Brewing a Funky Fresh Hop Ale with Port Jeff Brewing Company

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Hops have been a hot topic with us lately. It is after all the season when breweries around the world release their freshly hopped brews on the thirsty masses. With these beers breweries and farms (or homebrewers and their gardens) are moving one step closer to providing a beverage that offers a sense of place. These beers also are a boon to the imbiber not inclined to sip a spiced, sweet beer from a glass rimmed with sugar or caramel syrup. Hops and the harvest season should be celebrated by all beer fans and we here at Beer Loves Company have taken full advantage of this. We have used them in our Amalgam in the Middle cider/beer hybrid, picked them ourselves straight from the bine, hauled them from Condzella Hops to Long Ireland Beer Company for their fresh hop brew day and even had a chance to dry them for (hopefully) later use.

Beating around the bush a little bit you say? Well to that we would reply maybe but if we did not give you a little background how would you be able to appreciate all that went into the recently unleashed Port Jeff Brewing Company Fresh Hop Ale? The answer you would not be able to appreciate it at all and all life would collapse around you meaningless. You’re welcome.

PJBC uses the Long Island grown buds to augment their well established Schooner Ale. When we arrived at the brewery we were about twelve hours or so behind the arrival of the fresh hops themselves. John Condzella of the aptly named Condzella Hops dropped off the fresh hops the night before right from their sorting through the wondrous (and crowd-funded Beer Loves Company + Hops). The batch of beer was already well into it’s mash phase when we arrived and the hops were being added to hop sacks for the dip they would soon be taking. In addition to the fresh hops some of the pellet variety were also added to help balance things out and for the preservative quality they add.

Eventually the time rolled around when the hops were to be added. Head brewer Jeff Noakes added the (very large) quantities of hops to the kettle at designated intervals. He of course was had some excellent help along the way coming from Jamie Patridge, the man responsible for the new and delicious Party Boat IPA and the ever present beer aficionado Anthony Quattrone. We tried to stay out of the way as best we could since along with the fresh hop brew PJBC also was in the process of cleaning kegs, filling kegs and checking all of their fermentation tanks. If that was not enough the tasting room was also open which leads to many patrons staring through the glass into the brewery (where you can feel like a bit of a fish in a tank) as well as some passers by attempting to enter the brewery itself (the reason Jeff affixed a chain to go across the open doorway). Lots going on in a cozy space over in downtown Port Jefferson.

Bringing us up to the present Port Jeff Brewing Company has sent their Fresh Hop Ale out to market and we had the pleasure of picking up a half-growler (or howler as some have begun to call it). We were pleased to be able to taste the efforts of the brewers in the beer as well as a bit of Long Island as well. Having the hops come off of Beer Loves Company + Hops is an added bonus for us and an expression of our belief and support of the local beer and agricultural communities. Shortly we will be presenting an article which details our tasting of several locally produced Fresh Hop beers from Long Ireland Beer Company, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Great South Bay and of course Port Jeff Brewing Company. With the hops coming from Wesnofske Farms, Condzella Hops and Farm to Pint the local vibe and flavor is in each of these brews. It’s harvest season, time to drink some of the Island’s bounty.

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Brewing a Fresh Hop Ale with Long Ireland Beer Company

Most brew days we have been a part of begin early and are usually fueled by a morning cup of coffee and a beer or two as the day progresses. Whether we are brewing with a fellow home brewer on a ten gallon system or observing a professional boil in a big burly kettle at their brewery, the process is fairly similar. It all starts with raw ingredients and ends with plenty of liquid that, after a little bit of time and attention, becomes beer. We recently had the opportunity to be there for Long Irelands fresh hop brew day, but this time we did not start out at the brewery. We took it back a step and began our day at Condzellas Farm, where the hops that would be used for brewing were being harvested.

