Upgrading the “portable-keg charger”

I coughed up the $20 for the portable keg charger from Genuine Innovations

but I’m not entirely happy with it for a slew of reasons.  First, the instructions say over and over again that you have to fully discharge the keg before attaching this, otherwise the back pressure can break the unit.  That’s stupid because you could pour off of some of that pressure.  Second, you have no idea how much you are really pressurizing the keg when you push the trigger.  I burned through 3 cartridges to pump half a keg the first time I took this to a party.  So I decided to do a DIY upgrade, so now it looks like this:photo

I had a spare pressure gauge laying around, which I wanted to connect up with a check valve so I could hook up the whole system without having to bleed off the pressure.  The gauge has standard 1/4-inch NPT threads, while kegs use 1/4-inch flared threads, so I used a 1/4-inch NPT tee, a 1/4-in male NPT pipe to to 1/4-in barb on the bottom, and to connect the tee to the charger, a 1/4-in NPT check valve connected to a 1/4-in flare to 1/4-in female NPT coupler.  In addition to the gas ball-lock and some thick tubing that I picked up years ago, here is a shopping list from amazon:


Designing Beer with Dr. Brad Smith (aka the BeerSmith guy!)


Click image to see the flyer

As part of Baltimore Beer Week, CSI has lined up an awesome opportunity for all homebrewers in the area.  On Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013, we will be hosting Dr. Brad Smith, author of the highly acclaimed BeerSmith brewing software, brewer with 23 years experience, host of the BeerSmith podcast, and founder of BrewWiki.com for a talk on designing beer.  The event will take place at Maryland Homebrew at 6770 Oak Hall Ln #108, Columbia, MD 21045 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm.

If you are looking to bring your brewing game to the next level, especially those of you looking to get your beers into competitions, this is a great opportunity to bring some homebrew, share it with other homebrewers, get quality feedback, and learn about what you can do to design better homebrew recipes.  Members from CSI will be on hand to talk about homebrew clubs in the area and why joining a homebrew club will also result in brewers crafting better beers.

The event will begin at 6:30pm with a social hour.  Here you can share your homebrew, enjoy samples of beer from other homebrewers in a social forum, talk about brewing technique, recipe design, or whatever you want.

At 7:30pm we will all take our seats and Dr. Smith will give us a presentation on designing beer.  Similar to his presentation at the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference in Philadelphia, PA, he will offer a structured approach to beer recipe design, starting with a target style and walking through research, selection of ingredients and application of brewing techniques to create a great beer recipe. He will review examples of recipe design, as well as cover some of the newer techniques brewers are using to enhance their beer. This presentation is oriented towards all-grain beer design, though most of the techniques could also be used by extract brewers, which he would be happy to explain.  Before he finishes, we have asked him to give a quick demonstration of how all this can be done in the BeerSmith software.  He will wrap up the evening by holding a questions and answers session with those in attendance.

This looks to be a great event and best of all, it is FREE!  In order to attend, registration is required as seating is limited.  Registration can be done at the following URL:  http://goo.gl/DlsRcV

If you wish to print up a flyer for the event to share with fellow homebrewers or your homebrew club, you can find the flyer here.

The members of CSI hope you can enjoy us in this fun, yet educational homebrewing event.

If you have any questions, please contact CSI President, Brent MacAloney.

$15 carboy cooler

If you need to cool your beer about 10 degrees below ambient, here are two great ideas. The first is the age-old “pot-in-pot” method, where you put the carboy inside a large unglazed terra-cotta pot, and fill the pot either with water, or a mixture of water and sand. Then blow a fan on the pot and the evaporation can cool the carboy down at least 10 deg. I couldn’t find any pots big enough for my Better Bottle, but while wandering through the garden section at Lowes, I did find an EnduraCool towel ($15) which is a thin, synthetic towel that is extremely efficient at evaporating. It wraps perfectly around the 6-gal Better Bottle. I secured it with two paper clips and put the carboy in a shallow tub that I feed with a slow trickle of water. Blowing a fan on it has cooled it down ten deg below ambient. Many brewers call this a “swamp cooler” and use a wet t-shirt; I tried this but it only gave me 3 deg drop. I’ve included a pic below.  I believe this would be even more efficient if I were doing it in a small room with a dehumidifier also running.

