Tag Archives: Hops

A Nice Cuppa Cascade – The Benefits of Hop Tea

 

NOTE: While the point of this post is showing some cool things that hop tea helps out with, it should be stated that if your symptoms are REALLY bad and you’re in a lot of pain, a doctor would be better. Really. 

So, this might come as a complete shock to people who know me well, but…well…every now and then I get stressed and have the odd bout of anxiety. I know, I know, I hide it well, but it’s time that was revealed. So it was interesting for me to find, while aimlessly following an internet search engine trail, that the very same hops that go in to my beer also works as a holistic remedy for stress and several other maladies. Even a few complaints, afflictions, and one or two indispositions.

Thanks to the oils contained in them, hops are believed to help with anxiety, stress, stress-induced stomach problems and insomnia. On top of that, the plant is also a source of estrogen, encouraging milk production for breastfeeding mothers, helping reduce the wild ride that is menopause and bringing down the living hell of period cramps. To make the most of the benefits, it’s encouraged that the hops be fresh enough that the oils haven’t dried out. Freshly picked or bagged versions from homebrew shops should be fine.

After reading all of that, I figured this was worth a test. As luck would have it, the Cascade hops that I have growing on the frame of my porch were just about ready for picking and I had to do a work-related task soon that has a tendancy to cause some high levels of anxiety. I picked a few cones, broke them up, and put them in my french press along with some boiled water. After waiting a few minutes I got this yellowish (yellow from the lupulin sacs that contain the oils), extremely bitter tea. Having never before been so excited to stress myself out, I took my tea and a nice little cup with me to my office and got to work.

To my surprise, the tea worked. I still felt stressed, but instead of going in to the usual red alert which leaves me irritable and worn out, the tea was very noticeably keeping it at a low, steady level. On top of that, I was also feeling rather sleepy and in need of a nap, which wasn’t totally unwelcome.

So for now I’m sold on trying the tea out more. However, while the type of hops in the tea were my favourite and provided a nice taste, it was still really bitter and I can’t help but feel that there were better ways to try it out. Perhaps by making a blend with another tea. So off the bat, here are a couple of other teas to throw in the teapot with the hops. All depends on the purpose.

To Sleep – Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint (Fun tip: you can also make aromatherapy sleep pillows with these ingredients)

To Soothe the Stomach – Peppermint, Ginger

To Soothe Cramps – Chamomile, Ginger, Raspberry Leaf,

To De-Stress – Kava, Passionflower, Chamomile, Lavender

So if you’re ever feeling stressed out or in need of a good night’s sleep and happen to have some hops handy, maybe give hop tea a try!

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Will It Grow? Part 1: In To The Ground, My Sweet

So one of the advantages of no longer being in the office (and there aren’t TOO many, but that’s for my non-existent therapist, not you) is that I have time for some personal projects in between errands and freelance work. One personal project is my garden.

I have a raised bed in the backyard which currently has some beet, onion and radish seeds in it. Later to come will be cucumbers (that I intend to pickle) and Hungarian Black Hot Peppers, which I intend to put in dishes and watch loved ones scream in despair when I feed it to them. But those need a little more time yet.

I’m also growing some Cascade Hops, which is the point of this post.

I missed out on purchasing the rhizomes (an underground stem that shoots out roots, basically) last year, but this year I managed to preorder them from Toronto Brewing a few months ago and my little darling arrived yesterday.

I always knew I’d plant it in the front yard, where the hop vines could grow and wrap themselves around my porch frame, which I think will look beautiful and smell wonderful. For those that know me well in regards to beery stuff, it’ll come as no surprise that I chose Cascade Hops, which have a beautiful light citrusy character to them that drives me wild.

My yard is one of those “Weeds everywhere no matter what” places, so this required some digging in my selected place followed by a method of mulching that’s worked for me in the past. Basically getting some newspaper, layering it on the bottom of the hole, soaking it with water and putting a good layer of soil over it. This prevents any weeds from growing and what weeds do get through can easily be picked out. I used basic gardening soil along with a nutrient mix from Urban Harvest that slowly releases all the good things that make for healthy growing.

Apparently there is some debate on exactly how to plant the rhizome. Hops Direct’s youtube series says to plant it vertically, while the book “The Homebrewer’s Garden” by Joe and Dennis Fisher and several other forums and guides say to plant it horizontally, roots down and white “nibs” up, about 2 inches in the soil. I chose the latter method.

In the end it KIND OF looks like I buried an animal in the front yard, but it’s done and the key is to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet and make sure it gets at least six hours of sunlight, apparently. After it sprouts and the vine reaches to about a foot I’ll need to set up a small trellis leading up to my porch frame. Then I’ll have to regularly make sure the little guys get some water.

I’ll be letting you folks know the progress of it, of course. But for now…we wait.

