Darkest Hour and the Hop Phoenix

I’m told it happens to everyone at some point in their homebrewing career. It could’ve been the lack of preparation, the poor planning, the surplus of hubris or a combination that led to this darkest hour. On July 14, 2013 I was forced to dump my first batch of beer. This was a beer I had been hoping would turn out excellent, but all the tell-tale signs of impending doom were there. I even chronicled them on this blog.

So between the boil overs, the spills, the distractions, the dry hopping and the seemingly endless fermentation, “Suicide By Hops” (fittingly) died a death of a thousand mistakes. It was still fermenting today (3 weeks later) with a 3 inch layer of hop crud on top and plenty of floaties suspended in the beer. Nevertheless, I tried to siphon some liquid off and it looked for a while that I might be able to pull a gallon or two of salvageable beer out of this mess. But more and more debris kept making it’s way into the siphon. After I pulled a little under 2 gallons I tried pouring the beer through a strainer, but there was too much suspended debris. I gave it a sniff to see if it would be worth it to try and bottle, but it didn’t even smell like an IPA. It smelled oddly sweet.

And so I dumped it down the drain. That sucked.

But I did learn from the myriad of mistakes. I learned that homebrewing, while part-art, is not a performance art. I made the mistake of trying to brew while distracted and it led to dumping the batch; a batch that was expensive and already would’ve yielded less beer than my previous batches. I learned that a little research and proper technique goes a long way. I learned to keep my focus on the task at hand. And I learned ignoring this can be an expensive mistake.

187 boiling

But I got to apply these lessons learned to the batch I brewed yesterday. I had ordered my hops and some of my grain bill online in anticipation of using it for the “Suicide By Hops” brew day, but it didn’t arrive in time. So I had a metric shit-ton of hops just hanging out in my fridge (along with two HopShot syringes). So I figured, “Hey, I messed up that last one; let’s try this again.”

So to use a well-worn cliché, from the murky, hop-crud ashes of a failed DIPA, arose a new, (hopefully successful) phoenix. I wouldn’t call any of my brew days “flawless” so far, but this was the closest I’ve had. I still forgot to add the Irish Moss to the boil (I put a little into the aroma steep and a bit more into the fermenter), and I didn’t take an OG reading (probably not a big deal since I bought a dual-scale refractometer), but the rest of the process was pretty dialed-in.  I have high hopes for his beer now.

I’m going to do a bit more research on dry hopping to make sure I don’t repeat the hop-crud layer I had last time. I’m also going to get the yeast have a little more time to work it’s magic, but I’m encouraged by the solid krausen after 24 hours…

187 fermenting

It’s fermenting slightly warmer (74F) than I’d like, and a little above the optimum level but not too bad. It’ll have to do until I can get myself a fridge for fermentation control. That’s the next step. Until then…



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