How To Build a Keezer or Freezer Kegerator

This is a video link that I’ve been meaning to put up on the website for a while and just haven’t gotten around to it. It is a video from Northern Brewer on how to build a keezer or freezer kegerator.


The video is approximately 14 minutes long, but having helped people build a keezer before, I think it does a very good job at explaining the process in pretty good detail.

Now if you are going to embark on the journey of building a keezer, the first place I would look for a bargain on a freezer is over at Homebrew Finds. It seems as if they are posting a deal every week or two on freezers that can be used to convert to a keezer.

Finally, I would recommend asking around in the club. There are several members that I know of that have made some pretty sophisticated and beautiful looking keezers. Just show up at a meeting and ask around, or head over to our Facebook page and make a post.

A DC motorized grain mill

I thought I’d toss up pics of the grain mill that I just motorized using a 90-VDC motor. Unlike AC motors, you have to use a power supply to control a DC motor, and on e-bay, gear motors that have enough torque at the slow RPM’s needed (i.e. more than 40 in-lb at 120 RPM or above) seem to be much more common in the DC variety. I picked up a used 90 VDC gear motor at 120 RPM with 50 in-lb of torque off ebay for about $25 and attached it to a Monster Mill 3 using Flexible Spider Shaft Couplings from McMaster Carr (I stole the idea from Chris Solito). You can run the motor using a plain 90 VDC power supply but these often how low current limits (i.e. 0.5 Amps) while my motor draws 1.23 A, so I opted for a KB motor control, model KBWM-120 with a 1.5 Amp fuse. These are fabulous controls because they come built-in with a power switch and speed control. You attach the four wires (two for the motor, two from the wall) and badabing! good to go. This was $80 on ebay, and while cheap knock-off versions from China are available, I trust KB electronics. $2 in scrap lumber from Home Despot, $16 in bolts and clamps from ACE Hardware, and a few minutes of jigsawing and it tore through grains in no time. I tested the mill with the hopper filled up before turning it on and it worked just fine.

Here is the finished product, with close-ups of the individual parts below.

My “cheap” pressurized bottle filler

Once I got my kegerator set up (will post pics soon) I discovered the hard way that filling bottles from the tap is a mess.  I found BierMuncher’s “We don’t need no stinking beer gun” on homebrewtalk.com and this video from BobbyFromNH on youtube where you tap into the liquid-out post of your keg. However whenever I bled out the pressure by pushing on the stopper, it blasted beer all over me.  I have Perlick 525’s so the growler filler from MDHB wouldn’t work but it gave me the idea to machine my own tap insert.  I’m a do-it-yourselfer even if I end up spending 8x more than something would cost pre-built at a store so I set to tackle this problem.  This post shows my tap-to-bottle setup (which as it turns out is almost exactly like bowiefan and Irrenarzt from homebrewtalk.com.  Sigh…here I thought I was being original).  If you like this and don’t own a lathe, I think buying from them is a better idea.

Here is an exploded view of the setup.

A 3/8″ pre-drilled stopper (part A) has an air-pump needle for soccer balls inserted down the side.  This allows you to control the bottle pressure by putting your thumb on over the needle base. The idea is that when you start filling your bottle, close the adaptor and as the bottle pressurizes, the foam will die down.  You can then let out a little air at a time and the bottle will fill under quasi-pressurized conditions.

I don’t like this since foam oozes out of the needle when it reaches the top, and it hurts my thumb after a bit.  So I shoved some 3/16″ (ID) tubing over the needle, connected to a 1/4″ shut-off in-line ball valve (part D).  I close the valve and start filling and the bottle pressurizes itself.  I then open the valve a little and the beer flows into the bottle under constant pressure.  By putting the other end of the tube in a cup, any foam that comes out through the needle goes into the cup, so everything stays clean.  Only problem is that some air does leak out where the needle and tube are joined.  My first “cave-man” solution so far is Part E, a 1/4 compression to 3/8″ FIP adaptor (compression tapped at 5/16-28) packed with an o-ring and screwed into a 3/8″ barb adaptor, shown below.