We already detailed that process, so we won’t bore you again, but definitely check out this video of Beer Loves Company + Hops doing her thing if you haven’t already. Once the hops were harvested, weighed out and packed in crates it was time to transport them to the final stop in their journey, Long Ireland. If you have never delivered pounds of fresh hops to a brewery, know this: that hoppy smell does not easily leave your car and it may make you crave an IPA at 9 am. We were met at Long Ireland by Justin Wesnofske of Wesnofske Farms, bearing his own crates of hops that he had painstakingly hand harvested the night before/earlier that morning. After our own recent hop harvesting endeavor we could feel Justin’s pain and understand why Mr. Condzella wanted to bring Beer Loves Company + Hops to Long Island!

Long Ireland went about brewing their standard Celtic Ale the same way they have done hundreds of times before, with the exception of the wall of fresh hops in the brewery that had everyone’s attention. When it came time to add these hops, they opted to stuff some into gigantic hop sacks (Snoop Dog would have approved) adding those to the boil. As time progressed, more hops were added using the mash tun as a hop back. This time they were thrown in loose, producing what looked like a pretty wild (and hoppy) soup. Long Ireland and all of the brewers went above and beyond to make sure the fresh hop characteristics were transferred into their brew.

Seeing an ingredient go from bine (remember not vine) to brew kettle in the span of a few short hours really hammered home the “drink local” message. Hopefully it won’t be too long before breweries here are using Long Island malt as well. Long Ireland has transferred their license over to what is known as a “farm brewery” license and will be using more and more NY state grown ingredients in the coming years. They will be releasing their Fresh Hop ale at an event this Friday, along with Greenport Harbor. We will have all the details on that tomorrow, but know that all proceeds will support Condzella Hops and Wesnofske Farms, which is beyond awesome and shows that the bond between farmers and brewers is only getting stronger. Beer loves Long Island and we think Long Island might just love it back.

 

Condzella Hops: The Season Comes Full Circle

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This years hop harvest has drawn to an end, as the short window in which hops need to be picked is now closed. Though the season is an extremely short one, we saw firsthand at Condzella Hops all the hard work and preparation that precedes the two-three week long harvest. They had a whirlwind of a year with the acquisition of Beer Loves Company + Hops and the ensuing modifications to make sure it was harvest ready. Though it came down to the wire, John Condzella was able to get the machine working efficiently which greatly increased their ability to harvest their hops.

It was truly amazing just to be a part of the Kickstarter campaign to bring the hop harvester to Long Island and be able to dub it Beer Loves Company + Hops. However, the real fun came when we got to see her in action. As you can see, the speed in which the hops are plucked from the bines and spit out of the machine is amazing, especially if you have ever picked hops by hand and know how time consuming it can be.

Condzella Hops was able to provide fresh hops to Long Island breweries Port Jeff Brewing Company, Long Ireland Beer Company & Greenpoint Harbor Brewing Company, as well as Captain Lawrence of Elmsford, New York. All three locals produced fresh hop ales with the hops, and we were on site for the brew days at Port Jeff & Long Ireland (more on that later this week). Being able to see hops that were still on a bine earlier in the day be dumped into a brew kettle really reinforced the fact that the Long Island hop is here to stay. We were already able to sample Pot Jeff’s fresh hop ale, as it is currently on tap in their tasting room, and Long Ireland & Greenpoint will be releasing their brews later in the week.

Though fresh hop season is wrapping up this year, we look forward to next years harvest which will hopefully involve even more local farmers and breweries. The industry is continuing to develop on Long Island and each year promises to bring New York closer to the hop growing powerhouse it once was. In the meantime, reap the benefits of this season and drink all the local fresh hop ale you can while it’s still, well, fresh.

