Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I Hate Vermin!!!

Bud break was beautiful.

I was pinching off unwanted buds and suckers from the vines when I noticed it. One of the vines was not doing very well. It had seemed to have just stopped growing. The buds that had appeared just the week before were frozen in time and had not grown at all. In fact, it seemed like they were shriveling up like the legs of the Wicked Witch of the east after Dorothy's house fell on her.

"That is odd." I thought as I reached down to examine the young vine. As I grasped the vine to see how supple it was, the ground around the base of it just seemed to fall away. The ground surrounding the sad vine collapsed into a large cavern and what I was left holding in my had was a sad little rootless stick.

GOPHERS!!!!. Man do I hate gophers. The little bugger had dug under the vine like prisoners under the guard station and prison fence. The snacked for a while on the tasty roots of my vine and then vanished without a trace.

Traps have not brought any satisfaction but the rains seemed to have caused him to move on . . . for now.

Time for a road trip to Napa. Hopefully I will be able to locate replacement vines.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bud Break is a wonderful thing

California weather, you have to love it. It seemed like it was just last week that it was raining buckets and there was no end in sight. Wait, it was last week that it rained like that. In any case, this week is in the 70s and the vines are more energetic than college freshmen in Palm Springs on Spring Break.

All the young vines are popping little fuzzy green buds like there is no tomorrow.

I felt terrible pruning the new one year old vines for the first time this year. All that growth, down to one cane and two buds per vine. Ouch. But, like with children, sometimes you have to stand your ground, do what you know is best for them and trust that it is for the best.

I know that last years growth was all to develop a good root system. And, this year, those roots will allow these vines to more than make up for the wood pruned off. And boy, are they off to a good start. Even last years runt is running with the pack this year. Lets see what it can do.

Pictures to follow soon.



Friday, March 04, 2005

The Pale Ale: It's a keeper

I tapped the keg last night and poured 6 oz. I would say that it has another few days to reach full carbonation, and about that much time to settle out the remaining suspended yeast. But, it has held on to the Cascade aroma from the dry hopping very well.

It had quite a head on it from coming out of the keg at Carbonating pressure (30 lbs/in) so it really helped to push those flowery scents out. I think I will let it get more carbonated than I typically do, probably holding it at 10-12 lbs/in, just to take advantage of the natural aroma pump that it gives. And what are a few extra burps between friends, if it comes with some tasty drink.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

IPA in the Keg and a brewing relationship diatribe.

Googol Grapes and Barley Bytes

I should give some background on this batch since it was brewed PB (Pre Blog).

This is a variation of my typical Pale Ale, but I decided to get back to its roots. When I first started regularly brewing IPAs, the target was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. But, our paths have diverged. When Sierra first came out, it had an incredibly fruity nose. The dry hopped Cascades were predominant. But over the years, they have toned down the nose and made a more mainstream hop experience. Also, the bitter component has stayed very close to the original but there seems to be more of an acidic component, even citrus. The best that I can describe it is a characteristic of a ripe, Coachella Valley, Ruby Red Grapefruit.

Now, before you tune out right there, if you have never had a Ruby Red grapefruit, fresh from the tree in the Coachella Valley, you need to. They are Sweet and succulent and not the mouth wrenching think that you have probably been told was a grapefruit by ignorant, but well meaning, grocers.

But, I digress. This flavor in Sierra Nevada has worked very well. And the citrus aspect has seemed to make up for the drop in the cascade hops contribution.

My IPA on the other hand has changed a bit over the years, and probably because of my lack of quality brewing time and overall apathy on my part. My IPA has evolved to more of a utilitarian brew. Moving to a blend of only pale and crystal malt instead of the original blend of 3 types of fermentable malts plus crystal. Instead of a fairly complex mash schedule with a lot of attention paid to each enzymatic conversion, I have a single mash-in/conversion temp that I hold for the entire mash. Instead of Pellet bittering hops added at 3 different stages and then dry hopping with cascade, I have only a bittering hop addition just after the boil and aromatic hops right at the end.

You might say that my brewing had become the equivalent as a comfortable relationship. Going through the motions, enjoying the fringe benefits, but not really emotionally invested in the whole thing. Well. That is over. Time to add some spice back into the zymurgy relationship. Time to get back to our roots.

With that in mind, this batch starts to be more like the original. Not a complete schedule of mash conversions, but I did go back to separate mash-in/protein rest, conversion, and mash-out temperature phases. And the biggest change to my regular routine, I have gone back to a dry hopping of the cascade. And, stead of cascade pellets, I used whole cascade hops and just the bittering hops as pellets.

When I racked from the primary to the secondary, the floral character was incredible. Going from the secondary to the keg was not as pronounced, but still very aromatic. I am looking forward to seeing what type of character is left after a couple weeks of aging.

I will let you all know.