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Spring is Here

Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Fun, Ingredients, Spring

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Today is the Spring Equinox, the official first day of spring. And we sure are looking forward to the warmer weather after this winter we’ve had. Spring isn’t just a time for cleaning or short sleeves, though. It’s also the beginning of growth, when farmers and gardeners all across the northern hemisphere begin to prepare the earth for life and sow their seeds. Flowers, vegetables and fruits all start a new generation, so it stands to reason that the ingredients for beer–malts, hops and any adjuncts–are also beginning their new lives. Troegs’ Cultivator Helles Bock (now in season) signifies the starting of the hop-growing season with delicate floral notes. This is the first brew in the Hop Cycle series, which tracks the three steps of the growing season. Over at the Rogue Farms, their beer and spirit growing season has started.

In this very special GBOTW post, we’ll share the life cycle of several plants used to brew, and take a look at how different breweries are preparing for this very important stage of beer-making.

Malts

Barley, as a type of grass, is a relatively easy plant to grow. People have been growing it for thousands of years, and it has been used in brewing for almost as long. Although it’s grown on a primarily commercial level now, it’s fairly simple to grow in small plots on your own.

First, the soil must be prepared for sowing. Barley doesn’t like very acidic soils, so if the land has a low pH (anything below 6), lime or compost is spread in the autumn to ensure the soil is right. Phosphorus and potassium are also important to produce good malting barley. Once the chemical makeup of the soil has been amended, it’s time to turn up the dirt and loosen it for planting. This is done right after the thaw in spring, once the ground is soft enough to work with.

Sowing starts in slightly different times for different climes, but around these parts, it would be early to mid-April, around when you start your peas. Commercially, it’s grown about 60 to 90 pounds of seed per acre, which is usually just scattered on broken earth, then raked over so it’s slightly covered by the dirt to deter birds. Grains and grasses are easily taken over by weeds, so removing unwanted vegetative trespassers is important. On a farm, herbicides are usually used to kill off weeds, but sometimes flame weeders are used. If you’re growing your own plot, it’s best to try to sow your seeds in lines so that there is room to hand-weed between the plants. Buckwheat can also be grown the year before and tilled under during flowering season to hold the nutrients and smother all weeds. Bugs and pests are too much of a problem, and birds can be driven off by a good dog.

Unless the spring is abnormally dry–which it seems this one is not shaping up to be–irrigation isn’t usually necessary. Grasses usually hold up well in drought or flood–that’s part of the reason they cover 20% of the land on Earth. Six row types of barley–the most commonly grown in the U.S.–don’t tend to need as much water as two row types. If irrigation is necessary, it should be done soon after the heads appear.

About three months (90 days) after it’s sown, barley is ready to be harvested. Around here, that would set it to be ready in June or very early July. The straw becomes dry and brittle, the seed firm, and the plant takes on a golden color. On a small level, harvest is easiest with a light sickle and the seed is separated by simply beating on it over a receptacle, but large farms use specialized machines to cut and separate the seeds from the plant so that they may be malted for use in brewing.

Hops

Hops, unlike barley, are perennial plants, meaning they come back year after year, so there isn’t a spring sowing period. In fact, hops are grown from rhizomes, the so-called heart of the plant’s root where nutrients are stored. Hop rhizomes look a bit like a stick-like bulb. Like aspen, many hop plants are connected through a single root system, and cut up appropriately, this root system can be used to start new plants.

In early spring, sometime between February and April, rhizomes are planted 4″ deep in a sunny area with well-drained soil, with rhizomes spread at least 3 feet apart for like-varieties. Too much waterlogging can result in the roots rotting, so it’s important to plant in soil that does not have a lot of clay in it, and overcrowding leads to less productive plants that are more susceptible to disease and pests. Humulus lupulus (that is, the common hop) are bines that need something to climb, such as a string, trellis or pole. This plant can grow up the 25 feet in a single season, so having enough climbing space is very important, and stunting the plants can result in over-crowding and mildew. 10-20 ft. is suggested for climbing space. Hops aren’t too picky about pH balance, enjoying anything between 5.5 and 8.