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CURRENTLY DRINKING: Baldwin FishEye-PA

So most people on here know what I think of Toronto-based Kensington Brewing Co.’s Augusta Ale (hint: I really like it). So it doesn’t come as much of a shock to learn that I was pretty excited to hear about the release of their newest release, an IPA called Baldwin FishEye-PA. I was disappointed that I missed the chance to sample it at it’s debut at Bar Hop a couple of weeks ago, but was delighted to be given a can by the folks there (the can, funnily enough, was completely blank. I attached a label on to it with scotch tape).

The beer, named after the fish markets on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market, is around 6.7%ABV although I’ve been told that that will be lowered slightly for the beer’s release in to LCBOs some time in the spring of 2013 where it will be sold in tallboy cans.

Shall we get to it? Yes. Let’s.

COLOUR: pours a clear, light crimson. Similar to apple cider or orange blossom honey.

AROMA: Front end of the smell has some nice fruity and citrusy tones with a nice warm hint of pine at the back.

TASTE: Since it’s an IPA it’s no surprise that there’s a strong hop presence at the start, but the hops is holding hands with the sweet malty body ending with a slightly astringent finish before moving on to the pine notes.  Aftertaste is a bit of frutiness with another healthy dollop of pine that rounds things off somewhat nicely.

VERDICT: Although I think this is a good beer from the folks at Kensington Brewing this just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I feel that the hops could have been shown off a bit better and the slight astringent taste was a bit offputting. The pine, however, was a big and welcome surprise for me and personally would be my main reason for drinking more. While I’d really like to try this after a couple of more batches, the beer has some good character to it and will definitely match the Spring season that it plans to launch in. I also plan to try it over at one of my places on Baldwin, Thirsty & Miserable, for the true Baldwin St. Experience.

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ADVENTURE! (In Homebrewing) 2: Rise of Audacity

So remember nearly a month ago when I alluded to some Adventure happening in the hiz-ouse?  Well, after steeping, boiling, mixing, having a problem with some of my equipment, nearly having a few heart attacks and fermenting for four weeks in my ninja fermenter (seen above), it is finally BOTTLING DAY! This involved moving the beer to another bucket to avoid all the dead yeasts and gunk from the primary fermenter and then moving it to bottles and capping!  Now it will wait in a dark, sealed off area for ten days and then…ONLY THEN…will it be ready to consume.

So as I said, it was a recipe for a clone of Arrogant Bastard, but due to changes in most of the ingredients, I’ve named it AUDACIOUS BITCH in acknowledgement of its roots.

There were one or two bottles that wouldn’t fit a lid so I chilled one of them and gave it a taste. Other than being flat (which will get fixed as the priming sugars and remaining yeasts do their thang in bottle), this beer certainly lives up to it’s name of AUDACIOUS BITCH. This is a beer that really does have some attitude behind it. It’s definitely a Very Bitter Beer to the point where it may be a split group of people who will dig it and who won’t. I can’t picture having more than 2 or 3, but I guess that’s part of it. Should also be noted that after the few samples I had, I’m already feeling a bit dizzy. So…THERE’S THAT.

But I’ve written down some changes that I’ll be making for the next batch of this kind as well as outlined some of my errors. It’s far from perfect, but I can see the good parts in this that I want to keep.

And of course, I’ll be right back at brewing. I’m going to take the advice of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Sam Calagione and brew using a kit and in the boil process throw in some wild ingredients. This saves a lot of money (ingredients for AB cost me about $80) and gets you thinking outside the box by just going crazy with those ingredients.

Regardless, I’m having a ball with this stuff.

NOTE: I’m going to go further in to some of the basics of homebrewing with you folks later.  This is just recording a personal moment for me. 🙂

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ADVENTURE! (in homebrewing)

So here’s my plan for tonight…

That’s right, for the first time ever I’ll be brewing a beer from scratch.  I’m a bit nervous as I’ve only used kits before and this will be my first time running around and steeping the grains and hopping schedules and such.

The recipe is simple enough, but with a few twists due to a few circumstances.  In essence, it’s an all-grain (that’s a beer not made with any Liquid Malt Extract) clone beer of Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard.  Only I’m using a different malted grain and the hopping schedule (which uses a type of hops called Chinook all the way) will get a bit of disruption at the end with some citrusy Cascade hops to compliment the aroma.

As time goes on, I’ll let you know how it turned out!  And how I made it!

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FIELD TRIP: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery (Barrie, ON)

A couple of weeks ago the family and I were on our way to a wedding in Barrie, ON.  There had been talk of either before or after the bride and groom kissed that we’d get to visit and perhaps go on the tour of one of my favorite Ontario breweries the Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery.  Due to time constraints it looked like we weren’t going to be able to even visit, but upon looking at the map and noticing that the brewery was EXACTLY one block away from where the happy couple were tying the knot, we made an exception and took a visit.

Formally known as the Robert Simpson Brewery (According to the official announcement of the name change the reason they gave was “Because being named for a dead white guy just isn’t very exciting. Where’s the fun in that? Beer is supposed to be way more fun than a history class.”), this Ontario brewery is known for it’s wonderful design sense, twisted humour and, most importantly, it’s love of just screwing around with beer and coming up with some wonderful brews.  With five year-long brews in constant production along with a long list of specialty brews, these guys keep busy and they love to mess around.

