I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, but it’s hop harvest season. Well it was… but I’ve been busy and haven’t been able to get this post up. I was initially planning on heading out to the western slopes this year to get some good photos of hops as they were being harvested. That changed when I saw a flyer on Black Shirt Brewing‘s Facebook page asking for volunteers to pick hops in Arvada (20 minutes west of Denver for those of you not from around here). 20 minutes sounded a little more appealing than 3 hours so I jumped at the opportunity and headed over after work on a Friday night.
Voss Farms Front Range Hops is tucked back in behind owner Andrew’s home – I would have never seen it had it not been for the sign in his driveway. The farm is a gem in the middle of suburbia. Surrounding his 1 acre hop farm are houses, condos, and apartments with a school just down the street. In this craft beer oasis, Voss Farms grows Chinook, Centennial, Cascade, Nugget, and Willamette hops… as well as a few experimental varieties.
Hop bines typically produce the largest and most robust nuggets at three years of age, but that doesn’t mean those from years one and two are without purpose. In some cases the differences between 2nd and 3rd year hops were almost minimal. That night we focused our efforts on the Centennial and Chinook, while another crew would come in the following day to take over where we left off.
Having been the first time I’ve seen whole-leaf hops on the bine, it was fascinating to see that each variety was very different in structure – something I hope you can gather from the photos as well. The smell, however, was not as easy to distinguish. Each hop variety, with only slight differences, smelled very intensely of pine and resin without the nuances you get from pellets like grapefruit, grass, and tropical fruit.
When each bine is harvested, it’s cut about a foot from the base in order to leave a plant strong enough to endure the Winter. Then each bine was drug into the barn and hung for picking to commence. I positioned myself next to the Crafting a Nation crew and met a few new people, including Eric Nichols – an intern at Black Shirt Brewing who is on his way to the Siebel Institute of Technology (Brewing School) in a few months and Cassie Byrd – owner of Tap into Painting, a beer inspired painting class that meets at local breweries.
It certainly didn’t hurt that they had free beer on tap, including a yet-to-be-released Black Shirt Brewing Red Saison made with beets, Arvada Beer Co’s Goldline IPA, and Odell 90 Schilling. The Red Beet Saison was perfect, offering just enough beet flavor without leaving your teeth red and your palate blown. I was also a fan of the Goldline IPA, but when a whole-leaf hop “accidentally” found it’s way into my beer I thought it tasted even better.
Five and a half hours went by in the blink of an eye that night. Everyone had a great time and Andrew got relatively free labor… for the price of a few pizzas and beer. If you’re in need of any dried hops for your homebrew, contact Andrew as they typically have hops for sale through December. Come next year at harvest time I know I’ll be heading back to Voss Farms, I hope you’ll join me.
Interested in a hop print of your own, head over to my Etsy shop!
Bill Eye Fights Off Boil-Over at Prost Brewing from Sean Buchan on Vimeo.
Bill told me, “the beer that pisses it (the brewhouse) off the most is the IPA”. Every brew of Dank IPA (a contract brew for Dad & Dude’s) risks a massive boil-over. Here’s a 40 second clip of what Bill does for 20-30 minutes during the boil. The brewhouse is just gorgeous though, isn’t it?
The man pictured above is Alex Teves (photo from Copper Kettle’s Facebook page). He was only 24 when he was gunned down while trying (successfully) to protect his girlfriend in the Aurora theater shootings. I can’t claim to have known Alex personally, but I’ve seen him around Copper Kettle many times. Alex was a regular at Copper Kettle Brewing Company and happened to be Brew Club Member #28 (of 50). Yes, today is IPA Day but this cause is much closer to my heart and, frankly, deserves more attention. Copper Kettle is having ‘A Night to Remember‘ tonight from 3-10pm in honor of Alex, where 100% of all beer sales and 50% of all food proceeds will be given to the Ronald McDonald House and Children’s Hospital Colorado in Alex’s honor per his family’s request. If you live in the area please head over to Copper Kettle and raise a beer in Alex’s honor, no doubt something he would have wanted. If not, you can donate on Copper Kettle’s website.