A slightly-more elegant solution is to do away with the “middle-man” and connect the pump needle directly to a 3/8″ barb adaptor.  To do this, I bought a 3/8″ barb to 3/8″ male adaptor, drilled out the male part of the adaptor to 7/32″ and tapped it to 5/16-28.  This way the needle screws right in (see below).

The bottle filler (Part B) is a length of stainless-steel 0.375″ x 0.065″ x 0.245″ T-304 seamless tube that I bought from onlinemetals.com.  I machined the tip so 3/16″ ID tubing will fit snugly over it.   Now for the faucet adaptor (Part C). The inner diameter of the Perlick 525 is 0.40″ so I machined a small length of the same stainless tube as shown below.  

On the left is a 1/16″ deep groove cut 3/16″ wide, which holds two 11/32 x 7/32 x 1/16″ o-rings (#47 at Ace).  That end is slipped up into the faucet to about the level of the 2nd groove.  On the right, I machined a rounded tip to help the 3/16″ tube slide over, and a long channel in case I want to clamp the tube down.

So in summary, the faucet adaptor is put up into the Perlick and connects to the bottle filler by a 3/16″ tube.  The bottle filler is put almost all the way into the bottle and the stopper closes the bottle.  The ball valve assembly is attached to the air-pump adaptor, the valve is closed and I open the faucet.  When the flow slows, it means the bottle is pressurized to the keg pressure (I use about 3-4 PSI) so I slowly open the ball valve.  I let foam run out until the beer level is at the top of the bottle.  Then close the faucet, remove the filler, and add a little more beer to foam up the head space. Cap, chill, and give to friends.

Total costs: $15 stainless tube (shipping was more than the tube!), $1 o-rings, $2 3/16″ tube, $15 ball valve, $1 air-pump needle, $1 stopper, $2 brass fittings.  I already owned the lathe and borrowed bits from my machine shop at work but you can buy a cheap set for about $20.  My next project might be to solder the barb adaptor right onto the pump needle, but I hate the permanence of it.

Making a Homemade Mash Tun

I posted this on my personal website a year ago while making my mash tun.  I thought it was time that I added it to the CSI website.

When I began homebrewing, the only batches I ever made were from malt extract.  This works fine, but as I quickly realized, you don’t really get the color appearance that you are looking for.  So I took a class on “All Grain Brewing” in April 2009 at Maryland Homebrew in Columbia, MD which was amazingly helpful.  It proved to me that all grain brewing wasn’t so tough.  The only problem was, I needed a mash tun.  Commercially made mash tuns can be expensive.  Craigslist is a great option, but in the 9 months that I’ve been searching for one, I didn’t see one come on the market.  So I decided to use my creative side and make my own out of a cooler and some parts from the hardware store.

Below you will find a step by step description of what I did to make my own mash tun.

1)  Find a Cooler that Works for You

I plan on doing 10 gallon batches of beer.  So I needed a cooler that was a little bigger.  The standard 48-quart square coolers or 10-gallon round Rubbermaid coolers were a little too small for what I wanted to do.  I was able to find a real nice 70-quart Coleman Extreme Cooler on Amazon.com for $38 with free shipping.  I looked around at Bass Pro and Walmart and didn’t find anything close to that in price.  So Amazon ended up being the merchant I chose.

