Tag Archives: hops

Lonely Whole Hops

(The following post is all meant in good fun. I’m not really hostile about other brewers’ practices. ๐Ÿ™‚ )


I grow my own hops and have used them before. They’re Hallertau and great for making pilsners, harvest ales, beers where the hops can just be out of the way: fruit beers, spiced beers. I’ve written about whole hops on this blog before. I think I wasn’t kind.

That said, I’m calling out my fellow brewers who don’t say that whole hops are a pain in the ass. Who’s growing them, who’s harvesting them, who’s drying them, and who’s using them? (I know my dear friend Peter is using them and to great effect so feel free to comment, Peter, but I know you’re all over this ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I think there is a secret that needs to be told and I’ve said it here on the other post: Hops are a pain in the ass AND nobody really wants to deal with that despite what brewers say. The number of times I offer up a free rhizome split and all the positive responses and then… Nothing. Same for picking your own… Well, one person came (in 10 years of offering).

“Free hops. Come and pick your own. Pick whatever you want and take them home and brew with them.” *crickets*

It’s okay, fellow brewers, you can say it and admit it freely here and you won’t be ostracized: Whole hops are a pain in the ass.

All together now…



My hops are pooched.

Went to attempt to harvest a bunch of hops last week from my bines in the back yard. Got part of a 5 gallon bucket and put them on a screen to dry in the garage. Came out the next day to turn them and noticed what looked like bits of the lupulin on the edges of the screen except… It was moving! Ew.

My hops are covered in aphids! That would also explain the high number of ants that were falling off the plants when I was pulling them down. Apparently aphids are a favourite bed time snack for ants.

I immediately put those hops into ziplock bags and froze them. They’ll be used as wet hops in a batch of harvest pils or harvest ale. Hopefully no one will notice the extra flavour of aphids in the beer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Shortly after that exchange I read this forwarded to me from a friend that he c/p from an article here:


“Bug beer is even better. Many of the bugs and bug parts will be filtered out during brewing, but the FDAโ€™s limit on the hops that go into the tank is 2,500 aphids per 10 grams of hops. Thatโ€™s right, 5% of the total weight of the hops making your summer ale can be bug. A quarter pounderโ€™s worth of aphid butt goes into the brewer for every 2.5 kilograms of hops.”

There’s always next year.

And mostly done

The main part of the freezer is done, just waiting on the top part of the fridge underneath the freezer.

The main part of the freezer is done, just waiting on the top part of the fridge underneath the freezer.

It’s time

Looks like it's time to defrost the beer fridge. Can barely get to my hops!

Looks like it’s time to defrost the beer fridge. Can barely get to my hops!

Forked River Brewing Visit

Finally! A craft brewery in London!

I drive back and forth to London frequently in order to play with Orchestra London and teach at UWO and one thing that has been missing for a long time is a craft brewery. London has long been the home of Labatt, which I drive by on my way to UWO, but it has been a while since there has been a real bona fide craft brewer in town.

I was able to get an insider’s view of the brewery when I contacted Dave Reed, one of the brewers at Forked River. He was very kind to take a chunk of time out of his busy day to show me around the brewery and talk shop with me. I know how busy brewers can be and I felt honoured that he took so much time to spend chatting with me about the general operations in the brew house.



The brewery is very small, as you can see in the photo. It kind of caught me off guard to be honest. For some reason I was expecting something larger. That said, it’s perfectly suited to the space and to their current brewing plans. There also seems to be a fair bit of potential for expansion within the square footage that they occupy.

More tanks!

More tanks!

The thing that struck me most about the visit was that their set up is very much like a glorified home brewery. I want to state that there is nothing wrong with that at all, in fact, I found it quite simple and very common sense. They don’t filter, they just cold crash, like many home brewers. Carbonation is done over days, not hours. The MLT/BK/HLT are all just like a home brew set up. The boil kettle and hot liquor tank especially with them both being direct fired. They just seemed like glorified converted kegs!

Dave in action.

Dave in action.