It’s been a few months since I’ve sat down and had a beer at Renegade Brewing Company, so I ordered a few tasters with a friend. Some of them I’d had before, others I had not. All in all, we tried everything on tap: 5 o’Clock Blonde, Ryeteous Rye IPA, Sunday Morning Coffee Infused Strong Ale, Bedwetter Barleywine, 2 Down Imperial Pilsner, Elevation Triple IPA, Hammer & Sickle RIS, and Red-I Red IPA. The clear favorites were Bedwetter and Hammer & Sickle. Bedwetter is a 100+ IBU barleywine (clearly placing it in the American category) with a great balance of malt to offset the intense bitterness. Hammer & Sickle was also very enjoyable with nice roasted flavors and a prolonged bitter finish from the dark malts and 60 IBU’s. Both beers did a good job of masking their higher ABV.
If you’ve visited Renegade before, then you know they aren’t a brewery with a lot of sessionable offerings. The lowest ABV beer on the list is 5 o’Clock Blonde at 5.0% with most of the others sitting between a healthy 9-11%. They also love their hops at Renegade, with 3 of their 8 beers being well above 100 IBU’s. A great addition to the Santa Fe Arts District, Rengade seems to be pretty busy even on week nights. They’re worth a stop in if you haven’t been there or if, like me, it’s just been a while.
Black Shirt Brewing is set to open in the fairly near future in Denver’s up-and-coming River North District. Their Red Ale Project is sure to turn some heads… and palates. But before they can do so, they need a good hop harvest. If you’ve got some free time, check out this Westword post on how you can help them pick these Centennial, Williamette, Chinook, and Cascade nuggets.
I spent the past 2 days up in the mountains with a few friends for a bachelor party. We shot some guns, drank some beer, played about 8 hours of Polish Horseshoes, and did some mountain biking. I had a hell of a lot of fun, but it may take a few days for my brain to begin working again. Do anything fun this weekend? Leave it in the comments.
This is just one of three beers (two of each) I received when splitting a BeerJobber order with Billy Broas of Billy Brew and The Homebrew Academy. The other beers included were Evil Cousin Imperial IPA and Shallow Grave Porter, both of which I will write about shortly. Before I give you my thoughts on the beer, here’s an exerpt from the label:
This blood-red ale may not be what you might expect from a malty and hoppy craft beer. Evil Twin has a rich malt character, without being overly sweet. It has a huge hop character, without being overly bitter. It is a great example of a bold, rich, balanced craft beer, without being heavy and hard to drink in quantity. Our Evil Twin is only bad because it is too good to resist.
As you’d expect from a ‘bold West Coast Red Ale’, the nose is a heavy hit of pine and citrus hops with a little carmel sweetness. The taste follows suite, led predominately by resiny hops with a nice balance of malt sweetness, caramel, and toffee. Evil Twin’s ending is long and dry, with much more bitterness than the 45 IBU rating would suggest. I’m a huge fan of hoppy red ales of late, so it should be of no surprise that I really enjoyed this beer. I can only hope Evil Cousin and Shallow Grave will live up to the same standards.
Taken at Avery’s 4th Annual SourFest (view my coverage of the event here), this is a bottle of Odell Brewing Company’s Shenanigans Oak Aged Crimson Ale (view my review of the beer here). I know… lots of shameless self promotion, get over it. Cork and caged bottles have always peaked my interest. Whether it’s the timeless look, the fact that they’re generally used on higher-end products, or the satisfying ‘pop’ of carbonation when you successfully remove the cork, I’m not sure. What I do know is that I like drinking beer from them.
For a brewery that’s been around for 18 years, owning 17 Great American Beer Festival Medals is pretty impressive (3 of which are Gold Medals). If you counted the medals in the image above you’d only see 16 medals. That’s because someone stole one. However, Great Divide is still awesome enough to trust it’s tap room customers by proudly displaying these for all to see. Will they take home another medal (or several) this year? We’ll see… but if they take home a few more they may need a new bar to hang them on. I’m sure there are worse problems to have.