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Our "B.F.F. Porter" just took second place in the 2015 GOHCBC!
The competition is to promote Ontario-grown hops. It partners local hop growers with local brewers to create special beers that showcase the potential and promise of our friendly neighborhood hop producers. This year the style they selected to do that was Robust Porter. We partnered up with our hop-growing BFF: Buttrum's Family Farm.
This beer actually began way back in spring. When the hops were just starting to shoot up out of the ground, Gary Buttrum came to our Corktown home and dug up our backyard hops to bring them to a better life on his farm.
"I promise Davis, the hops are leaving to go live on a farm. Really. They'll be very happy there."
It was a rough day on the plants, but hops are tough customers, and after a summer of care in their new home they had done very well for a first year of growth!
Gary, Sonja, and Davis surveying the harvest
They had some struggles for sure- to be expected with any fresh start- but there were lots of great looking cones! We had plenty enough to pick! We selected the best cones, vacuum-sealed the hops, and froze them for later use.
A few weeks ago we recovered the frozen hops from the back of the freezer and got ready to brew! Davis insisted he help by thawing out a small section of the hops. Either he was teething, or we have a future Hop-Head on our hands! Since the hops were vacuum sealed and frozen immediately, while undried and at the peak of their freshness, this was like making a fresh "wet-hop" beer- in the middle of winter!
To get maximum usage of the hops, and to prevent any scorching, we blended the whole-cone hops into a fine consistency. Essentially- homemade hop pellets!
It all went into the Kettle- we used the First-Wort hopping technique.
The Hot Break and Boil
First wort hopping helps control the hot break (Important when you're pushing your kettle volume to the limit like I did here) as well as maximize bitterness extraction (Helpful with homegrown hops, which tend to be on the lower side of their alpha-acid potential) and, counter-intuitively, is said to enhance hop aroma and flavour! All very desirable things in this brew. Of course, the hops weren't tested or anything, so it was simply a guess at the hopping rate. It could have turned out much too bitter for style, but we were lucky and it was a truly wonderful brew.
We're all thrilled that it took 2nd place! It's great to represent Hamilton and to see a homegrown brew do so well in this intra-provincial competition! It is also really encouraging to see our small scale hop-growing experiment yield such a nice harvest. Gary is already gearing up for a bigger and better growing season this summer!
Congrats to all who entered!
We're all helping to grow good things, for good things grow- in Ontario
-The Garden Brewers