Hops for 2019

Gardening is hard.  You see these pics of people’s gardens online and they are absolutely amazing.   They live in a temperate landscape and they are growing olive trees and pineapple and have fresh oranges for breakfast every day.   Then I look at my garden and wonder why the only thing I can grow is grass and goldenrod.  It’s a time thing, and even though I work from home, I have very little time.  My wife helps but between the two of us we’re lucky to be able to grow anything edible.   We introduced mints to our garden because they were low maintenance.  Not only did they flourish, they’ve gone to the other side and are now weed status.

My beloved hops given to me many years ago are the exception.  I have had them on the same spot of land for close to 15 years and it may be time to relocate or replant the hops.  This year ended up being a low maintenance year.  I watered them well, I encouraged them to grow up the strings but we started with very little sun, a lot of water and not much else.

The ground is probably at the end of it’s nutrient levels.  15 years will strip a lot of nitrogen and minerals along with whatever water is in the area.  The water will replenish but I’m thinking before it gets too much colder I should remove the root system of the hops, add a ton of fertilizer, rototill the heck out of it, and then bed it all down for the winter.


This years batch was barely a pound.  In years past we’ve seen a slow decline from 2 full 5 gallon buckets, down to this pot of hops which will be frozen and probably used in one batch of beer.

Fear not, this leads to more information about hops for next year.


Pennsic 48 brief recap

Pennsic is always a grand event for me.  It’s a chance to see the farthest flung regions of the SCA come together and compare notes of how research is being done on a wide variety of things.  It also gives me the opportunity to pit my product against brewers from not only the East Kingdom but many other Kingdoms as well.

This was the first year I didn’t have my arsenal of alcohol designated for various competitions, but still managed to bring a few bottles of Roman Wine, the last of the Frontenac Wine, Some Mojito Mead, highbush cranberry mead, a half case of Sour Cherry Beer for the King, a Keg of my students Boch Beer and a bit of rum for when I needed a change of pace.


So yes, a pretty small batch.  probably enough to get me through the week.  The weather was fabulous.  First few days was pretty warm but we got a rainstorm half way through the week and that cooled things nicely by the time we were ready to go home.  But let’s not jump the gun.

The first major event was my friend  Elska Á Fjárfelli was at Pennsic.  She’s from Aethelmearc but she enjoys coming to play with us here in the East.  She was doing a “Proto-Beer” demo where she was making malt in an open barrel container using a similair “Hot Stone” process like I did back in winter.

It’s always great to see the similarities and differences on how folks do these projects based on their resources and beer manufacturing source information.  Now I want to buy a barrel and do this.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to do a Kuurna based beer.

Early in the week I dropped a bottle off for another Aethelmearc resident Master Daniel de Calvado who’s opinion I like appreciate on my beverages.  My theory is to learn from as many brewing Laurels as there are because it means that from the sum collection,  my brewing skills will improve greater.

I hadn’t really planned to, but ended up going to the Interkingdom Brewer’s Competition/Meet-n-Greet.  Several years before I had entered the competition with beverages that had scored high in the EK Brewer’s Guilde and I figured it would be alright.  Sadly, the criteria they had was nothing like our local Rubiric and both beverages were graded on a more modern BJCP kind of competition where clarity, bottle fill level, and other such nuances dragged points away from the beverage.  They had both scored as beginner/entry level and I did not know if the judges were having a bad day or what the problem was.  I had asked to see the guidelines concerning the container guidelines and how the fill level guidelines were applicable to the beverage.  They had given me a curt answer that they had no information concerning the judging format.

It had left a bad taste in my mouth, however, I felt it was worth giving it another chance.

I was early but managed to be met with a bunch of folks who were sitting in one tent while judging was in the adjacent tent.  My documentation was filled out and my beverage entered.  Now it was just a matter of sitting and waiting for my turn.  I was one of the first ones called.  We sat and they asked for any documentation so I whipped out my phone and showed them the entire documentation for the Roman/Georgian Wine Experiment.  Their eyes got bigger and bigger as I discussed it while flicking through pics of my process and discussing the results.  Whispers started happening between them and I sat back and waited.  They did bring up the fill level and the clarity of the beverage.  Thankfully both were up to par and they started tallying numbers.

Then they tasted it.  Apparently I made an impression because it scored 99 out of a possible 100.  I asked why it was 99 and they listed that the beverage was very high quality and ticked off the criterias that had been met.  It was scored down 1 point due to the fact that it was not cold enough.  They recommended an ice bucket for the wine next time.

On top of this, they confiscated the bottle.  One of the judges liked it so much that she wanted to serve it at the Midrealm Royal Dinner that night.  I went back to my tent and rushed back to exchange the partial bottle with a full one so that they could fully enjoy the beverage.  They can chill it as they see fit.  So all in all, a much improved score.  I believe that qualifies as a Master level Score in the Interkingdom Judging.  2 more scores like that and then I am qualified to judge the wines category.  Wines/Meads, Beer, and Cordials were the three categories I perceived being judged.  Each requires 3 high scores to be qualified as a judge for that subject.

So I was looking to get into the Bardicci party, both Loadey Toadey and Hoity Toity.  Managed to bribe myself in with a couple bottles of booze.  I was very disapointed in both the attendance and the alcohol choices.

One of my favorite things to do at Pennsic is to go to other people’s bars and I’d like to give a quick shout out to all those wonderful locations:  Horsepiss Tavern, 3 Swans, The Happy Norman, The Chalkman, The Octobar, Gabriel’s Landing, and the Drunken Duck.  Each has their own spin on a Tavern.  Some more period, some less so.  Unfortunately the only one I really didn’t get to was the Drunken Duck because every time I went there (1 time during the day, 2x during the evenings) they were closed.

The East Kindgom Brewer’s Guild also had a numerous amount of  panelings happen.  We broke them up between 2 weeks but we still did about 8 panels each week.  16 beverages got scored in total and several individuals were upped to higher ranks.

Later in the week I ran into Master Daniel again and he informed me that I had an appointment to go see a group of Roman Reenactors and talk with them.  I was surprised by this command appearance request but got a chance to go down to their encampment and talk a bit.  It appears that they were very enamoured with my wine.  I gave them another bottle and was told that their somnier was impressed and that they were doing a donation dinner of a Roman Feast for a charity.  They were intrigued by the process used to make the beverage and would I be interested in possibly trading or bartering for some of the Roman Wine.  Haven’t spoken to them since Pennsic but I’m sure a few bottles will be headed their way.

There was much fun had at Pennsic as always and it gives me new inspiration and hope for greater things to come.  I don’t know what’s next but I imagine it will be amazing.