Who needs craft beer?

Not this beer drinker who has written a rather terse 'letter to the editor' of the New Zealand Dominion Post where they shared their distain for an over-hopped lager with pinot gris undertones and shilled for a good old crate of Lion Red:

letter to editor about craft beer

Neil Douglas of Carterton does make an excellent point, it makes my wallet real sad when you check out the price of a craft beer in Wellington.

I had a $25 lunch burger the other day and the beer was half the value - at $12.50 for a beer just feels on the nose.

And that is why I tend to home brew!

Have I contaminated by beer (and can I rescue it?)

Help, I think I have ruined my beer!

Have I really contaminated my beer?

It only takes one bad batch of contaminated beer for beer enthusiasts to be converted to the mantra of 'sterilization is mandatory'.

And that's the best approach you can have when brewing beer.

Keeping your equipment and preparation space clean and sanitary will keep you on course for a fine tasting brew.

Things do go wrong.

You might accidentally drop something into your batch.

Maybe your three-year-old son thought he was helping Dad out by throwing the air lock into it (yes, that actually happened).

Maybe you managed to drop some bottle caps or a stirring spoon into it and then let it ferment:

beer wort with spoon
I found the missing spoon!

Does this mean you've contaminated and ruined your batch?

The short answer is no, yes and maybe.

But the chances are that you haven't screwed things up.

If you've done diligent preparation so that everything else is clean, then the chances are that dropping the odd utensil into your batch is not going to ruin it.

On a couple of occasions, I have been pushing the airlock into the hole in the top of the fermenter lid. As I have done this, I managed to push the rubber bung through the hole and into the batch.

Quelle Horreur! 

I was left with no choice each time to grab a large metal spoon from the kitchen drawer to try and fish the bung out. I had no time to sterilize the spoon - I'd pitched the yeast already and wanted to lock that drum down tight.

Did I ruin my beer by exposing it to a rubber bung and an unsanitized spoon? I possibly could have but in the end, my brews turned out absolutely fine.

Here's my reason why this scenario worked out OK.

If you make sure that you have already produced a hospitable environment for your yeast to take charge of your brew, it's like any introduction of foreign micro-organisms will not be calamitous.

The yeast you use is beer yeast. It's been cultivated for many years to brew the best kind of beers and it knows how to do its job. If it's just a minor contamination by way of a spoon or dropped airlock (chances are they were actually quite clean as opposed to say a Matchbox toy car) it's more than likely your yeast will win the tussle for beer fermenting supremacy.

I think it's fair to say that a small mistake is not fatal to your beer.

A large mistake such as not preparing your fermenter properly (cleaning and sanitizing) would probably have dire results. If your beer is actually contaminated (smells of rotten eggs, a taste test reveals a disgusting taste) then you may have to consider dumping your brew.

Update: Believe it or not, shortly after writing this post, I managed to find this in my fermenter. The beer was fine.

Image credit to ellai via Creative Commons Licence. We have no idea if Ellai prefers Star Warrs quotes, Star Trek or has even read the Mortal Engines book. Have you?

Kegco LHU5S-4 Elite Series Four Product Secondary Regulator

kegco secondary regulator best

Kegco LHU5S-4 Elite Series Four Product Secondary Regulator

If you are getting pretty serious with your brewing station and wish to run multiple kegs of the same CO2 tank, then this Kegco secondary regulator may be just what you need. 

This secondary regulator has four manual pressure release valves that release pressure at 55-65 PSI, four large pressure adjustment knobs, and four brackets that allow it to be mounted to a wall or the inside of the keg refrigerator. 

If it wasn't clear enough in the name, you will still need a primary regulator with one output that connects to the secondary using a piece of air line. 

The LHU5S-4 has four 5/16" barbs and four gauges that indicate how much CO2 pressure is inside of each keg which helps you to keep that beer pour nice and smooth.

best kegging system regulator

Here's the specifications for the regulator:

  • Boasts four stylish black pressure gauges with high-contrast red and white writing and sturdy rubber boots that help protect them from accidental damage
  • Durable chrome-plated body has four gauges and four 5/16" barbs for dispensing four kegs of beer or kombucha at a time
  • This regulator's sophisticated design boasts four bold black gauges with high-contrast red and white text that is both stylish and easy to read. Four matching black plastic handles and black shut-off knobs add to the sleek look.
  • Features manual pressure release valves and internal pressure relief valves that release pressure at 55-65 PSI as when dealing with pressurized equipment, it never hurts to be safe!
  • Connect to standard beer keg tubing.
  • Four large ergonomic adjustment knobs give you the power to make precise pressure adjustments with ease, between 0-60 PSI.
This product also comes in singles, doubles, and triples so you can customize your lock ball keg set up as you like!

