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A Brewer’s Tale (Part 2)

September 2, 2010

Here is part 2 of Ray’s adventure to harvest the hops and brew Glacier Harvest ’10 Wet Hop Ale, the new beer in our 100 Barrel Series.


by Harpoon Brewer Ray Dobens

After we leave the first gas stop I call Rick a few times only to have him reinforce my doubts of reaching the farm in time for a good photo op.  That’s ok.  We will adapt.  This whole beer is about adaptation and making things work.  I spend the rest of the trip thinking about how the brew will go…….

In order to make the wort for the Wet Hop we need to change our brewing setup drastically.  We need to make our brewhouse accept whole leaf hops, something we would never use in any other circumstance.  Not having a hopback, we also need to reverse engineer a vessel to suit our need for that.  At this point we have figured out the basics but we only do this once a year so it makes it a tricky job.

For our brew house to accept and utilize whole leaf hops we use 25 2’x 3′ nylon bags loosely packed with hops and spare stainless parts (as weights or sinkers).  We tie these weighted bags off to the CIP arm of our whirlpool.  To keep the bags from spinning around and slowly raising with the level of the liquid in the whirlpool, we anchor them to a point outside of the vessel.  We also use a large wooden mash paddle to hold the hops in place and under the wort to the greatest extent possible.  This all sounds simple when it is written down.  There is nothing easy about it.  The whirlpool is hot and we are up against the clock to have everything tied off quickly enough so that we can delay the brew as little as possible.  Meanwhile we rush to pack another 25-30 of the bags into our makeshift hopback downstairs.  For this we use one of our small (30bbl) stainless tanks filled to capacity with bags of hops.  The idea is to fill this vessel with boiling wort coming from the whirlpool and slowly drain the wort from it into our heat exchanger and then into the fermenter.  The hopback allows us to gain precious contact time with the fresh hops to give the Wet Hop beer a more intense fresh hop flavor and aroma.

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