That’s one hoppy beer- Growing hops with Boe Part I
Today’s blog post comes from our guest blogger, Nichole Kemp. Nichole is the marketing and event specialist for Growers Supply’s parent company ESAPCO where she manages and organizes all our trade shows, CEA Schools and events. She is also the main blog contributor to our building division’s blog, www.ClearSpan.wordpress.com. Nichole is an avid beer drinker and when we told her we wanted to write about growing hops, she jumped at the opportunity. Today’s post is part 1 of 2, so sit back, relax and crack open a cold one while she explains her father’s journey from beer drinker to hop grower…
In 1996 my father, Boe, decided he needed a hobby. Being the smart, resourceful man that he is he knew he should kill two birds with one stone and combine an already established love into his new hobby. This left him with three choices- music, motorcycles and beer. Seeing that his music collection was already extensive and purchasing another motorcycle wasn’t in the cards yet, he decided on extending his beer-drinking repertoire into beer brewing or home brewing.
At the time, his brother-in-law had just gotten into brewing too, so one day he brought his equipment over and showed my dad the basics of home brewing beer. My dad was in love with the process before the mash (grain mixed with hot water and steeped) was complete. Needless to say, my father’s first brewing experience was a success and he wanted to become a home brewer.
Like any intelligent person, my dad knew he needed to learn about the process of brewing and the science behind it before he jumped right in and bought a bunch of equipment. At the time the internet wasn’t what it is today so he did most of his learning and research through old-school methods. He bought a few books, one of which I highly recommend, The Brew Master’s Bible by Stephen Snyder. It can be purchased at many bookstores or online. He also developed a relationship with both local suppliers and online companies such as Midwest Supplies. These were all great resources for my dad. Today’s new brewers have it a little easier with YouTube, blogs and podcasts teaching just about everything.
After learning the science behind brewing, my dad purchased his basic equipment, a brew kettle, brew utensils, buckets, bottles, caps and cappers, carboys and glass jugs, a wort chiller, sanitizer and scale, to name a few. I thought my mom was going to freak out when she saw all these new things that needed a home in their storage-impaired cape. It depends on your budget, but a lot of suppliers have beginner kits you can purchase as a whole or you can buy everything a la carte. My dad started with the basics and added to his equipment as his needs and brewing styles grew.
He started with simpler recipes, using mainly kits. A lot of the online suppliers sell beer kits that include most of the ingredients needed for the beer minus the water and usually the yeast. As he became more experienced, he began getting a little more adventurous and went from adding malt extract to creating a mash. As the years went on, he began creating his own recipes and has since produced over twenty kinds of beer, Boe’s IPA, Penny’s Wildflower Ale (raspberry flavored), Erica’s Bitchen Ale, Nicky’s Whoop Ass Lager (the fan favorite) and Shayna’s Barking Boc, to name a few.
In 2008, my dad took his hobby to a whole new level and that same year I was inducted into the family hobby. My sister was to get married the following year and my dad wanted to mass produce beer so we could use it as a wedding favor. All through that year, my dad and I brewed and came up with The Perfect Catch Lager.
From there my father was on a brewing high. The wedding favors were a huge success and we successfully reproduced the same recipe for nine batches. In the summer of 2009 we were at a cookout when my dad met a family member of a friend who also brewed. After swapping homebrews they became fast friends and spent the rest of the night talking shop and drinking beer. My dad soon learned that his new-found friend grew his own hops. It was as if a light bulb went off in my dad’s head as a smile spread across his face…
Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I get into the meat and potatoes of growing hops in your back yard.