Tips on how to easily grow your own hops

growing hops plants at home

How to cheaply use hops for brewing

Have you ever thought, gosh, "I'm sick of paying so much for hops!  I wish there was a cheaper way?"

There is.

And it so so very easy.

You can grow your own hops!

Even if your green thumb is decidedly lacking in green, you can cultivate your own hops in your own garden.

Using fresh hops in your homebrewing efforts is an awesome feeling and adds to that sense of 'master of your own beer brewing destiny' that many beer makers seek.

It's also fairly organic if that's what you're into.

Here's our guide to growing hops:

Where can I get hops plants from?

Hops grow best from root-like cuttings which are known as rhizomes. Rhizomes can be purchased online but home brewers that grow their own share with each other, or sell them cheaply. A great way to source these contacts is on social media groups such as Facebook and beer forums.

There's plenty available to purchase on Amazon too.

You can always try growing hops from seed, though this is not considered as easy as using a rhizome.

What is the best season to plant hops in?

Hops may be grown in any moderate climate if given proper maintenance and care but the best to plant the rhizome is during spring to allow for the plant to take advantage of the summer growing period.

Where should I plant my hops rhizome?

Hops plants are best served by being planted in a sunny location. A site exposed to many hours of sun in the day is ideal. 

The hop vines (known as bines) grow upright at quite a rate so they will need something like a trellis to climb up.

Tall poles can be used together with strong string or twine are often used to support the growing bines.

Hops grow at a fast rate and really take advantage of the soil's properties - being nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium.

Home growers can choose to use commercial products that add these elements or by making manure compost.

How to harvest hops from the bine

So if you've planted in spring, you'll be harvesting in summer. While it depends on where you live, autumn will likely be too late.  So hops can take 4 - 6 months in the growing cycle to be ready for harvesting. 
lupulin powder inside hops cone
Lupulin powder in the hop

A hop that is ready to be picked will feel dry to the touch, be somewhat 'stringy' and have a strong hop smell. The lupulin powder will be left on the fingers. 

If you open the hop cone up, it should release the powder if it is matured properly.  It will be a warm yellow - goldish colour. 

I heard hops plants have male and female versions?

Yes, it's true.

Just like kiwifruit.

Male and female flowers of the hop plant usually develop on separate plants.

Because viable seeds are unwanted for brewing beer, only female plants are grown in hop commercial fields, thus preventing pollination.

It's not time to light up

Light is the natural enemy of hops. Hop cones are susceptible to breaking down due to the effects of the sun and light from the first moment they are harvested. You should do your best to avoid light exposure as much as possible so store hops in a dark place.

Hops that has broken down due to light exposure can impart off flavours into the beer.

Experience has shown that hop makers have about 24 hours to begin to process hops before it begins to break down like a vegetable naturally wood. The keenest brewers get their hops into a kiln and dried asap. 

Homebrewers can actually dry their hops in an ordinary fruit dehydrator.

You can also leave them to dry on a mesh screen in an airy location (with little light). I've read that some people have been known to dry their hops in the oven using a low heat.

Tips on storing fresh hops

It turns out that turns out freezing hops is actually a popular trick with beer brewers!

Quite simply:

  • take your dried beer hops and place them in a zip-lock bag. 
  • remove the excess air and then seal. 
  • grab a Sharpie pen and write on the name of the hops on the bag so you don't forget and then place in the freezer until required.

If you want to go all 'professional' you could use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air.

In such cases, you might not need to freeze the hops if the sealing has been done properly, but it wouldn't hurt.

How to use fresh hops with your beer

You've probably heard of dry hopping right?

That's when you add hops in pellet form to the wort. So if you ever wondered what wet hopping is, it's adding fresh hops to your beer.

And in this case, it's fresh hops you've grown yourself.

