Lancaster’s kolsch is a stunning representative of the style, and its contents match its sunny packaging. Bright grass, biscuit and citrus aromas hang around this sunshine golden brew, which give way to flavors of lemon, grain and hops. It’s delightfully carbonated and very light, making for a very refreshing beverage. At 4.8% ABV, it’s light enough in both mouthfeel and alcohol to have a couple.
As spring comes into full swing and trees and plants put forth their blooms, we find that it’s a perfect time to really take a look at our planet and all she has to offer; we’d never have the flora needed to make delicious beers without our environment being as it is, and it’s important to take a day out of the year to appreciate all the beauty in the natural world. So celebrate Earth Day (April 22) with some environmentally conscious brews this year, and go find a forest to stroll through, a beach to walk along or simply sit out on your front porch and take in all the awe-inspiring beauty that is Mother Nature.
Long Trail has held the tradition of commitment to maintaining the environment for many years now. Between their spent mash and cow power programs, and their water conservation efforts, they gained Vermont’s Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in 2009 and continue to do all they can to keep our planet healthy. This Earth Day, certain bars and restaurants will be giving a special pint glass away with the purchase of a Long Trail brew, as well as a seedling, with the goal of planting 10,000 trees in the U.S. You can find distributors here and participating bars here.
Long Trail isn’t the only brewery that’s stepping up to the plate this Earth Day, though.
Victory Brewing, who won the Sustainable Agriculture Business Award earlier this year, is joining forces with the Brandywine Conservancy in a reforestation initiative in East Brandywine Township, planting trees provided by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s TreeVitalize program. Over the last five years, the group has been planting trees throughout the Brandywine Watershed, and they hope to meet the milestone 25,000th tree at this event, which takes place Saturday, April 19th, starting at 9 a.m.
For information or to volunteer, please call Wes Horner at 610.388.8124.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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
Even though the groundhog condemned us to six more weeks of winter, Evolution still has their seasonal Sprung to keep us in bright spirits. This blonde ale is the very essence of spring time, brewed with honey, hibiscus, and chamomile give it a slightly fruity, flowery flavor. It’s highly sessionable at 4.5% ABV, and light enough that you’ll want to drink more than one. Smooth, crisp and effervescent, this is one brew you won’t want to miss this season.
Each early spring, craft drinkers look forward to the arrival of bocks like clockwork. However, this will be the last season for Anchor’s Bock, a black malt-forward brew with dark candied fruit flavors, satiny texture and goat-adorned label. It will be available through its usual season, January through March, but will be retired after that to make room for new and exciting beers from Anchor. So at least you have that to look forward to.
So, if this is one of your spring favorites, or you just want to try it before its a thing of the past, you should go out and grab some before everyone else does. Try calling your favorite local retailer to see if they still have it in stock.
Saturday, April 27th, Fordham & Old Dominion Brewing is holding their annual beer and music festival, R2Hop2 at their Dover, DE brewery. This is their second year hosting this event, and they’re expecting upwards of 2,500 visitors.
This festival will feature Old Dominion’s specialty beers, such as Oak Barrel Stout, Cherry Blossom Lager, Rams Head IPA and Copperhead Ale. In addition to beer, five local bands will be playing throughout the day, including The Honey Badgers, Runaway Train, The Anytime, Anywhere, Splashing Pearls and Lower Case Blues.
Aside from beer and music (which should be enough to get you interested), there is also a keg toss, inflatable obstacle course, and sumo wrestling. There are also food vendors, including Fordham Bier Dawgs (made with Helles lager), Potato Pancakes and Vitale’s Italian Ice and Homemade Ice Cream.
Tickets are $20 in advance, and $30 at the door (those under 18 are free). Next week, we’ll let you know a way to win tickets to this event, so stay tuned.
From 12pm to 7pm
At Fordham Brewing Co.
Spring is around the corner which means it’s the perfect time to think about growing hops if you’re a homebrewer. Growing hops is a relatively easy task to take on and doesn’t require a ton of care or maintenance. By purchasing Hop Rhizomes from your local home brew store you can get some great hops year after year, saving yourself a good deal of coin and giving you the opportunity to wet-hop.
What you need:
- Hop Rhizomes
- Small shovel
- Potting soil
- Cleared area for planting, where location gets at least 6 hours of sun light per day
- A fence or trellis where you plan to grow (or twine)
First, you need to decide what kind of hops you are looking to grow and seek out purchasing the rhizomes. If you are unsure where to get your hops, Keystone Homebrew is an excellent resource for buying rhizomes this time of year.
Once you have your hop rhizomes and are ready to plant them, make sure there is no longer frost occurring in your area. This will ensure that the growth isn’t damaged by the cold as we enter spring.
Aerate your soil and mix with nutrient rich potting soil. Dig holes for each rhizome, approximately 3” deep, close to your support structure (fence or trellis), and about 6” apart to allow for roots to spread.
Place your rhizome in each hole and make sure the “eyes” are facing upward. Cover your rhizomes with soil but do not over-pack. Water the soil, but not excessively.
Water plants on a daily basis to keep soil moist, but do not saturate. Over watering can damage the plants.
Make sure to train your plants to climb your support by wrapping the vine-growth clockwise.
Prune your hops on a regular basis. Hops are very aggressive and can grow upwards of 25 feet high.
You will notice your hops will start budding quite quickly, but don’t be discouraged if you find your hops to be small. Since the plant is a perennial, it won’t yield a great deal in its first year.