Experiments with "Indie Hops" hops, and corks!

Posted on November 9, 2011 by

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Our Night Shift Brewing test kitchen has seen a number of experimentations happen over the last few weeks. One recent project centered around a box of hops samples that Jim Solberg at Indie Hops recently sent our way. If you haven’t heard of them yet, Inide Hops is a hops supplier, based out of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, that focuses on providing aroma hops to North American craft brewers. We’ve been in touch with their founder, Jim Solberg, about possibly sourcing certain hops from them when we’re finally up and running. A recent discussion with Jim resulted in a box, stuffed with fresh samples from their latest crop of hops, arriving at our doorstep. Fresh might be an understatement – you could actually smell the hops from 5 feet away.

Wrapped squares of “Indie Hops” hops 

Last week, we put the hops to very good use. Our first goal was to simply smell the hops squares – yes, each was in the form of a densely packaged “square” of hops – and get a sense of which varieties we preferred. Jim sent us nearly every hop they grow (check out their full list here), so the selection was quite wide. Our favorites included the Santiam, Chinook, and Perle varieties (though with all of them being so loaded with aroma, flavor, and general stickiness, choosing the “best” would be almost as hard as choosing the “most melodramatic” David Caruso one-liner from CSI Miami).

Once each hops square had received our proper attention, respect and thorough sniffing, we placed about half of them onto our brew table (rarely referred to as our “kitchen table”), weighed out respective amounts of each, and added it all to a 15-gallon barleywine boil that desperately called for heaps and heaps of fresh hops. While we plan to age this batch for quite some time, the lusciously hoppy sample we tasted post-brew might compel some very preemptive bottle openings.

Sticky hops squares, unwrapped and filling
 the room with aromas of goodness

An entirely unrelated experiment took place more recently. One of our newest beer-related toys is a bottle capper-OR-corker. Compared to your regular bottle capper (bottle caps ONLY, no corks), this thing is almost inappropriately huge and cumbersome…

 Hand-held bottle capper
Massive bottle capper-OR-corker!

But what it lacks in space-efficiency, it makes up for in raw corking power. With our collection of corkable bottles having become quite large over the last year or so, now was the time to test the new toy. We decided to bottle a Belgian Dubbel that’s been fermenting in our basement – dubbels and corked bottles seem an almost fated combination. The process was three-fold: one of us filled the bottles, one of us corked the filled bottle, and one of us caged the cork. Caging might’ve been the trickiest, though by the night’s end we had each nailed down all three steps and found the whole thing fairly enjoyable (ask us to reassess that opinion if we ever start doing this on a permanent basis…). While corking is by no means easier than capping, you gotta admit, the final product looks pretty awesome:

Corked and caged bottles of our Belgian Dubbel