I think this will go over (and down) well for the holidays! Not as hoppy as I expected, but time will tell.
later.. A tasty ale, but a bit heavy on the cloves! The other flavors are hard to detect, and the aroma suggests more than the flavor actually delivers. One of the last large bottles was dispensed at my dad's 80th birthday party. In a short while I noted several glasses held the dark brew instead of the pale stuff from the keg we rented - a good sign!
Ale #8: Limping Bitter - Commemorating my bulging disc and pinched nerve miseries of the past eight weeks, this uses the last of the smoked grains and adds a much milder mix of cloves and peppercorns than the Millenium Ale.
9 Mar
Used three bags of the homegrown hops this time, still trying to make a true bitter with my (apparently) mild '99 crop. The spice mix had far fewer cloves but nearly as much peppercorn as the last batch, so less 'cloven' and more spicy - with a little luck.
29 Mar
A dark-amber color and far milder clove aroma greeted me this time. Aside from the sugar added for carbonation, I liked the balance - and the Irish yeast was far less noticeable at bottling time than some others I have used!
grand opening
STILL more clove aroma than I hoped, but tasty nonetheless. Is my family extremely polite, or are all my brews uniformly good??
I found that Ale Six (the 'light' beer) wasn't entirely consumed - a few bottles of it were set aside in the garage. I brought a bottle of it in for examination. Brian thinks the aftertaste is a lingering effect from the specific yeast I used more than anything else, and that I should put it aside for a few more months. As noted before: it isn't entirely bad or anything, I just prefer drinking other batches more. Time will indeed tell.
Ale #9: Misnomer XPA - I really thought this would be an extra-pale ale, yet when the time came I added amber malt and darkened it up. It seems that I have a difficult time following my own directions…
15 June
Purchased a bag of Chinook hops to go with my home-grown Tettnanger and Willamette, again thinking to add more bitterness. No more cloves, thank you, but a mix of peppercorn and red-pepper flakes was added near the end of the boil so that every bottle would be spicy!
Once again, a pretty brew emerges without a great deal of bitterness. The spice is mellow but nicely apparent.
Grand Opening
In time for the annual family campout, and well liked by all. Still not a hoppy brew, even with the Chinook hops, but the light pepper bite was popular.
later This stuff is going fast! A bottle or two came along to each family event, and our late summers are pretty busy with birthdays and holidays. I can't complain, except that the next ale won't be ready for a while.
Ale #10: Batch Xa/Xl - Every ten years, a big backpacking trip - similarly, a big batch o' beer every ten? I signed up to make ten gallons this time, using Brian's home-grown wort. Utilizing my favorite grains and additives, with luck all ingredients will combine without competing. My hops did not smell all that good in their plastic bags, so I purchased from the shop for this batch. The final product will be split in two, going their separate ways with ale and lager yeasts (hence the Xa and Xl labels).
4 Nov
The procedure for making superbrews is quite different from the five-gallon, malt-extract varieties. Up to four brewers can make up to 12g each on the assembly line, and a refridgerator full of hop varieties awaits those four. A large pump/chiller combo pulls the brew from the boiling tank in no time, straight into the fermenter at 75° as fast as it can pump! With speedy accessories like that, the time to make 10 gallons was as fast or slightly faster than the 5g brews! The cost per glass is lower as well - no wonder these weekend sessions are so popular! This batch used Centennial hops for bittering.

Hop-Growing Notes

In spring '99 I stumbled into some sale-price hop vines at a local nursery. With my emerging interest in brewing and a blank south-facing wall on our home, it seemed a good time to grow hops! I purchased a Tettnanger and a Willamette plant, then discovered that both were mild, finishing-type hops; I dashed back and grabbed a Nugget¹ for balance. I strung a wire about 15 feet off the ground, ran some string from there to the ground, and stood back…

07/26/99 Cones have now formed on the Tettnanger, but still fuzzballs on the Willamette and Nugget.
08/14/99 First harvest of Tettnanger and Willamettes.. boy those Tetts are aromatic!
08/21/99 Picked most of the remaining Tett and Will cones, and the first Nuggets. The garage is incredibly fragrant!
10/31/99The hops came down today with little ceremony, soon becoming crude wreaths. Took several cuttings of the lowest Tettnanger vines, which appeared ready to sprout. With a bit of luck, they will be ready to plant next year.. somewhere.
02/19/00While poking about the yard on a sunny day, I saw a shoot emerging from each of the Willamette and Tettnanger plants. I went in the garage to check other plants, but while there noticed that two slender shoots are also emerging from the Tettnanger trimmings! I'm sure some members of my brewing family will be pleased.
Mar 00As of late March, six-inch shoots are leaping from the hills. The Tettnanger is especially exuberant, with thirty or more spears in sight - I consider this to be a good thing. Sadly, squirrels dug into my area of cuttings; I discovered that those shoots were not hops but walnuts, buried for the winter in my test bed. Better luck next year.

2 Aprilthe hop stringers are in place, and vines are ready to climb! A few are already a foot long, so this warm weather will give me a head start over last spring.
Apr 00Now mid-April, and afew shoots are as tall as me! I can nearly smell the cones already. Since the '99 crop has proven to be fairly weak, I resolve not to dry the cones as much this year; the lupulin seems to have blown away before reaching the kettle, since even the Nugget hops made gentle, not-too-hoppy ales.

12 JuneTettnanger hops are about a week away! The other plants are taking their time, but cones are hanging off two healthy shoots on the Tetts.
Jul 00As of late July, I've wasted two harvests by not drying enough! Moist hops are of no value at all, so it's back to over-drying. The good news, of course, is that I already had two harvests - as advertised, the second year was much more productive than the first.

Sep 00Mid-September, and all the hops are in. ¹I'm pretty much convinced that the 'Nugget' label that was stuck in the pot did not belong to the actual vine, since I keep using plenty and getting non-bitter beers. The last batches dried nicely in the garage, so I have several 5-oz bags and more 1-oz as well. Maybe this year I can clone off some plants for the relatives!
Nov 00Even the last batch of hops, which I dried extensively, smell a bit musty. It seems that my entire huge y2k crop will go to pillow-making instead of beer. Cool weather has arrived, signaling yet another attempt to snip some major vines in the hope of growing new ones. Better luck this year: too bad, since this year has not proven to be lucky...

Jim's front page e-mail Jim