70-quart Coleman Extreme Cooler

2)  Shop for Parts to Make Manifold

Luckily there are some web sites out there with information on how to build your own mash tun.  I stumbled across the “Converting a cooler to a mash tun” article on the wiki at HomeBrewTalk.com.  From there, I came up with some ideas on how to convert my cooler to a mash tun.  Here’s the shopping list I went with: 

(4) – 1/2 inch diameter – L-shaped (90 degree) copper slip on elbows
(5) – 1/2 inch diameter- T-shaped copper slip on tees
(1) – 1/2 inch diameter copper slip on coupling
(1) – 1/2 inch diameter copper pipe – 8 foot in length
(1) – 1/2 inch diameter copper pipe slip on adapter with female end
(1) – 1/2-inch diameter brass pipe nipple – 2 inches in length
(1) – 1/2 inch diameter brass ball valve with female ends on both sides
(1) – 1/2 inch diameter brass hose barb adapter with a male end
(2) – 2-inch diameter neoprene washers
(6) – 2-inch diameter fender washers (zinc) with 3/4-inch hole in the middle
(1) – roll of teflon tape (white)

Picture Copper slip on fittings

3)  Cut Copper Pipe

I had never cut copper piping before, but it is real easy using a “Copper Tubing Cutter”.  I picked one up at Lowe’s for around $7.  It is real simple to use.  All you do is measure out the length of piping you want to cut, mark it with a pencil, put the copper tubing cutter on the pipe, tighten it, turn it once, tighten it again, turn it again, and the piece of pipe should fall off pretty quickly. 

Here’s a list of pipes that I cut up:

(2) – 2.75 inch lengths
(2) – 5.5 inch lengths
(5) – 6 inch lengths
(1) – 9.25 inch lengths
(2) – 9.5 inch lengths

Now this is what worked for my cooler.  You will want to measure your cooler to see what works for you.  I hear it is best to keep the manifold 2-inches from the side of the cooler.  With that said, these dimensions worked for me.

Cut up copper piping


4) Modify Washers

This was absolutely the worst part of this whole process.  You have six 2-inch diameter fender washers with 3/4-inch hole in the middle.  Unfortunately the 3/4-inch hole in the middle of the washer is not big enough to get around the nipple.  So you have to expand that hole in the center until it fits.  I used a Dremel Rotary Tool with a tungsten carbide rotary tool bit.  I bought one from Sears because the cutting end was a lot wider on the Sears Craftsman model then the one that comes with the Dremel tool.  You will want a larger cutting end because this is a very long and laborious process. 

Here’s what I learned:

  • It’s not easy
  • It’s not fun
  • Use a pair of vice grip pliers to hold the washers in place and make sure they are secured tightly.
  • Watch your fingers (my hands are cut up)
  • Wear goggles
  • Be patient.  This will take around 10-minutes per washer to finish.
  • No matter how hard you try, the washers will not be in a perfect circle when you are finished.  That is OK.
If you have an easier way of doing this, I’m open to suggestions.

Modified washers vs original washer

5)  Remove Drain Plug from Cooler

This part was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  The drain plug on the cooler is removable real easily.   Just hold the spigot on the outside and twist counter-clockwise while holding the drain on the inside of the cooler in place.  These drain plugs are not in place very tightly, so this shouldn’t take much work.  You sure don’t need a tool.

Twist the drain plug counter-clockwise to remove.

This is what it looks like when it's removed.

6)  Assemble Mash Tun Spigot

Assembling the Mash Tun drain spigot was pretty easy too.  So easy, I forgot to take step by step pictures of what I did.  As you can see from the photo though, I wrapped the threaded end of the brass hose adapter with teflon tape and twisted it into the brass ball valve.  I used 2 adjustable wrenches to tighten them together.  Please make sure that the handle on the valve, when open points out over the brass hose adapter.  This is very important.

Next, wrap one of the threaded ends of the brass nipple with teflon tape and twist it into the other end of the brass ball valve.  A pipe wrench and an adjustable wrench will work here to tighten it up.

7)  Add Steel and Neoprene Washers to Spigot

This step was real simple as well.  Once you are done cutting the steel washers so they fit over the brass nipple, slip 3 of the steel washers on first.  Once the steel washers are on the nipple, slip on the neoprene washer so that it is firm against the steel washers.

One washer on drain spigot

Three washers and the neoprene washer on spigot.