Unless the season is particularly dry, frequent watering need only be light, but fertilizers can be added occasionally to increase yield. Because your soil should be well-drained, it’s best to use a non-chemical fertilizer so it doesn’t just run off into the soil. As stated before, overcrowding is a problem with hops, so pruning is important. Weaker shoots should be cut back so only 2-3 per rhizome remain. Aphids and mildew are the most common problems associated with hops. Mildew can be stopped by trimming away the effected area and aphids can be taken care of by using a variety of different natural solutions, such as buying ladybug eggs or planting garlic or onions near the plants.

Mid-August to September is around when hops are ready to be harvested, just when the feathery bracteole (leaves/petals) are beginning to turn brown. The cone should be easily crushed and fragrant, and the lupulin gland should be sticky and yellow when the cone is split. If this is the first season, there shouldn’t be a very big yield, but plants come back next year hardier and more productive without all the preparation over again.

Adjuncts

There are so many additions to beers that we hardly have time to go over them all. So we’ll just name a few common adjuncts, and give a short explanation of when to plant and when to harvest.

Cherries*: Cherry trees are not only beautiful in the spring, but they can produce fruits in July if you have several of them.

Apples*: Apples are great for ciders and can also be added to beers, and there are so many varieties, you can find apples that will ripen anywhere between July and early November.

Pears*: These should be picked in the late summer to early fall, and allowed to ripen off the tree.

Tomatoes: A strange but tasty ingredient, tomatoes usually ripen in late July or early August, and should be planted sometime in late April, after the weather has warmed.

Peppers: Peppers can be started indoors as early as April and then transplanted later to ripen in late summer and early fall.

Pumpkins: A favorite of autumn, pumpkin seeds should be started late in the season, like late May or June. The fruit ripens in October.

Chestnuts: Sometimes added to nutty brown ales, these tree nuts are ripe when they fall, sometime between mid-September and mid-October.

Pecans: These tasty guys ripen between October and December.

*Fruit trees should be planted in the spring if they are bare-root, and in autumn if they are in a container.

Here is some information on how to grow your own hops or barley. Here is a specialized article on how to harvest hops.

Let’s Drink Saisons

Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Ithaca, Long Trail, Starr Hill Brewery, Victory

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The weather might not quite have let up yet, but we’re getting there. So let’s try to bring spring into full bloom with some seasonal brews; saisons are spicy enough for the chill of early spring, but the fruity flavors speak of better, warmer times ahead. And anyway, tomorrow is Saison Day, so you might as well grab a glass while the season’s right. Here are some of our recommendations.

Victory Swing Session – Slight herbal hops balance the orange rind and fruity esters of this pale brew, and peppery, clove-y spices warm the flavor and add complexity. Great for serving with soft pretzels, oysters and pork loin, and at 4.5% ABV, you can afford to have a couple.

Starr Hill Starr Saison – Deep golden color and a candied aroma introduce this beer, and the taste follows with citric notes, slight breadiness and a slight bitterness to dry off the end. A full-flavored saison, weighing in at 6% ABV.

Long Trail Brush and Barrel Saison – The newest addition to the Brush and Barrel flaunts a fruity, funky bouquet provided by Belgian yeasts, with spicy hops to sharpen the flavor. It finishes dry with plenty of carbonation to make it crisp and refreshing. 7.1% ABV.

Ithaca Ground Break – This farmhouse ale has plenty of hops to give the beer that spicy, citrusy flavor, and the yeast adds the usual esters indicative of this style. It’s slightly thicker than most in this style, and stands at 6.2% ABV.

