Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Well, sort of.  At the least, two of my recipes are in a much more trafficked area than my website, and my name is attached to them. This turn of events is thanks to a friend of mine, known in the SCA as Sorcha Crowe, putting together an article on six-row barley for Zymurgy.  She asked me if I had any recipes using six-row that she could use, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As luck would have it, my "historical" barley (the Bere) is a six-row.  Its progress in the field has been impressive--given another month, it may catch up to the winter barley in growth.  The Hana is still plugging along, but hasn't really been as productive, which is somewhat disappointing.  (Overall, I'm not as impressed with the Hana as I would have liked--its germination rate seemed low, and now it's not growing as well.  I may try selecting the better seeds, to try selecting for a better-adapted variety, but that's a multi-year process...)

I have, at this point, most of the holes dug for the pier footings, to which I will attach a deck, and from there a pergola for my hops.  I hope to get the footings poured in the next couple of days; if I'm successful there, I should have hops in the ground after this weekend, and not a moment too soon.  The Sterling rhizomes have put up shoots, as have the Magnum and one of the Willamette.  The Cascades are lagging a bit, but if need be I can get a cutting from my "old" plants (which have reached their climbing strings, and are progressing as hops will do).

In the meantime, I think I have my class notes finalized for this weekend; I need to find a free minute or two to make copies of my handouts.  Atlantian University has found a site for a Summer Session in June, and my Lady Wife and I are combing our schedules to see if we can attend and present our classes (she teaches classes on Russian clothing).  Right now, things are looking positive.

On another positive note, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to actually brew something by late summer.  Probably not "inside" in the Brewhouse, nor on a nice, shiny electric brew-rig, but brewing nonetheless.  There have been a number of people ask when I was going to start back up; for now, that's the best I can offer--"soonish."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Some observations

The biggest problem with growing barley, I'm finding, is observing the progress. On the one hand, brewing is a hobby for the patient--it's all "hurry up and wait," after all. On the other hand, watching barley grow is rather like--well, not to put too fine a point on it, it's like watching grass grow.  (Makes sense, really, since that's exactly what it is...) At least with the hops you can see progress on a daily basis.

So, everything has germinated. The Maris Otter and Halcyon are nearing the tops of their "cages". The Hana and Bere are a ways behind that. I'm disappointed with the germination rate I got from the Hana in the field--of the 30-40 seeds, I've got maybe ten sprouts. (All of the Hana in the planter came up--it's likely a soil issue, rather than a seed issue.)  The Bere is happy both in the field and the planter, with its second set of leaves up and the third set looking not far behind.

In the meantime, with less than two weeks to go before their introduction, I'm feverishly going over, revising, and correcting my class notes for the Medieval German Beer classes.  There are three, tentatively titled: "Period German Brewing Practices," "Medicinal German Beers," and "A Period German Pub Crawl."  Thus far, the corrections are primarily fixing typos, and making sure my facts line up.  Of the three, I'm happiest with the Pub Crawl; it's entirely possible that in the future I'll fold the Period Practices bit into that one for a "mega-class".  I'm hoping to have some medicinal herb people in the Medicinal Beers class, and to make it more of a discussion group.

Part of the fun for the Pub Crawl was looking at the various local beer names--"brands," if you will.  A friend of mine was commenting on the wide variety of beer names available at the local liquor superstore, and the humor value in many of them... Well, our ancestors were no different in that regard: Butterfly, Toad, Choir Finch, Mosquito Mustard, and Raving Man are among the less vulgar names.  Some of them describe the feeling, or aftereffect, of the beer: Body-blow, Rip-Head, Blow-the-Man-Down.  The Lubeck offering of "Israel" was so named because of its strength: "People strive with it as Jacob wrestled with the Angel."  ("Israel" is from the Hebrew for "wrestles with God".)

Surprisingly, only a few of the beers were familiar to me, in terms of historical offerings: Gose, Israel, Broihane, Alt Klaus, Joben, and Mumme. Of those, I have only ever tasted commercial Gose.  (Mumme has become non-alcoholic, while Broihane morphed into a Pilsner, apparently.  I have practically no information whatsoever on Alt Klaus or Joben.)  Bock was not mentioned as such, although it was present if you know where to look--it derived from the name of its town of origin, Einbeck.  Indeed, it was searching for information on period "Einbeckisch Bier" that led me to the sources for my classes.

I'll try to update again, either as "teaching-day" approaches, or soon after... And, I promise, pictures of barley (and hops!) will be forthcoming before long.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Progress, and progress...

Spring seems poised (at last!) to, well, spring, and things on the homestead are moving along nicely. All of the "special" barley (the Maris, the Halcyon, the Bere, and the Hana) is planted; my "old" hops are in the ground, and the new rhizomes are on their way.

I'm waiting on dryer weather to combine with a "free" weekend (or afternoon) so that I can "scalp" a bit of my field with the mower, then sow the Conlon barley over a chunk of it, and some wheat over the rest. (The wheat isn't for brewing necessarily, but for bread.) In the meantime, I've also put ten or a dozen or so of each of my "specialty" barleys into planters, which I'm keeping a careful eye on. This way, even if something catastrophic (deer! groundhogs! rabbits! birds!) happens to the plots out in the field, I'll have seed-stock to try again.

My "veteran" hops (Cascades, two rhizomes, in about their fourth year or so) have been "retired" to the area reserved for the future herb garden; they've got a nice tree to climb, and a west-facing vista (looking over the barley field, as it happens). The "new" rhizomes--two each of Cascade, Magnum, Willamette, and Sterling--are on their way, and I should have them before the end of the week. This, of course, means I have to put the spurs to my efforts in building the Biergarden/Hop Trellis/Deck on the side of the Undisclosed Location; I think I finally have the equipment I need, and the plans worked out to do it. As is my wont, there will be several materials runs, but by and large it looks pretty straightforward, knock wood.

Work on my new brewing rig (and Igor, my electric rig controller) has been placed on the back burner for a little while, as life on the farm has shifted towards better weather and other activities. Over a week was "eaten" in building a fence to keep in Bacchus the pup (a Great Pyr, who at 7 months old is around 100 pounds; he's a great dog, but tends to wander if he's able, and he gets "selective hearing" if he's not ready to come in when called...). Vegetable gardens and the like are also becoming going concerns. I'm still hoping to be able to brew--if only in a primitive fashion--by this fall.

I've got my teaching notes worked up pretty well for an event at the end of the month; as I find time, I'd like to start posting my observations on that stuff here, as well. So much to do, so little time...

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