8)  Insert Spigot into Cooler and Secure with Neoprene Washer

The spigot should fit easily into cooler with the brass nipple having about 3/4-inch of thread on the inside.  After putting the spigot in, secure it on the other side with the other neoprene washer.  This will hold in place until you are able to assemble the other washers.

Put spigot through cooler

Secure spigot with neoprene washer inside cooler.

9)  Secure Spigot from Inside Cooler with Washers and Female Adapter

Once you have passed the brass nipple through and secured it with the neoprene washer, wrap then exposed threads of the nipple with teflon tape.  Then add the other 3 steel washers over the nipple and secure it with the 1/2-inch adapter that has female threads on one end.  This is shown in the picture.  Tighten the spigot and the adapter by using adjustable wrenches.

Secure spigot with washers and pipe adapter.

10)  Assemble Manifold and Test to Make Sure it Fits in Cooler

The manifold will go together very easily, as shown in the picture to the right.  This is an ideal set up as allow for maximum draining of your grain bed.  I have been asked if I am going to solder the piping together.  Since the whole purpose of the manifold is to allow for draining of liquid from the grain bed, the piping does not have to be water tight.  In fact, you will be cutting slots into the piping in step 11.  Plus I see a manifold that can be disassembled as a bonus when it comes time to clean.  For the most part the pipes and fittings will be snug enough to have some form and stay together.

11)  Cutting Drain Slots in Manifold

This is where you will need the Dremel Rotary Tool again and it is absolutely important that you wear safety goggles here as metal will be flying all over the place.  Attach an EZ-Lock 1 and 1/2-inch “Cut-off Wheel” to your Dremel.  This will be the tool used to put drainage slices in your manifold.

Once you have the Cut-off Wheel on the Dremel, it is time to start cutting.  I recommend using a medium to high speed setting here.  My Dremel only has 2 speeds so I only have 2 options.  If your Dremel has more, go with a medium setting.  Cut slices into the pipe about every half inch.  Make sure you do not cut straight through the pipe.  Only go in about half way through the pipe.

NOTE:  The copper piping will get real hot when cutting your drainage slices.  Please keep this in mind and wear gloves if your hands are sensitive to heat.

Once you are done cutting the drainage slices in your manifold, I recommend using a rotary buffing tool along your drainage slices to remove any burrs that might be left over from the cutting.  As soon as the burrs are removed, then you are ready to install the manifold into your cooler.  Remember, you want the drainage slots facing down to the bottom of the cooler to get the maximum yield from your grain bed.

Cutting drainage slices into the manifold.

A completely sliced up manifold. Be sure your drainage slices face down in the mash tun before installing it.

12)  Enjoy your Mash Tun and Crack Open a Beer!

And that right there are the 11 moderately easy steps to creating a homemade mash tun.  I know it was a lot of fun for me and very rewarding to create something so cool to use when homebrewing.  The mash tun works out great and I’ve created some awesome beers with it.  So I know this is a good one.

Please feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions that you may have regarding how to more efficiently make a mash tun or with pictures of mash tuns that you have created.

Happy brewing!

Motorizing a grain mill

I picked up this motor recently at the suggestion of some fellow homebrewers online. I wanted to give a quick description of how I hooked it up to my monster mill for those who are interested.

The motor runs at 177 RPM, which is a good speed for milling grain. This makes it ideal for a direct drive grain mill without need for belts and pulleys. It’s about 1/9 HP, which seemed questionable at first, but the people who used it on their mills had no problem with it being underpowered. I don’t have a lot of room, so I mounted it to some fiberboard that I can place on my mash tun at milling time and carry down to the basement when finished.

To mount the motor and connect it to the mill, I used:

3/4 in. fiberboard, cut to 18X24
1/2 in fiberboard, cut to 12X12, for mounting the mill
Spider Shaft Coupling Hub, 3/8″ Bore
Spider Shaft Coupling Hub, 1/2″ Bore
Buna-N Spider for Spider Shaft Coupling Hub
4″ corner braces
4 1/4″ bolts, 1 1/2″ long, nuts and washers
4 1/4″ bolts, 1″ long, nuts and washers
4 1/4″ nuts, fine thread, for the motor bolts

The braces came with holes that fit the mounting bolts on the front of the motor. With the mill raised on the 1/2 in. board, the drive shafts were perfectly aligned. How nice!