Now the beer… I tried a sample of their Riptide Rye straight from the bright beer tank and it was excellent! I been withholding judgement on rye beers but Cameron’s Rye PA and this excellent example of the style have sold me on using rye in my own brewing. I will definitely be trying a rye beer in the near future.

I also tried a sample of their Capital Blonde Ale at the sample bar and found it to be quite enjoyable. I like the hop presence in both their beers and both beers are also VERY clean finishing which I do appreciate. I ended up buying a growler of the Capital Blonde and my wife and I quite enjoyed a few glasses of it.

There was their newest seasonal that had just started fermenting. I can’t say what it is but it does sound terrific and I’m sure word will get out quickly. I will certainly be trying a bottle of it myself if I can get my hands on some. I have no doubt that future seasonals will be equally interesting.

Dave and my growler.

Dave and my growler.

Dave was super kind to show me around the brewery during “off hours” and I do appreciate it. I look forward to stopping by to refill my growler on my frequent trips to and from London. Of course I invited him to Grand River Brewing when he has a chance but a start up brewery is a busy place. I’ll keep you posted.

Whole Hops vs Pellets

A divisive topic this week: Using whole hops vs pellet hops in your brew.

I’ll start this by saying that if one is using whole hops one REALLY has to be set up for it. Two words: Hop. Bags. You can do it without but it’s WAY easier to brew with whole hops if you have hop bags.

That said, I dislike using whole hops very much. Bag or no bag. For the following reasons:

  • They take up a lot of space in the freezer
  • More difficult to weigh out
  • They absorb a lot of wort/beer
  • Messier to dispose of
  • There is no advantage to using them
Ingredients: Hops

Ingredients: Hops

I have a saying: Whole hops are THE reason that pellets were invented.

I do grow my own and that is one of the few instances of my using whole hops: They didn’t cost me anything except time. And a lot of it. Whole hops are a pain to harvest and the amount of work put into harvesting is disproportionate to the amount harvested.

My other saying about whole hops: I will NOT pay for the displeasure of using them.

I’ve accepted whole hops as gifts (although I suspect there will be far fewer gifts coming my way after this post LOL) and in trade and I use my own that I grow but there is no way I would pay for a bag of whole hops. No.

What happens when you use too many whole hops without a bag.

What happens when you use too many whole hops without a bag.

Pellets are just much easier to use:

  • I can store far more in my freezer
  • They absorb less of my precious beer
  • Way easier to weigh out
  • Much less trub to deal with at the end of the brew day or after dry hopping

Dry hopping is actually one of the areas where pellets shine. Trying to get a couple of ounces of whole hops into a carboy and making sure that they are all in contact with the beer? Yes, bags, but again, you have to be really set up for it. With pellets I just don’t need to worry about more gear. Not that more gear is a bad thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There, I got that off my chest.

As always, your mileage may vary. Flame away.

(My apologies to all those who have given me whole hops. They were not wasted and they were appreciated. Thank you.)

Back to the Brewhouse

And here we are again.

Grand River Brewing called me back to do some more brewing for them. I take on the role of second brewer on their double brew days. The head brewer, Rob Creighton, or his assistant, Zach, takes the first brew of the day starting early. I come in midday and take on the second half of the batch. It’s two actual brews but because the boil kettle is half the size of the fermenter they have to do two runs of the same brew to max out the fermenter.

I’ll be in for a refresher training day tomorrow to shadow Rob and then just about on my own for the next couple of days. Next week I will be totally on my own as Rob and Zach are away at a conference. That means the double brew day is stretched over two days. It also means I’m wholly responsible for the brew. :O There’s not much different from one half to the next except for yeast management on the first half. That’s generally been Rob’s domain but out of necessity will have to be turned over to me.

After next week we just go week by week. Scheduling will be pretty random but Rob is super flexible with working around my other life as a bass trombonist. If it happens that I have orchestra services on a day he wants to brew, he will generally shuffle things around to accommodate that. Fabulous!

And also on the plus side, I can buy some hops now with the bit of extra cash! ๐Ÿ˜€