This is the third beer I’ve made using homegrown hops. My Saaz harvest was the best of the bunch last year, with me netting about 90 odd grams dried from my two plants. I air-dried them and once dried, put them in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed out and then in a clip-lock, tupperware-type container in my freezer, where they’ve been ever since whilst I found time to brew with them. Well, the time finally arrived last weekend, when I made a Bohemian Pilsner with them. I had feared that they may have gone stale or mouldy, but when I pulled them out of the freezer, I was pleased to find that they were as dry and aromatic as I remember them being when I put them away last year.
I wanted to keep things really simple with the recipe so I could best evaluate the unique taste my hops have (in case you didn’t know, hops exhibit their terroir in their taste, much like grapes do in winemaking). To this end, I used just a single base malt and a clean lager yeast as the base for the beer, upon which the hops will (hopefully) shine in all their glory.
For those of you who aren’t brewers (you probably haven’t read this far, but I’ll explain anyway), hops contribute the bitterness found in beer, as well as the hoppy taste and aroma. Commercial hops are sold with an indicator of their alpha acid content, so as the brewer, you are able to use the correct amount to achieve the right level of bitterness in your beer. Of course, you don’t have this information when you’ve grown your own hops, but luckily there is a trick you can use to get around this – you use a clean commercial hop with a known AA concentration to provide the bitterness in your beer, and use the home-grown hops to provide the flavour and aroma, for which the AA percentage is less important.
I went with an old-fashioned, floor-malted Czech Pilsner malt as the base malt for the beer, bittered the resulting sweet wort with German Magnum hops and piled tons of my home-grown hops in, in equal quantities at 30min, 10min and 0min, before chilling and fermenting with WLP815 – Belgian Lager yeast. The beer is currently fermenting at 10°C in my fermentation chamber (old converted chest freezer).
The more technical write-up is here, for those who are interested.