Motor, with braces attached, lined up with mill

Gap for the mill output and mounting holes

Layout for grain output hole and mounting bolts on the main board

Motor and mill, mounted and connected with spider coupling

On the electrical side of things, I added a combo single pole/3-way switch so I could control both the power and the direction of the motor in case of a jam. The motor came with a big honking run capacitor, so I shielded that in a junction box to avoid any accidents on drunken brew days. I used a 16-gauge power tool cord to supply the juice. The motor itself came with a wiring diagram, but if you’re interested in how I connected it to the 3-way switch to provide forward-reverse options, let me know and I’ll draw up a diagram.

Finished, before adding the hopper

So far, I’ve had no problems with the motor driving the monster mill. It did about 5 pounds of grain in a minute in a test run, with no problems with starting up or stalling.

Help with Making a Berliner Weiss

For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of making a Berliner Weiss. I had one a few years back at New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin and thought it was amazing. It just so happens there’s a great article on Sour Beers in the March/April 2011 issue of Zymurgy by Matt Lange. The article is named Funk with Less Fuss: A Shortcut to Sour Beers. In this article Matt talks about an alternative way of creating a sour beer that doesn’t include you having to buy a commercial yeast with Lactobacillus or running the risk of contaminating your equipment.  He also gives a Berliner Weiss recipe.  I’m OK with this recipe, but he has some rather unconventional steps that I’d like to get comments on here.  If you want the full article, let me know and I’ll send you a PDFed copy.  Otherwise, here’s his steps in a nutshell:

1) Create a “Sour Starter” three days before your brew day. He takes a small amount of malt and adds it to a solution of warm water and sugar and then holds it in an insulated jar for 3 days at around 100°F. He does this by putting the insulated jar it on a heating grate in his house. This creates a culture of lactic acid-producing bacteria.

2) Brew your beer. Mash and sparge as you would normally. Once the wort is run off to the brew kettle, he says to bring it to a boil to kill off bacteria. Then cool the wort to 100°F and pitch the sour starter created in Step 1. Let the wort and sour starter mix sit for 12-24 hours in a cooler at 100°F.

3) After the sour rest, bring the beer back to a 90 minute boil and add bittering hops at 60 minutes. Cool to 60-70°F and pitch your yeast for fermentation.

He says the advantages are:

  • Takes less time over oak aging
  • Gives the brewer more control over acidity in the final product
  • Eliminates the threat of cross-contamination with sour  yeasts

He says the disadvantage here is that the beer will lack the complexity that oak aging and Brettanomyces add to the beer.  Other than that, it creates a very comparable beer.

Here’s my question to the club.  Has anyone ever tried this method?  I’m curious to see what your experience is here.  I’d like to try it, but don’t want to waste my time if you all think this is a crappy method or produces less than acceptable results.

Thanks, Brent

Hey Marylanders…Hops Season is Almost Here!!

We all feel it, the sense of self pride that we get in hand crafting our own beer.  Our friends love to drink it.  It’s a great discussion topic when meeting new people.  And the best part, it’s a lot of fun.  Well this Spring, those of you looking to add another chapter to your homebrewing adventure might want to consider growing some hops.  All you need is some vertical space, a green thumb and a little patience and you can have a fresh supply of hops enhancing your beers for years to come.  Below you will find some ideas I have put together for you to get started.

