Thursday, September 17, 2015

Brew Some Yeast with Hops

Guest blog entry by Dan Silfies

Hops vine along the Woman's Garden fence
Fresh hops drying in the Tavern
Today when we hear "hops" our minds go directly to beer, but that wasn't always the case. Of course hops were used for beer but they were commonly found in women's gardens for another use, yeast. That's right--to capture yeast from the air one could take a large handful or so and boil them in a few pints water. Then add the strained hop water to enough flour to make a thick batter (think pancake batter) and a little sugar in a pot or bowl. If you leave it uncovered in a few days it will start to bubble. That bubbling is the yeast that was in the air which fell in the batter and is now growing. Interesting, though, is that every hop yeast receipt that I have read calls for the addition of a half to full cup of liquid yeast to the batter before leaving it set out. This means that to get yeast you need some yeast to get you started.

Dried hops ready for brewing
It is now halfway through September and if you haven't already picked your hops, I'm afraid you maybe out of luck this year. The common rule of thumb was that one should "never let the September winds blow across your hops." I have picked mine and plan on making a pale ale with mine. It has been  suggested to me  that if you use fresh hops for beer, let them dry first then use the weight your beer recipe calls for. They can be used fresh and not dried but you have to double the amount called for. I get nervous not drying them because if you want to ever go back and replicate your brew it will be more difficult due to the varying moisture amounts that could be in the hops from harvest to harvest.