Before visiting the brewery, I was already a fan of the two brews that made them famous. Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale,a beer hoppier than most Ontario brews with hints of citrus, and Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale, which was originally Netherworld Imperial India Porter, but due to a batch that ended up having coffee tones that smothered any other flavours, was dry-hopped to hell with Cascade hops and…well, that was the result.

Flying Monkeys has also been the source of some recent controversy when the application to put their latest IPA, Smashomb Atomic IPA, on shelves in the LCBO was rejected due to its name and the picture of an explosion on the label.  This reopened the conversation over the social responsibility that the LCBO should or shouldn’t have, whether or not breweries should be censored in their works and the (I’ll admit getting better) short stick that smaller breweries get in a board where companies like Molson and Coors have a tight grip.

Right, there’s the background.  Let’s get to the brewery itself.

I don’t know why, maybe it’s because every week for most of my childhood the LeBlanc Family Car would zoom past the giant Molson Brewery, or maybe that I took a tour of the temple-like Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam, but my mind always assumes that a brewery that provides beer to outside the town’s borders should be freakin’ huge.  I KNOW this isn’t true, as I visited the Brooklyn Brewery which was pretty damn small, but I still seem to fall in to that trap and end up being surprised.

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery is no exception in this surprise.  Where I expected to see a giant factory by the lake, I instead saw what looked like a quaint store in between two others.  I could easily pass by this place thinking they just sold some beer products and that was it. Inside there’s a few tables, a fridge for their beers, a sampling bar, and a wall devoted to merchandise, which is primarily shirts, glasses and bottle openers.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to go on the one hour tour, but we did have time to sample some of the beers there and talk to the lovely lady tending the bar.  It was also there where I was able to try out the notorious Atomic Smashbomb IPA and talk about it a bit.  And…wow.  An explosion of flavours such as grapefruit, pineapple, melon and citrus with a HUGE punch of hops.  Well…you’d have to have that punch of hops.  Afterall, it was hopped NINE times to get it.  Damned fine beer.  So wonderful that I had two pints of it.  And guess what? Flying Monkeys has been working closely with the LCBO since the media attention Smashbomb got and it has been agreed that, with a change in packaging, LCBOs will be carrying this wonderful brew within the next month or so. And just in time for summer!

I couldn’t leave without getting some merch.  I left with a t-shirt and a pint glass.  My father picked up two shirts and later wished he got more.

My mother and coworker Brian both loved the Anti-Gravity Light Ale and Flying Monkeys Amber Ale, my father loved Hoptical Illusion and ADORED the Smashbomb Atomic IPA, and I was strongly considering buying a keg of Smashbomb (that being the only way it can be bought at the moment).

Before we left I went in to the brewing area with my coworker Brian and excitedly pointed out the kettles, fermentors and other devices and what their purpose was for.  It was an exciting moment for me.  But, like all fun moments, it had to come to an end and we had to save our alcohol-consuming glands for the wedding reception.  We parted with our merch, a six pack of Hoptical Illusion, a bottle of Amber Ale and Anti Gravity Light Ale and a promise to return.

(Should be noted that just down the corner from the brewery was a Chip Truck called Jerry’s Fries, which has the biggest portions ever (I ordered a small and it was about the size of a large) and has the best chips in Ontario.  I’ll testify to that. The man who runs that truck really loves his work.)

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Note: Do you like what I’m doing here?  Would you like to buy me a beer?  Would you like to throw in a few pennies that can lead towards buying me a beer?  Or do you want to make sure that I can go to a craft beer event? If so, head on over to the newly created TIP JAR. I’d certainly appreciate it!

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Wish List: Abstrakt Beer

My friend and fellow beer/metal enthusiast Alastair messaged me to tell me his brew plans for Friday night and linked me to this little beauty:

That’s right.  It’s a Belgian Imperial Stout aged on toasted coconut and cacao.  Created by the bloody GENIUSES at BrewDog as part of a concept series they are putting out in which they say:

  • Abstrakt is a new type of beer brand, we will only ever brew and release a beer once
  • Abstrakt will release a very small number of limited edition batches per year
  • More art than beer, Abstrakt will brew directional, boundary pushing beers: blurring distinctions and transcending categories
  • All Abstrakt beers are bottle-conditioned, individually numbered and known only by their release code, e.g. AB:01
Isn’t that wonderful? The bottles are expensive, but apparently well worth the price.  Hopefully I’ll be able to gather enough cash to get one before the series is out.  Their current release is a Triple Dry Hopped Imperial Black IPA which sounds like EXACTLY my sort of beer, but alas, money.  And I’m not sure if the beers ship internationally or not, so there’s also a problem.  If they do I might need to enlist the help of some of my fellow beer-lovers…

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