Dominion Cherry Blossom Lager

Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Featured Beer, Old Dominion, Spring

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This golden lager supports a light, fluffy head and a pit-fruity aroma that speaks to its name. Cherry, plum and yeasty flavors make up most of the slightly sour palate of this medium-textured brew, and subtle hops offer just enough balance to perfect the taste. Nicely effervescent and bright, this beer will easily take you from spring to summer. 5.2% ABV

Vintage Bar and Grill in Abington

Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Bars, Local Favorites, Restaurants

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As the weather warms up, you might be looking for someplace that has great outdoor seating. For those in the Abington area, Vintage Bar and Grill has a closed-in outdoor porch that’s perfect for enjoying the weather in a private area. And if you’re looking for someplace to watch the game, they’ve got that covered, too, with several large TVs placed throughout the bar. They serve Victory, Long Trail and more, as well as a wide variety of sandwiches, entrees and mouth-watering appetizers. Black Angus New York Strip steak, Linguini Pescatori, and the Buffalo-style chicken sandwich are all waiting for you to try.

Vintage Bar and Grill

1116 Old York Rd

Abington, PA

Stella Artois Art of the Pour

Thursday, March 13, 2014 | Stella Artois

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You’re invited to learn the 9-step pouring ritual for Stella Artois, and possibly be chosen to participate in the annual World Draught Masters Championship in Cannes, France, now in its 17th year. Learning to pour the perfect chalice of Stella Artois engages all your senses, creating an experience beyond simply drinking the beverage. Take pride in your pour, and learn to appreciate your beverage in a whole new way.

At several specially designed Pouring Studios, you will learn the craft of the pour, and your pour will be captured on video. Each clip will be judged by an expert panel of judges and select winners will participate in a live-streamed ‘pour off’,’ where the best will be chosen for a trip to Cannes, France to participate as a finalist in the World Draught Masters Championship.

Participating locations are as follows:

March 14th

Miller’s Ale House, 18 Baltimore Pk, Springfield, PA @ 7pm

March 15th

Horsham Pub, 1144 Horsham Rd, Ambler, PA @ 5pm

Jamison Pour House, 2160 York Rd, Jamison, PA @ 9pm

March 19th

Miller’s Ale House, 2300 Easton Rd, Willow Grove, @ 7pm

March 20th

Becker’s Corner, 110 Old Bethlehem Pk, Quakertown, PA, @ 5pm

March 21st

DaVinci’s Pub, 215 W Main St, Collegeville, PA, @ 5pm

Doc Watson’s, 1080 E Philadelphia Ave, Gilbertsville, PA, @ 9:30pm

March 22nd

Springfield Country Club, 400 W Sproul Rd, Springfield, PA, @ 5pm

Double Edge Bar & Grille, 4803 W Chester Pk, Newtown Square, @ 9:30pm

Seamus O’Hara to Visit

Friday, March 7, 2014 | Bars, Beer News, Carlow

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St. Patrick’s Day is coming up here in ten days, and what better way to celebrate than to try one of O’Hara’s Irish brews? Better yet, why not take the opportunity to see Carlow Brewing Co. founder and owner, Seamus O’Hara as he makes his tour around the U.S? You’ll have several opportunities to see him make an appearance to share his love for Irish craft brewing and heritage. It also makes for a good excuse to try O’Hara’s Irish Stout, a terrific beverage choice for St. Patrick’s Day.

On Sunday the 9th around dinnertime, he’ll be at Churchville Inn in Bucks County, then move on to E’s Irish Pub in Hatboro and continue to Union Jack’s in Glenside.   And on Monday the 10th around lunchtime, he’ll be at Jenkintown’s Drake Tavern (where you can try the special O’Hara’s burger), then head to Pinocchio’s in Media for an early afternoon visit. Click through to see location specifics.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet Seamus while he’s on his U.S. tour.

