Friday, September 23, 2011

The up and coming pale ale code name: Raw Ra Reed Ale

Home grown Centennial Cone
What is in a name? For Home brew, probably nothing; however, it seems to be harder for me than it is to build a recipe for the next brew, which is actually one of my favorite parts of brewing. Plugging ingredients into Beer Smith, and imagining what the finished product will taste like, to me, is a very fun part of the hobby.

Reed brewing's newest brew is specifically for the Fresh Hop Ale Festival Home Brew Competition in Yakima Washington on October 1. It is currently kegged and being force fed CO2. The sampling I have done is of a well balanced pale ale, slightly sweet, and with interesting malt character; however, not much of a big hop aroma that I really need, since this competition showcases fresh hops. The entire point of the festival is to celebrate fresh hop ales.

A fresh hop ale is an ale that uses hops fresh off the vine without processing or kilning. Without kilning the 'wet' hops will not last too long, just like any other herb. There are certain characteristics lost when the hops are dried and processed into pellets or sit in huge bales in warehouses for months on end. For anyone who cooks you know the difference between fresh basil and the kind you shake out of a plastic container. During the brewing process there are several stages where a person may hop their beer. During the boil, which is anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, we ad hops in order to bitter the beer, which, if done properly, will provide a balance between bitter and sweet. Towards the end of the boil and on into the stages of fermentation and conditioning we introduce hops for their aromatic qualities. Different hops have different qualities from earthy to medicinal to minty to extremely citrusy and beyond. Fresh hop Ales are produced only when the hops are harvested and all should possess a raw fresh, sometimes grassy, quality you just do not find in beer any other time of year.

I am new to dry hopping and this will be my second attempt at it. Typically I do not brew hoppy beers, so I haven't had much need to dry hop. Already there are 2.5 ounces of Centennial and Ahtanum hops added after the primary fermentation had completed, but I still only received a hint of distinct hop aroma. Yesterday I decided to put a few ounces (basically I took all Ahtanum and Centennial hops I had and did not bother to weigh) into a strainer bag, pop the fully hopped bad into the microwave for 20 seconds, and put the bag into the corny keg. My idea with heating the hops is to release oils, just like when we do this with spices and herbs when cooking in the kitchen, the heat releases the oils, and, hopefully, infuses more of the hop aroma into the beer.

The name, Raw Ra Reed Ale, a play on the indie rock band name Ra Ra Riot, but mostly because it is a celebration of Fresh (RAW) hops.

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