Limestone Creek Brewing Co.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let it Grow, Let it Grow....

There's a lot of growth out there! A long winter is finally over in Central New York; the bines are climbing, the weeds a' growin', and the beer a flowin'.

Bob and Joyce have put a lot of work into preparing the hop yard this spring.  From new planting, hanging new trellis' and dropping the growing ropes from the top wires, they've really spruced up the place!

There are now over 250 hills planted, many of those reaching full maturity this year. We have 6 rows planted with any where from 25-50 hills per row. This being our test site, we're experimenting with single hills directly under the top rope and two hills on each side of the top rope which will allow for 4 bines every 3-4 feet. The dual hill approach allows for more production, but may be effected greater by any diseases present.

So far, the weather has cooperated in our Manlius test yard location. Although it's been pretty dry, we've gotten away without having to do too much irrigation. A little more than an inch of rain a week has been falling. Most importantly is the weed suppression Bob and Joyce have done. In the picture to the right you can see how they've kept the weeds/grasses down - this helps reduce moisture and nutrient loss.

The beer recipe brewing continues utilizing mostly the Newport and Cascade hops we harvested last year. We didn't pelletize any of them, so we're dealing with some of the difficulties using whole leaf hops. Mostly it's just a little messier and we need to increase the amount of hops used per recipe. We've come close to perfecting our IPA recipe - we just keep making silly mistakes during the mash process that leads to inconsistent efficiency and off flavors. As we've said before - practice makes perfect (and more beer to enjoy, too boot!)

We'll be posting more often and with more brewing pictures. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hops, Hops, Hops, I like Hops....

The cutting, picking and drying of the 2nd year bines has begun! Bob and Joyce have been maintaining the plants and adding new ones all summer and they took down the more mature varieties (Cascade, Newport and Fuggle) two days ago.
Cascade variety planted summer 2012 - close to peak of ripeness!
The plants certainly aren't at full maturity, but we had a good growing season that led to a surprisingly robust crop compared to what we expected. No major pest problems, but they did use some Sulfur based herbicide to counteract possible Downy Mildew issues.

So, September 4th the bines were clipped and carted off to the barn where they were sorted into varietal piles. I began picking with the help of my assistants that evening, Zoe and Aggie. We started on the Cascade's since they looked to be the easiest to pick. There were large, well formed cones in big clusters - grabbing each hop by the base near the stem and "popping" them off wasn't too hard to figure out.
Our local workforce - Aggie and Zoe picking Cascade Hops
Nikki, Zoe, Riley and Joyce went at it the next day (Happy Rosh Shashna!) since we needed to get the hops off the bines and dried within 48 hours. They were able to get all of the Cascade and Newport picked and the first batch into the oast. I showed up that evening after work and got all of the Fuggle done. The Fuggle were dried up pretty good and not as easy to pick - we may want to cut that variety down first at an earlier date next year.

The hop kiln (oast) works great! We were able to insert a digital thermometer and determine that the high heat setting and low fan setting got the middle drawers to a toasty 94 degrees. The first batch should be done by the afternoon of the 6th and we can put the remaining hops in for the final batch. Can't wait to see how many dried hops we get!

Next week we'll start our first batch of LCB hop flavored beer! Thanks for stopping by!

Hop Oast Ready to Go!

Charlie built a great hop kiln for us that goes far beyond what we were hoping to have this harvest season. The oast has everything we need: large screened boxes, a fan for circulation and a small ceramic heater to help the drying process. 

"Chaz" - my suggested name for our new oast (gasoline not required for operation!)
Charlie custom designed the stack-able trays that should hold an abundance of hops. The electrical connections are all up to code (which would never happen if I was left to building it) and work off of a 120 volt standard supply. The heat source and fan have separate supply, so you can run it with or without heat. The top drawer has an air exhaust hole to complete circulation. 

We can't wait to fire this puppy up! Thanks Charlie!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mmmmm, Beer.....

We spent a little time drinking our beer last weekend, introducing some lucky entrepreneurs to our craft, and then drank some more of our beer while people we didn't share our beer with looked on.  A satisfying experience.