Harvesting Fresh (Wet) Cascade and Fuggle Hops with Richy Meyer

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Hops are the essential and defining characteristic which make a beer, well, a beer. The use of hops in beer itself are what brought the name “beer” about in the first place. A beer uses hops and originally an ale included no hops. These were two distinct although related beverages. Before hops were used as a bittering agent and preservative there was only ale. Ale was flavored with what is known as a “gruit” a mix of herbs, flowers, seeds or other flavoring components used to balance out the taste of the malts. The use of bittering and flavoring gruits continued for centuries and their use eventually was taxed, controlled and doled out. This presented an issue for the people of the time and other sources were sought out. The ingredients in gruits, other than adding delightful notes to the ales, also were found to have preservative properties which were desirable since they extended the shelf life of the drink. The same characteristics were discovered in hops and they later took the place of this gruit mixture and acting as both a preservative and flavoring agent. These changes eventually led to ales giving way to the beers that we all drink and enjoy today, with hops being one of the most important and in fact the defining ingredient separating ales from beer.

Why are we going on an on about hops? Well if you hadn’t noticed other than it being (close) to pumpkin ale season the hops harvest just passed. Hops (as we just let you know) are the defining characteristic in the beverage we all know and love, beer. Recently there has been a resurgence (partially funded and named by yours truly/s here at BLC) in NY. The climate in which we New Yorkers live allows for the growth of plentiful and high quality humulus lupus (hops to you and me Russ). We have John Condzella, of the oddly named Condzella Hops, is in possession of the crowd funded Beer Loves Company + Hops which (almost didn’t) have it’s first harvest this season. Then there is Wesnofske Farms in Peconic growing Nugget among other hops. Their program is headed by Justin Wesnofske who is also runs sales for Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. We will have articles coming soon on our experiences with these hop head farmers as well as the brewers who have been using their produce in the near future.

You may still be saying at this point, but who is this Richy Meyer and what does he have to do with hops? If you are still hanging with us then this is the moment where we (finally) get to the point. While it is great to have large scale hop farming operations and breweries in NY we also are home to thousands of homebrewers and advanced agriculturists too. Being members of the the two largest and oldest homebrewing clubs on Long Island we have been afforded the chance to meet many wonderful people within the industry and even more enthusiasts with a passion for beer. The people in both of these clubs truly enjoy beer, are friendly and most important welcoming. None more so than Richy Meyer who takes pleasure in yelling, “Hi (your name here)!”, toward perspective club members. Richy Meyer is the treasurer of Brewer’s East End Revival (or affectionately B.E.E.R.). He is the guy we brought all of our receipts to after organizing the 17th Annual B.E.E.R. Brew Off this past May. Richy or Tailspin, as he was nicknamed after many flights where he would perform his favorite move with his plane a falling oakleaf into a spin, not only is the defacto B.E.E.R. club greeter, he also serves as treasurer and cooks at club events along with his good friend Cliff (Cliffy to Richy). These two provide sustenance for all of the volunteers, brewers and guests at club organized events. Tailspin also crafts some excellent homebrewed porters, Octoberfest and Scotch ales using exclusively his own homegrown hops. These hops were acquired and planted over four years ago from another club member in a trade for some Jerusalem artichokes. While Richy grows and uses his crop of hops each year he also ends up with extra which he offers up for use to other members of B.E.E.R. to come down and harvest. We of course took him up on this offer and ended up with around a combined 20+ ounces of Fuggle and Cascade hops.

Picking hops as we had heard but learned this season are not easy to harvest by hand. The bines (not vines) on which they grow are thick, stubborn and filled with little spikes which love nothing more than to tear your arms up. Richy grows both the Cascade and Fuggle hops in the same row near his tomatoes and other plants. These plants grow thick and fully with the buds becoming full and sticky sometime in early to mid August after getting sun the entire Spring and Summer. Richy made sure to walk use through harvesting and processing of the hops while his Mary gave us lotion to soothe the wounds sustained during our picking afterwards.