Wet hops can be used anywhere in the brewing process, including as a boil addition, whirlpool addition or for dry hopping.

What are some good varieties of hops to grow?

There are all kinds of hop varieties that one can choose from. We recommend these two for simplicities' sake:

Cascade is a very popular choice of hops. This is an extremely popular American hop. Known for it's floral hop trait, it is often likened to a grapefruit. Cascade is known as a versatile hop variety that is popular for bittering, finishing and dry hopping of pale ale and American style beers. It produces a good yield and is considered fairly resistant to diseases.

The rhizomes can be ordered from Amazon.

Fuggle is another popular hop. It has a classic English aroma and provides a well balanced bitterness which makes it a great choice for English and American-Style Ales. It's described as being mild and pleasant, spicy, soft, woody, with some fruit tones.

Basically, it will depend on where you live, what's popular and how easy it is to obtain. Many specialty hoops delivery websites have popped up as the demand for hops plants has grown. Kiwis could try Wild About Hops while many rhizomes can be found on Amazon.

Some hops are protected by intellectual property rights so cannot be grown by those who do not have permission to do so. For this reason, hop plants that are in the public domain are fairly popular with hops growers.

How much wet hops to use with a brew?

This can be a bit of a tricky measurement because fresh hops are called wet hops for a reason - they are made mostly of water - and that can mean all the tables and measurements go out the window if you are trying to work out the exact alpha acid rating for your hops.

That said a general rule has been established - use anywhere between 6 - 10 times the amount of dry hops you would normally use.

Generally speaking, you are using fresh hops to promote aroma and flavor additions to your brew. If you are trying to add bitterness, store brought hops where you can identify their bittering qualities could be the way to go.

Beware the creeping vine of hops!

Hops have a tendency to grow quite rampantly when placed in good growing conditions. They tend to spread and take up every inch of soil that's open to them. That's why many growers recommend that after the final harvest of the hops cones, the plant should be cut back to about three feet and then left to grow back. A good time to do this is at the beginning of winter.

A further trick is to plant your hops 'above ground' that is to say in a container of some kind such as a tub or old kitchen sink so as to help contain the plant's movements across your garden.

How Cryo hops & 'lupulin powder' removes the need for traditional hop pellets

using lupulin to make cryo hops

How lupulin 'Cyro Hops' are changing the beer brewing industry 

The concept of making beer hasn't changed much in several hundred years but the methods recently have. While hops have been used for many a year, one company in America might have found a way for a genuine step change in hop use with their innovation of collecting lupulin powder.

You might already know that lupulin is the part of the hops that brewers utilised to make beers hoppy as that's where the good alpha acids for brewing come from.

In case you didn't know, the alpha acids are converted into bitter iso-alpha acids during the brewing process, and essential oils and are what give beers their varying hoppy qualities.

YCH Hops, a grower-owned hop supplier based in Washington, America has created a new process where the lupulin is extracted from the hops and is collected in powder form and marketed as Cyro Hops.

You might well ask, what's the point of this?

Efficiency gains in making beer are the short answer.

Beer hops are often made into pellets form for distribution and preservation. The process of making the pellets actually breaks down the acids and oils meaning the effect on the beer requires more hops than one perhaps needs. Enter lupulin powder which has the superior percentage of 'herbs and spices' over hop pellets meaning that less quantity is required.
Ekuanot hops are quite popular

YCH boasts that their product "offers twice the resin content of traditional whole-leaf and hop pellet products" which basically means you only need to use half as much.

YCH Hops initially started to market their powdered 'Cyro Hops' with the brand name "LupuLN2" to commercial brewers in America.  The reviews are in and breweries switching as result.

How is lupulin powder made into cryo hops?

The powder extraction process is simple in concept. The collected hops are subjected to cold temperatures inside a nitrogen atmosphere. This limits any oxidation of the sensitive resins and oils in the hop. The hops are 'chilled and milled' and the lupulin is forced from the lupulin gland.

The little guy has not been forgotten though - a small home brewer, you can buy the powder from Amazon!

How to use Cryo Hops

It's dead simple - you can simply dry hop the Cyro hops as you would with your ordinary pellet hops. You don't even need to make a hop tea!
cascade cryo hops

What variety of cyro hops are there?

