Clearing out the homebrew

I took stock of my cellar* the other day, and found a few old orphan bottles of homebrew. I haven’t been drinking much at home lately other than some shower beer lagers from work, so have been bringing them to friends’ places for testing.

Blood Orange Saison

I made this back in March 2016. I was quite proud of it when I made it – it had no discernible off-flavours, was quite effervescent, and the blood orange flavour was subtle but present. I was fully expecting it to be oxidized and awful after almost a year and a half, but was surprised to find it delicious. The orange had faded to just a slight orange blossom aroma with none in the flavour. The colour had deepened somewhat, and the beer had an amazing honey and jasmine flavour to it.

Lychee Gose

I had made this in September 2016 for the GTA Brews Brew Slam competition. The taste was exactly what I wanted when it was fresh. After almost a year, the lychee aroma had faded significantly. The salt was quite dominant at first taste, but quickly faded leaving a slight lychee candy-like aftertaste.

Wild Thing Blonde

I made this in February, using a Magnotta Blonde Ale kit with Escarpment Labs Wild Thing yeast that they had isolated from an apple orchard in the Niagara region. It started at 1.048 OG, and fermented down to 1.002. I was expecting it to be dry, but it still had a good mouthfeel. The yeast gave it a marked apple taste, like a semi-dry cider. Quite delicious!

Double Oatmeal Stout with Toasted Cocoa Nibs and Niagara Cherry Juice

I am the least happy with this one. There was a bit of oxidation in both bottles we tried, and one of them was a gusher. The cocoa nibs lent a really smooth chocolate aroma and flavour to the DOS kit from Magnotta, but the sour cherry finish seemed off to me. My friends who tried it quite liked it, so it could be just me. Still, I’m going to make it again and use the whole cherry not just the juice left over from making a pie.

*and by cellar, I mean hall closet where we keep the vacuum and old crap.

No, not feral after all

I was out for a walk with my beloved one day when I found them. It was a sunny afternoon in mid-October, the kind of day that is a gift from the weather gods – one last day of nothing-but-a-tshirt warmth before November starts to chill our bones.

We were walking along the mountain bike trail in the valley below us when I saw them…a green vine twining up a small tree and over to a hydro tower, festooned with the now-familiar shape of hop cones. It was late in the season, and they were brown and papery, but there they were. I managed to snag a few of the lower ones and found a nice citrus aroma under the dry leaf smell when I rubbed them between my palms.

I mentioned the find to a few people, and then mostly forgot about it. I’d think of the plant when it was least possible to harvest or dig up a rhizome, like the middle of summer or on a blustery winter day.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I was part of a beer panel at the Ontario Fermentation Fest in Picton, and got to talking beer afterwards with likeminded individuals, as one does. I was talking hops, and mentioned the find to a friend of a friend. Turns out he planted them! No, not feral at all, just a little wild after a guerrilla gardening experiment. Apparently there’s a mother plant a little further west…time to do more exploring.

I went back to the site the next day, and found things a little changed. The little tree had been cut down, the trail was now a wider dirt access road to the hydro station and there was nothing growing up tower. It looks like I waited too long to get back.

I poked around the tall weeds near where I remember the tree being, and found a patch of stinging nettles for my troubles. As i was cursing and flapping my now sore hand around, is was that there in the middle of the nettles hung a few cones. They hadn’t been able to climb, and the bugs had eaten the leaves to lace, but the plant was still alive.

Have to go back in a few weeks to check on them. Going to bring some gloves this time.