Harvest came and went. It was our best one yet. No surprise, as it was our third year and the dry weather worked to our advantage. We now have the quality and quantity of hops we need to launch the brewing side of our business- preparations for which has been taking up much of our time lately. All the licenses and permits have been obtained. The ingredients grown and purchased. Today, in fact, marks our first brew day. The first hop addition (Magnum) went in just minutes ago. I could share a bright green juicy hop photo to match this milestone, but I'd rather pair this image that Bob captured in the hop yard weeks ago. A solitary hawk in the post-harvest yard.
As I write, Saul is cleaning up from an exciting brew day. An all-Cascade pale ale. Whose Cascade? Why, our Cascade! If the wort is any indication, and of course it is, this beer brewed with extremely local ingredients will be very tasty indeed. Our Cascade, Marty's pale malt, and Valley Malt's red fife wheat. Also, a little bit of biscuit malt from Belgium. The other exciting aspect to this beer is the yeast we're using. East Coast Yeast's Old Newark Ale. It's a historic yeast strain from the original Ballantine Brewery in Newark. Thinking more about this beer, it's kind of an amazing merging of brewing past, present, and future in this neck of the woods. I can't wait to taste it again after the yeast does its magic.
This beer is one of many single-hop brews we'll do this season to discover the individual characteristics of the hop varieties we so painstakingly and lovingly grew this year. This is our major work this winter. Brewing, identifying, and playing with the characteristics of our hops. Using this information to plan how much of what varieties will end up in our permanent yard next spring. Developing recipes in which our hops shine. Sharing these test batches with others and getting their feedback. This winter will be fun.
This fall, on the other hand, has been a little frustrating. Post-harvest, our big task was to get our first half-acre hop yard constructed. We harvested posts from our locust grove last winter, so we were starting strong. The work to be done this fall? Finish cutting the posts to size (22 ft), moving the posts and stripping the bark off the bottom 4 ft, laying out the hop yard, making 44 four-foot holes, getting the posts in the ground, tamping them in, putting up the wire work. We've made steady progress, which you can see in the pics below, but we're a little off our ideal timeline, due mostly to.... our inability to control the weather.
The biggest set back came with the huge amount of rain that fell right after our auger-owning farmer friend helped us dig the holes. Let's just say, erosion happened, we lost some amphibian friends, and Saul had to re-dig, by hand, the 44 holes, twice. We persevered, though, and the posts are in. Just not yet really...up. Hours of tamping await. But we are well on our way and enchanted by the new landscape of our property.
Last weekend, amid bouts of rain, we tasted Griffin Hill's latest test batch with some friends and family on top of our hill. The beer? A British-style mild with a twist. The twist? A grain bill consisting of barley, wheat, rye and oats, all grown in New York State. Cask-conditioned, this mild poured smooth, creamy, and full of complex malty goodness. It's a testament to the quality and versatility of NY ingredients- and a tasty expression of Saul's brewing adventures in the UK.