Newton’s New “Madhouse Brewery” and Free Beer

About a month ago, a new Iowa brewery started in Newton: Madhouse Brewing.  The brewery is currently located in the old Maytag factory in Newton, where the Maytag company was housed for over 100 years until 2007.  The initial offerings are Madhouse American Wheat and Pastime American Pale Ale.  The brewery is having an open house this Saturday, April 17, from 12-6, and will be offering free tastings of the beer.  If you get a chance, head on over to Newton, and support the newest Iowa brewery!

Growing Hops in Iowa Part 2 – The Beginning

Early Hop Plant
Early Hop Plant

As you bring out your green thumb and decide to plant your own hops, here are the things you need to get started:

  1. Hop Rhizomes (obviously)
  2. A trellis system for the hops to climb
  3. Dirt (another obvious item)
  4. Protection from critters (this is optional, but I found out quickly that squirrels like to dig in the loose soil)

Let’s start by discussing each item one by one.  First, hop rhizomes are a section of the root of another hop plant.  What’s nice about rhizomes is they shoot off additional rhizomes each year, and those offshoots can be dug up and replanted, or given to friends.  As a matter of fact, that’s how the original rhizomes are harvested, and each one is genetically identical to the parent.  Each year around February or March, many homebrewing stores sell rhizomes to plant.  Unfortunately, if you miss this window, you may need to wait until next year to obtain a rhizome.  If you remember from my previous article on growing hops, last year I purchased Goldings, Tettenang, and Willamette hop varieties.  This year, I expanded my hop selection to five by also purchasing Hallertau and Cascade.  As of right now, the Tettenang hops are growing very well, and a couple of bines are over 2 foot tall.  I just planted the two new varieties this evening, but have heard good stories about how well Cascade hops grow in the Midwest.

Tying Up Hop Strings
Tying Up Hop Strings on the Trellis

Now that you’ve obtained the hops, the next step is to build some kind of a trellis system for the hops to grow.  There are numerous designs available, but, from the photo, you can see that I went with PVC pipes.  I found this design on the internet, but have had a hard time finding it again.  If you want details, let me know.

Each one is spaced 8 feet apart, and the PVC is 10+ feet high.  I have three eyelets for each vertical pipe, spaced 2-3 feet apart, screwed into the top pipe, and have strings tied to each eyelet.  Then, on the ground, I have a spike I tie the strings to.

The reason I went with this design is that if you notice at the bottom of the pipes there is a dark gray pipe sunk into the ground.  It is a bit larger in diameter than the white pipes, and each white pipe slides into the gray pipe.  This allows me to remove the white PVC pipes and store them for the winter with only the dark gray pipes staying outside all year.

Now that we have the rhizomes and the trellis, we need to plant.  You can simply place the rhizomes into the dirt and allow them to grow, or you can make the soil more hospitable.  For the most part, there are few nutrients needed, but I dig a hole and use garden soil or potting soil.  Some folks use regular soil mixed with manure.  I also use a liquid fertilizer.  Because the soil is loose to allow for water drainage, it’s advisable to put a fence around it to keep the local squirrels and chipmunks from digging in the dirt, thinking they left nuts from the winter buried in your hop bed.

So, that’s about all you need to plant hops.  They are hardy plants that just need a little attention and patience, and with time, you will have your own hops.  Look for my progress updates as growing season progresses.

What’s your experience with growing hops?  Have you had success where you live?

Samuel Adams Latitude 48

Samuel Adams Latitude 48
Samuel Adams Latitude 48

As part of the Summer Mix Pack, Samuel Adams debuted their new IPA, Latitude 48.  It is called Latitude 48 because the American, English, and German hops added are all found around the 48th parallel.

At first, Latitude 48 smells very floral and citrusy, and was a darker red color. At first, it is sweeter than expected, and has a strong hop character. With the taste, I couldn’t pin down which hops were used, but I tasted citrus, pine, and a bit of earthy hop flavors.  My impression was that it was sweet but not overly bitter. It was quite an enjoyable IPA.

Have you tried the Latitude 48?  What did you think?

Summer Beer Time!

Samuel Adams Summer Styles
Samuel Adams Summer Styles

Today, when I got home from work, it was time to dust off the lawnmower and make a pass at the lawn.  The grass wasn’t too long, but just patchy enough to need to take care of it.  Not that I was excited to mow the lawn, but you know what it means when it’s time to mow the lawn, right?  Summer beers are here!

Just to double check, I stopped by the store, and sure enough, there were all the summer styles, or “lawnmower beer” styles, on the shelves.  Just to show there were no hard feelings with Samuel Adams, I picked up the “Summer Styles” 12-pack.

The styles in the pack are:

  1. Boston Lager
  2. Sam Adams Light
  3. Summer Ale
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Blackberry Witbier
  6. Latitude 48 (Samuel Adams’ new IPA – review to come)

Every year, I enjoy the mix-packs, and this one is no exception.  With variety like that, how can you hate summer?  Cheers!

Homebrewing Update

Boiling Wort
Boiling Wort for the Caramel Apple Tart Beer

Some of you may have remembered me mentioning brewing a saison.  Since I wrote about it last, it has been completed and consumed.  To be honest, it was good, but might have been a bit phenolic, so next time, I will lower the fermentation temperature a bit.  It did hit as high as 85, but for this strain of yeast, that may have been a bit high.  But, it’s gone, so it couldn’t have been that bad, eh?

About a week before I made the saison, I brewed an IPA.  I have been brewing for about  two years, but this was my first IPA.  Personally, I think there is a right way and a wrong way to use hops in IPA’s.  In my opinion, the wrong way is using the hops early during the boiling of the wort, making the finished beer very bitter.  I don’t think this is right at all.  Instead, the correct way, in my opinion, is to concentrate the hop additions later in the boiling process, giving the resulting beer much more flavor and aroma, with balanced bitterness.  The IPA recipe I created used Cascade and Simcoe hops, for a nice, citrusy hop flavor and floral aroma.  I also dry-hopped with Simcoe to enhance the aroma.  It ended up as a very delicious beer.

Last week, I heard about a pastry place in southeast Iowa that creates a dessert called a  “Caramel Apple Tart”.  I thought to myself that it sounded like it could be a delicious beer.

So, Friday, when I got home from my trip to Boston, I ventured into unknown territory: a “sour mash”.  It was a small batch, about 1.5 gallons of wort, and I added a handful of dry grains to sour it.  I let it sit in a warm place until today (Sunday).  Today, I tasted it, and it was pretty good, because it was just slightly sour from the lactic acid produced during the procedure.  I mixed about a gallon of the sour liquid, the “tart” in my experimental beer, with the beer I brewed today, which was similar to an Irish Red, to give it the “caramel”.  As soon as the fermentation is over, I’m planning on adding a couple of pureed Granny Smith apples, to accomplish the “apple”.  Viola!

What do you think?  How does a “Caramel Apple Tart” beer sound to you?