Seriously, though, Tom, Jay and I met with a local restaurateur who's interested in developing a "house" brew that can be his consistent tap.  We brought along a growler full of our Double IPA that had just gotten off the 4 week primary / 4 week dry hopped secondary / 3 weeks in a keg cycle - dude, this is the bomb!  Hopped, fruity (cascade hops), beautiful color and very clear.  Needless to say, they were impressed.  We still feel the Sonnenwende (Kolsch) would be a better "light hybrid" beer that would pair well with his menu, but we've got a little equipment upgrading to do before we can start banging out 15 gallons a week so there's still time to push them in that direction.

Recent 10 gallon batch of Sonnenwende aerating before fermentation
 The hops are growing beautifully - we've had a spell of very wet, unseasonably cool, weather through the first half of June.  This might set us up with some powdery mildew, but for now the plants look good and are growing fast.  Bob has been busy adding more rows for the 160 plants he and Joyce (Ma) just picked up in Rochester!  So, we'll have 190 hills in the ground by the end of June - with propagation next year we should be up to 500 next spring.

Growing fast!
After reading an article in the Northeast Hop Alliance newsletter about a bigger farm out near Rochester (Whipple Brothers) investing in a pelletizer I reached out to them to let them know we'd probably be showing up at their door a few weeks after harvest this year!

Let us know if you want to stop by and check out the yard - it's a sight to see!  If you're lucky we might let you sample a little Limestone Creek Brew!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trellis Cabling? "Check"

So, Bob graciously pointed out to me that Jason, Tom and I have full time jobs and finding time to work with him on many of the agricultural aspects of the hop yard might be a bit unrealistic. Not to mention he has a full time Jack-of-all -Trades, Charlie, who can provide some brawn and brains to make it all come true.

Charlie and Bob providing the muscle for the cabling of the hop yard trellis
The weather had been really warm and dry for about 10 days leading up to the week before Memorial Day and the hops responded by growing like gangbusters! Of course, so did the weeds. It switched to warm and wet the beginning of last week, but we're back to March like (wet, chilly, windy) for our holiday weekend.

Now that the bines are on a more stable, and tall, trellis system they seem to be ready to get to the top. We only lost one of the 60 trellised bines to frost that occurred on May 7th - the rest bounced back nicely thanks to the following days warm up. They also survived some intense thunder storms that rolled through earlier this week - just like many of those in Moore, Oklahoma we're all thinking of, the hop bines seem to be made of pretty tough stuff.

Yes, new rows for more hops! It's gonna be a busy harvest next year...
On the brewing front we submitted our two outstanding creations, an American Pale Ale (APA) and a Kölsch, to the NYS Home Brewers Competition. We brewed a Double IPA way back when that's been fermenting for about 2 1/2 months - it's in the keg as of last week and we just have to try some tonight. I think no more than two will be recommended :-). Jason, Tom and I are getting together to recreate our APA all-grain in a 10 gallon batch tonight.

Now we just keep 'em mulched and watered and watch them climb!
Currently, we have 15 gallons kegged - 10 gallons of the Sonnenwendt (Kölsch), and the 5 gallon Double IPA (name to be determined).  That's an abundance of beer and we need to organize our first official tasting since we're adding another 10 gallons in about 3 weeks.  Any takers?

Happy Spring to all, soldier on soldier boys and girls, and relax....have a home brew!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Climbing Bines

The hops are growing fast this spring - a bunch of warm dry days and cool nights seem to be just what they need.  We have 30 plants (10 Cascade, 10 Fuggle and 10 Newport) that were planted last July and I'm really impressed how mature they look coming out of the ground.

Fuggle variety supported by temporary jute twine trellis.
The Fuggle emerged last, but seems to be growing the quickest, although with the fewest sprouts per hill.  The Cascade and Newport both have an abundance of sprouts, but a little less height in the highest bines.  This weekend I pruned all growth other than the healthiest 2 bines in each hill so they can put all their energy into growing up the trellis.

We've got a couple of cools days and potentially frosty nights - we'll hope for the best!

On the beer brewing front we're submitting our Kolsch and American Pale Ale beers into the NYS Home Brewers Competition this week.  Both bottled really well off the keg and I'd say we have a chance to win in either category.  We'll let you know ASAP!!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sprouts of Love

Nikki and I recently went out to the hop yard and I was reminded of that famous Shakespearean stanza,

"Hark, sprouts of love,
 Yon distant yard groweth
 Whence thou was bare.
 Oh, ye bitter brew made
 with hops so beauteous."

Okay, I made that up; and I didn't have any thoughts of Shakespeare when we saw this glorious sight:

Mmmmm, future aroma and/or bittering hops!