The Basics

I think that BYO (Brew Your Own) Magazine did a great little introduction to hops back in September 2009.  This video is available for all to view on Youtube.  It gives you a great 3-minute run down on the basics of growing hops.  Take a look at this video:

Growing Hops in Maryland

I learned about hops growing the hard way last year here in Maryland.  I got Nugget, Williamette, and Cascade rhizomes and planted all of them in the yard.  The Nugget rhizome went in the garden in the side yard of my house with good sun light during the morning and early afternoon, but no sunlight in the mid-afternoon and early evening.  The Wiliamette and Cascade rhizomes were planted in the backyard getting very little sun in the morning and early afternoon, but plenty of sun in the mid-afternoon and early evening?  Take a guess which rhizome did the best?  The Nugget.

Again, BYO Magazine had a great article in the March – April 2011 issue in which author Chris Colby discusses “Southern Hop Growing:  The problems and the promise.”  Chris lives in Texas, which by all accounts, DC had a similar summer to in 2010.  Very hot, very humid, and long stretches without rain.  So what ended up happening?  The afternoon summer sun here in Maryland was way too much for the Williamette and Cascade hops to thrive in this climate.

So there are a couple things that I took away from this last year’s growing season that were verified by Chris Colby.

  1. Plant your hops rhizomes in an area that receives a lot of morning and early afternoon sun, but gives the plants a rest from the brutal summer sunshine in the afternoon.
  2. Rhizomes like Williamette are not meant for this climate.  This is a hit or miss that you might have to play around with.  The Nugget seems to grow great and Chris Colby points out that hops like Centennial, Chinook, Zeus, Cascade, and Norther Brewer do well in Texas.  I’m guessing we could say the same about what to grow here in Maryland.

Where to Buy Hops Rhizomes

You can buy hops rhizomes just about anywhere now a days, but you can only buy them at a certain time of year…late Winter / early Spring.  For example, our local homebrew shop Maryland Homebrew just sent out an e-mail stating they were taking orders.  Available varieties are:  Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Fuggles, Glacier, Golding, Hallertau, Horizon, Magnum, Northern Brewer, Nugget, Tettnang, and Williamette.  They are available for $4.95 a piece or 2 for $9.90.  Orders needs to be in by Sunday February 28th and the rhizomes will come in at the end of March.

Another great place to buy hops rhizomes is from Freshops.com.  They have a wide variety of hops, including “Jumbo” rhizomes.  I purchased a Nugget jumbo rhizome last year and it got to work fast.  These jumbo rhizomes are about twice the size of regular rhizomes and in most cases yield hops within the first year.  You pay a little bit more for them (I paid $7.00 for one rhizome) and are limited in the number that you can purchase, but from my vantage point, they are worth it.

Freshops.com also has some nice twine for the hops to grow up.  A good sturdy twine is a must for handling the weight of a full grown hops vine.  The twine is made from the coir fiber of the coconut husk and is imported from Sri Lanka.  At $6.00 for 10 strings of 20 feet in length (200 feet total), it is a great buy.  Heck it is handy to have a sturdy twine like this hanging around the house just in case you need some good twine to tie something down.

Literature on Growing Hops

One of the first books that I got when I decided I was going to grow hops was the “Homebrewer’s Garden” by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher.  This is a great book that outlines good hops growing techniques, such as setting up a trellis, how to plant the  hops, what hops grow well in various climates, and harvesting your hops.  It also has a bunch of great information on growing other various ingredients which you commonly, or uncommonly in some cases, use in homebrewing.  It is a great book and you can find it on sites like Amazon.com for around $10 – $12.

Another great reference is the “Hops Lovers Guide” by the folks at BYO Magazine.  It’s a great reference guide that gives you the lowdown on growing, buying, storing, and using hops, as well as a bunch of hoppy recipes that you can try.  At $7.00 this is another must have for anyone who enjoys hops and wants to know more about them.

What’s to Come?

Well 2011 should be pretty interesting as my Nugget rhizome is in it’s second year of maturity and I now know the ins and outs of growing hops.  I hope to have a bountiful harvest full of yummy Nugget hops that I can trade with other hops growers in the club.

I hope you all have found the research that I have done useful and let me know if you have any questions or comments through the comments field at the bottom of this page.  Best of luck in your hops growing adventures.

-Brent MacAloney