When I teach classes of new homebrewers (last two are tomorrow), one of the reasons I invoke to justify my claim of it's hobby supremacy, is that you can buy the same ingredients (malts, hops, and yeast) that are used by the best commercial breweries. This is unlike wine, where the highest quality grapes aren't commonly available to home winemakers.
Is that enough though? When I add fruit to a beer, rather than an aseptic puree like many craft breweries, I go to my local farmer’s market for fresh fruit. Using ingredients often not available in the quantity required by a large production brewery. Why not do the same for malts and hops?
For one thing, in many places local malts and hops aren’t options. Luckily, I’ve brewed with locally grow wheat, but malting requires greater infrastructure. A distillery in Virginia malts and smokes their own grain, which we added to a DC Homebrewers Anniversary Stout with pleasant results. I brewed a dubbel with a couple malts from Valley Malt in Massachusetts, with delicious results. I‘ve never used local hops other than homegrown, and that has always been with mediocre results.
When I was contacted a few weeks ago by Echoview Farms in North Carolina which offered to ship me a few ounces of hops, and a sack of malt from Riverbend Malt House, I was intrigued. I wasn’t ecstatic that they sent me ingredients with a set recipe, rather than a selection of base and specialty malts, but I still gave it my best shot. It seemed like an easy way to get back into homebrewing after my summer in San Diego.
When I opened the sack of mixed malts, I was a bit confused about whether the grain had already been milled or not. Some of the husks appeared cracked, while others were still intact. Rather than risk poor efficiency, I (re)milled. It was a shame that all of the malt was mixed together because it made it difficult to taste and evaluate the individual grains. Which ones would I order again?
Despite being for an IPA, the recipe contained a grand total of 4 oz of hops, including none proposed for dry hopping. Compare that to my last IPA, 5 oz of dry hops alone. When I opened up the package of Chinook, they smelled great. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for the Cascade. They were shipped in a large Mylar bag, which didn’t seem to be vacuum-packed or flushed with non-reactive gas. Probably no thanks to the three delivery attempts by UPS looking for a signature at the same time each day, the Cascade smelled like overripe hot chile peppers by the time I picked them up. They also seemed to contain excessive moisture.
It is always important to evaluate your ingredients. Rather than adding the suspect hops to the beer and having to choke down the result, I threw away the Cascade, and took a few ounces of 2012 harvest Chinook from the freezer to use in the boil. I repackaged the North Carolina grown Chinook for dry hopping in the keg, where they could have the largest impact on the aroma.
Despite my complaints, the beer is actually tasting pretty good as it continues to force carbonate. It has a fresh mildly grainy malt flavor, and a nice citrusy hop aroma. Full tasting notes should be up in a couple weeks.
I think brewers are accustomed to a certain level of consistency from their brewing ingredients. The question is will these small producers be able to compete both in terms of flavor, but also things like packaging, protein levels, extract yield, and consistency. For small hop farms and micro-maltsters to truly thrive they have to produce ingredients that are more than a novelty (local) product. Sure I use fresh fruit because I like to support agriculture in my area, but the results are also better than anything that comes out of a can or bottle!
North Carolina Grown IPA
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.12
Anticipated OG: 1.059
Anticipated SRM: 10.0
Anticipated IBU: 70.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes
74.3% - 9.00 lbs. Pale Ale Malt (6-row)
16.5% - 2.00 lbs. Heritage Malt (6-row)
8.3% - 1.00 lbs. Appalachian Wheat Malt
1.0% - 0.12 lbs. Chocolate Malt (350 SRM)
1.50 oz. Chinook (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ 60 min.
2.00 oz. Chinook (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Chinook (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ -15 min.
2.00 oz. Chinook (Whole, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
Safale US-05 Chico
Profile: Washington, Hoppy
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 155 F
Brewed 10/2/13 by myself
Mash water, 2 gal filtered DC water, 2 gal distilled, 4 gypsum, and 2 g CaCl.
Mash pH = 5.4 at room temperature, measured with meter.
Sparge water, 2 gal filtered DC water, 2 gal distilled, 2 gypsum, and 4 g CaCl. 1/2 tsp of phosphoric acid to drop the pH to 6.0 at room temperature.
Collected 6.75 gallons of 1.048 runnings with a double batch sparge.
Added 1.5 tsp of phosphoric acid to the wort pre-boil to lower the 5.5 pH to 5.3. Huge hot break, lots of protein.
Ended up using Chinook hops from Pacific NW in the boil. Added 2 oz at flameout, waited 15 minutes, added another 2 oz, waited another 15 minutes before chilling.
Only able to drop the temperature to 75 F. Gave 45 seconds of pure oxygen. Pitched a rehydrated pack of US05. The post-boil pH was 5.2.
Left at 65 F to ferment. Good fermentation by the next day.
Left at that temperature for the duration.
10/15/13 Kegged with the NC Chinook. Tastes very good!
11/7/13 Tasting notes, worth the effort, balanced compared to my usual IPAs.