YCH Hops have produced Mosaic, Ekuanot, Citra, Simcoe and Cascade versions of LupuLN2. 

The benefits of using Cryo Hops

You can see the appeal for commercial brewers - less volume means better storage and transportation costs.

The other benefit of the powder is that their use in place of traditional hops means less 'green material' is left in the beer, improving clarity by reducing sedimentation and better beer brightness.

You can see why home brewers who don't have commercial means of clearing beer will love using the powder!

I haven't found any information how long the powder can be used before it loses its potency.
Given the apparent early success of lupulin powder with the American brewers that have used it, we expect that its popularity will slowly begin to spread across the Continent and then the rest of brewing communities the world over - provided it's sold at a cost-effective price relative to the economics of using traditional hop pellets it should do well - indeed the prices on Amazon seem pretty fair.

Best keg and carboy washer: Mark II

using a keg washer

The Mark II Keg and Carboy washer is ideal for the homebrewer with kegs

Any experienced beer brewer will tell you that cleaning your equipment is one of the most important parts of making beer. If your keg or carboy is dirty, you'll run the risk of contaminating your beer.

This is why keg washers are a handy way to ensure your gear is clean, free of gunk and ready to receive your golden ales.

Kegs washing machines reduces the time it takes to clean and sanitize your kegs, carboys, and buckets and the Mark II Keg Washer is ideal.

To use the Mark II, simply fill the reservoir with cleaner or sanitizer, place the vessel to be cleaned over the sprayer, and plug it in. This great automated device frees you to complete other tasks while it works. You can save on cleaning and sanitizing chemicals, by spraying the cleaning solution on the entire inner surface you use.

The reservoir also contains space to soak small items like airlocks and stoppers.

Here's some reviews by actual users who bought the Mark II washer on Amazon:

"Why didn’t I buy this sooner? The keg and carboy washer is amazing. It works flawlessly and it seems to be built well. After 2 broken backs, no more lifting of full 6.5 gallon carboys is darn appealing. It saves on water and cleaner too. Great investment!"

"A must-have if you use Corny kegs - it gets the valves, diptubes and poppits very clean without having to disassemble, though I still do disassemble after every couple of uses. Saves time with carboys too, though the tough gunk still needs the brush. Haven't used on buckets - no real point IMO."

What's the most popular selling beer on Amazon?

I was amused to discover that you can buy beer on Amazon.

I shouldn't be surprised, beer is beer no matter where it comes from.

But what is the most popular selling beer item on Amazon?

Is it a niche craft beer or an iconic American brew like Budweiser?


It's Stella Artois.

Bud Light is number 5 so I'll give you some credit there but Stella Artois?

I had no idea it was such a popular beer in America! And given how ordering from Amazon is pretty much a way of life in the states, taking Amazon's list of popular selling beers as a proxy for popularity, we see that Stella Artois is a very popular beer in America.

Why is this?

Yes, when served at a cold temperature, it's an easy to drink beer that's pleasant enough.

But in the modern beer drinking climate, where every man and his homebrew kit is a critic, how is this beer Amazon's champion seller?

Legend has it, this beer was first brewed in 1336 as under German Beer Purity Laws and has been produced unchanged ever since.

A little bit of research tells us that Stella Artois has been making great in roads into the American beer market over the last decade. It's said that the beer gain popularity about 20 years ago due to its 5 percent alcohol content and fair price point.

 The beer earned the nickname 'wife beater' due to the connotations of drunken men who've spent all day at the soccer match drink the stuff and then taking whatever their issues were out on their partners.

Steinlager in New Zealand has the same reputation - the concept being traditional mass-produced beers are 4 percent and when drinks switch to 5 percent they cannot handle their piss and do stupid things. We call bullshit, getting drunk is getting drunk and the choices you make are because you are an asshole if you are violent when drunk.

Stella Artois managed to re-brand itself as something a 'bit special' and has an image, especially around the world as a high-end beer.

An example of this is that it was marketed as 'reassuringly expensive' in adds such as the famous 'Papa et fils' add campaign:


But that's not necessarily the reason people drink the beer is that for those that enjoy a quality European style pilsner, Stella Artois fits the bill, especially with it inoffensive Saaz hops.

A bit of brand loyalty in many markets will also play a part.