While picking we trimmed off as much as we could of the bines and stuffed the rest into a large black garbage bag. The bag was then taken home, after we helped clear the rest of the unusable parts from Richy’s garden, to be sorted through. Picking through the hops proved to (almost) be as challenging and time consuming as harvesting the portions of hops and bines themselves. Spending the better part of two hours separating the hops from the bines (no sticks no stems kid) gave us the 20+ ounces of Fuggle and Cascade. We did not feel the need for our uses to break these down further into Fuggle or Cascade exclusive portions as we knew we would be brewing with some of these fresh/wet hops the very next day. The rest we laid out to dry sorting them into bags which we now have in our freezer. We would like to thank Richy for allowing us to come to his house and to take his hops. While we had several chances to see fresh hops being used and harvested this season, this was the first time we got our hands dirty. Here are pictures detailing the entire experience and as always feel free to comment or reach out if you have any questions for us, enjoy.

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It's Hop Harvest Season!

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That’s right, it’s the time of year when farmers finally get to reap the benefits of their hop plants. Hops typically begin growing in the spring and are ready to be harvested by the end of summer, though there is a very small window in which the crop is viable. Pick them too early and they are not yet mature enough to flavor beer, but wait too long and the hops will begin to die on the vine (or bine, as they are known when it comes to hops).

Hop harvesting is an extremely labor intensive process, as we first learned when we supported Condzella Hops and their Kickstarter campaign to bring a harvester (now affectionately called Beer Loves Company + Hops) to Long Island. However, this year we had a hands on look at just how much time and energy the harvester is able to save farmers.

We were able to see Beer Loves Company + Hops in action as it harvested a fairly sizeable batch of hops Long Ireland would be using for this years wet hopped ale. This process involved John Condzella cutting down the hop bines and transporting them to the stationary harvester. Once loaded, it took Beer Loves Company + Hops a matter of minutes to harvest about 20 lbs of hops.

We also had the opportunity to visit the home of Richy Meyer (a fellow B.E.E.R member) and check out his hop plants. He generously offered free hops to anyone from the club who was willing to come down and harvest what they needed. So Kevin headed on over to cut down the plants and returned home with a garbage bag full of hop plants and scars to prove it. The two of us went to work separating the hops from the bines, which took about 3 hours to fill one medium sized bucket.

Moral of the story: Beer Loves Company + Hops greatly streamlines the process and we are excited to see how it helps to grow the Long Island hop farming community in the future.

As far as this year goes, Port Jeff Brewing, Long Ireland Brewing and Greenport Harbor Brewing all brewed fresh hopped ales with Long Island hops. We attended the brew day at Port Jeff & Long Ireland and will definitely be trying all the beers when they are released in a couple weeks as well as attending any events to support them. We even brewed our very own fresh hop porter/cider hybrid (a graff, if you will) for the Brewers East End Revival OktoBEERfest, so that is currently fermenting away. Look for more in depth posts coming soon about all the hop harvesting/wet hop brewing that went on the past couple weeks. For now, here is a photo preview of what has been happening hop wise across Long Island.

Condzella Hops: "Beer Loves Company + Hops" is Here!

After a long journey overseas from Germany to New York,  Beer Loves Company + Hops (formerly known as the Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine harverster) has finally arrived at its new home: Condzella Hops. As a result of their successful Kickstarter campaign, Condzella Hops was able to bring this machine to Long Island in order to more efficiently harvest their hop crop and start to re-spark the growth of the “New York Hop“. Though this was obviously an exciting arrival, it did not come without its share of work to do. Since the machine is so large it was unable to be shipped in one piece, though John Condzella chose an open air container for shipping so the harvester would not have to be cut in half. Instead, it arrived with a myriad of extra pieces, chains and belts that all need to be reassembled. With a little help from some friends, John has been working diligently on the harvester and it is almost ready to make its debut. Hops have a very short window in which they can be harvested, and that time is rapidly approaching. John estimates that the machine will be ready for action this weekend and the hop harvest will begin next week. We will be there for the inaugural harvest (and hope to bring some hops home for a fresh hop brew day), so look for more coming soon! Also, be sure to visit Condzella Hops and Beer Loves Company at the North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ & Wine Festival at Martha Clara Vineyards this Saturday!