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Some hop thoughts

Hop prices are insane, and many varieties are getting very scarce. We’ve heard it time and time again over the past few months. Luckily our local homebrew shop, HDYB, has secured a good cache of hops and through their smart rationing policies, they should be able to give you the variety you seek in some form, either pellet, plug, or whole. In case you don’t know the policy: Maximum of 4oz per customer, only 3oz of any one variety. If you find yourself in there for anything, its probably worth making use of this and buying 4oz of hops, even if you don’t need them.

I am fortunate enough to be sitting on my own cache of 8-9 lbs of hops, which should only require occasional augmentation from Joe & Marlana. Many I have not come up with a gameplan for yet. I think next year will be one of significant experimentation and reformulation of recipes – many of my favorites that use Columbus, Simcoe, and Magnum hops will require substitution or retirement until the current crunch is over. I have several that I am pretty excited about using (and using up):

  1. Summit hops (1 lb whole)- Citrusy, and 16.5%AA. I think these will go great with some Amarillo, Centennial, and maybe some Pacific Gem. Some homebrewers have said they didn’t know whether to brew with these or smoke them, they were so “aromatic”.
  2. Mt. Rainier (8 oz pellets) – Herbal, slightly minty and some say has a licorice taste and aroma. Time to crank out some new dark beer (porter or stout) recipes for this one. These came from an informal hop swap with Ric at Stewart’s, and I traded him 8oz or 16oz of Sorachi Ace whole hops for them (I can’t really remember how much). The american brown he brewed with the Mt. Rainiers was outstanding.
  3. Warrior – (~8 oz pellets) – Strong bittering hop and good replacement for my Magnum usage due to its low cohumulone content. I’ve had these since our big club buy from NCMS two years ago, but have never managed to work my way through all of them. I even gave about 8oz to Joe & Marlana at one time.
  4. Horizon – (~5 oz pellets) – English dual-use hop with nice aroma and bittering qualities. I’ve only used it once before, when Mike Castagno and I brewed a split batch of english brown ale with it back in early 2006. I’ve been meaning to get back to these hops for quite a while.

I am also eyeing (with significant salivation) a new high %AA variety over at Puterbaugh Farms, Bravo, which sounds like it is a super-centennial. At almost $30/lb, it’s not cheap – but it IS whole hops instead of pellets, and sounds like it could be awesome in an IPA (probably with some Summit, Amarillo and Centennial). If they are still available after Xmas, I may have to sweet-talk the wife into letting me get some.

My recent brewing activities have got me re-energized about brewing next year, and I am looking forward to the next time I fire up the propane burner. I hope to do several more cooperative brews with other folks next year (Brian and Heidi & David jump to mind), and need to do a better job preparing for the local competitions – some have gone by with me having nothing to submit.

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