Churchville Inn

1500 Bustleton Pk

Churchville, PA

E’s Irish Pub

285 E County Line

Hatboro, PA

Union Jack’s

2750 Limekiln Pk

Glenside, PA

The Drake Tavern

304 Old York Rd

Jenkintown, PA

Pinocchio’s

131 E Baltimore Pk

Media, PA

Destination Weddings for Beer Lovers

Friday, March 7, 2014 | Rogue, Victory

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So you’re lucky enough to have found your mate, and doubly lucky because they’re a beer lover like yourself. Why not celebrate your love for each other by sharing something both of you love with all your friends and family? Go for the unforgettable, and start your new life together with a wedding or reception at one of your favorite craft breweries.

Victory Brewing Co.

Victory offers amenities for all sorts of events, including weddings and receptions. Their beer halls offer plenty of room and resources to pull off your vision, and you can choose from a variety of food and beer packages to suit your guests’ needs. Philly Beer Scene founder Neil Harner married and had his reception with them a few years ago (that’s him and his wife Lindsay below). And even if you’re just looking for someone to cater the wedding, Victory does that, too, and this is an excuse to use their Brew Pub on Wheels, to boot. Everyone can be appeased with their wide variety of menu options and any of Victory’s delicious brews.

Rogue Ales and Spirits

Need something a little closer to family and friends? Or maybe further away? If you’re looking at the west coast, Rogue in Independence, OR offers the backdrop of their beautiful 1200 acre farm for weddings. They’ve got both indoor and outdoor options, and the garden makes for a memorable scene, with hop bines (pictured above), gardens, pumpkins, and orchards making for excellent photo opportunities. They also provide horse and carriage services and the century-old Hop n’ Bed farmhouse provides amenities during the day and overnight for anyone who needs to travel.

Widmer Upheaval IPA

Friday, March 7, 2014 | Featured Beer, New, Widmer

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The Widmer Bros. have come out with a new year-round IPA as they work to create the perfect India Pale Ale. An unfiltered deep golden color and frothy white head characterize the appearance, and resiny grass and floral hop notes in the aroma accompany. The flavor follows the nose, with piney, citrusy bittering attributes and just enough malts to balance it out. 7.0% ABV

Ambler Beverage Exchange

Friday, March 7, 2014 | Distributors, Local Favorites, Retailers

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With a great selection of craft beer (Troegs, Prism, Victory, Lancaster and Long Trail just to name a few), and friendly staff, Ambler Beverage Exchange is a favorite of Ambler residents looking to get a case or two. The staff is knowledgeable about craft beer and their stock, and happy to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. And with their wide variety, you’re sure to find an old favorite or discover a new one. Check their Facebook for samplings and other events along with local businesses such as Sum Pig. If you live in Ambler, or you’re just passing through, be sure to stop by to pick up something. You never know, they could be your next go-to retailer.

Location & Contact:

259 E Butler Ave,

Ambler, PA

267-470-4854

Hours:

Mon-Thur 10am-8pm

Fri-Sat 9am-9pm

Sun 11am-5pm

Tennent’s Original Export Lager Returns to PA

Thursday, February 20, 2014 | Imported, Tennent's

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Tennent’s Original Export Lager is an award winning premium lager from Scotland.  It is brewed at the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow using the finest Tettnang hops and 100% Scottish malted barley.  The result is a lager with a crisp and refreshingly clean finish.  The Scottish import has been out of the PA market, historically one of its largest, for several years.

This week Tennent’s returns to PA to reclaim its status as a top premium import lager.  Tennent’s Original Export Lager will be available in a 16.9oz can as well as on draft in restaurants and bars across the region.  At 5% ABV it is also a good session beverage as multiple pints can be enjoyed!

Scotland is known for its historic castles, beautiful lochs, bagpipes and kilts, a land where umbrellas don’t stand a chance, and world famous golf courses.  There are many more of course, but one constant is Tennent’s Lager.  It was first brewed in 1885 by Hugh Tennent, today it  is Scotland’s #1 selling beer.  Throughout the centuries, the iconic ‘Red T’ logo has come to represent a badge of quality.  When you walk in a pub and see the red T, you know a fine lager awaits.

Look for the ‘Red T’ in your neighborhood.

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