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Hops and Kiwi Update

Posted in Beer, Wine on May 21st, 2011 by Chris

The little hop and kiwi plants are starting to stretch out in search of something to grow on. Today, I helped them along with some simple structures. If all goes well this year, I will build something more permanent for them to grow on. For this year though, I wanted something simple and quick.

For the hops, my hope it to have them grow up strings along the side of my barn. I put two hitching rings about 25′ up on the side of my barn. I ran some twine down to some metal hoops I made from scrap steel rod. That way, at the end of the year, I can cut down the twine and throw the whole mess on the compost pile. The hope vine is very rough and grips the twine quite well.

For the kiwi, I ran more twine from the grape arbor to the fence such that it passed directly over the kiwi plants. For added support, I put two stakes in the ground (one at each plant) and secured the line of twine to the stake. The kiwi vines are really spreading out quickly with all the rain we’ve had recently.

As for permanent structures, the hops might require more secure ground anchors and the jute twine will not last more than a year. So, long term better ground ancors and rope are the only thing needed. The kiwi is a different story. I plan to replace the grape arbor and when I do, I’ve lined up the kiwi plants with the existing grape vine so that I can put in posts on either end and run stainless lines for both the grapes and kiwi to grow on for years to come. Of course, all that is pending this years outcome.

With any luck, I’ll get a few kiwi and a handful of hops … but being realistic, this year is more of a test run to understand what I’ll need to provide for the plants next year to get a good harvest. And with a good harvest comes kiwi wine and fresh hop beer!

Here are some pictures. I also took some pictures of the grapes. One is showing the “one year grown” I pruned last year, leaving three buds. You can see the new grown came from those buds. The next is showing the baby grape clusters on the new growth.

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New Plantings

Posted in Beer, Wine on April 23rd, 2011 by Chris

I broke down when I saw the plants at Lowes. I just couldn’t resist. So, we now have kiwis, blueberries, raspberries, and freshly replanted strawberries. All of which I’m sure will be eaten before I even get a chance to brew anything with the fruit. Regardless, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

For the blueberries, I know they need acidic soil. So I planted them in the front yard by a big old pine tree. Pine needles help to increase the acidity of the soil. Other plants have failed to do well in the vicinity. I split some daises and planted a couple bunches under the pine but they have struggled to do anything while the rest spread like weeds. I’m hoping this is a sign of the acidity of the soil. If so, it’s a free place to grow my blueberries without having to add anything to the soil. The only thing better than organic is completely natural!

The kiwi’s came in two pots. One male plant and one female plant. The fruits only form on the female plant but without a pollinator we would get none! So two plants it is … and if they turn out well I can go get another female or two to plant nearby. I planted the kiwi in line with the grapes in our back yard and will need to build something new for them to grow on. Since they’re all in a nice line I’m hoping to build a wire trellis for both the grapes and kiwi to grow along.

The raspberry plant isn’t in the ground yet due to the rain today. We decided to plant it near the strawberries (which badly needed spread out). So, I prepared two spots to move the strawberries by digging out the sod and mixing in a load of composted manure from our manure machines (a pair of mostly retired horses). When I dug up the strawberries they were starting to get overgrown with grass so I couldn’t tell exactly how many would be in there until I started digging them up. There were a lot more than I expected. We got two strawberry plants two years ago and have approximately 30 little plants this spring. They really do spread like crazy. I would highly recommend strawberries to anyone even if you aren’t planning on staying put because they fruit in the first year and within a couple years should spread out and really start producing.

With the rain dying down, I’m hoping to add more compost to the cleared out strawberry patch and plant the raspberries in their place.

So, what to do with all that fruit? I’m not expecting to get an overabundance of any of them this year. The blueberries and raspberries will likely end up for eating only because I don’t expect to get much from one bush each. The kiwi though can produce more than enough fruit from one vine for our family to eat. So, with kiwi are what I’m really banking on for kiwi-wine. And, with some luck, maybe I’ll have some blueberries and raspberries for flavor!

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Brewing Updates

Posted in Beer, Wine on April 20th, 2011 by Chris

It’s been a while since I posted. Life has been busy but good. Here are a few updates into my brewing activities.

First, the most exciting for me, is that the grapes I propagated while I was pruning seem to be doing good. There are two that I am experimenting with different techniques. The first, I had laying on the ground for a year so that it could put roots down. I cut it loose from the main plant. Second, I pushed a small piece of cut vine into the ground and a few buds in the dirt and a few above ground. Fortunately, both seem to have worked because the buds are swelling and should burst open with some leaves. I snapped a quick pictures while I was checking up on them.

Next, the maple wine is past due for another racking but it’s looking good. The color is staying and it’s starting to clear. I’ll probably rack it Saturday and give it a quick taste. It should be nearly completely fermented at this point and aging for flavor. Last year the flavor was harsh this early and so it had to age nearly a year. This batch seemed to be doing better for some reason or another so I’m hoping it’s keeping along those lines when I go to rack it again. Best case, I’ll only have to age it a few months. Worst case, it’ll age a year same as the 2010 wine.

Lastly, Ii was camping with some friends last weekend. We shared home-brews, stories, and new ideas. I picked up a free cooler I plan to make into a mash tun for trying my hand at all grain brewing.I’ll be sure to document the process for you guys as I make that transition. Also came home with enough ideas to keep my brain busy for quite a while.

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Kiwi Wine

Posted in Wine on March 28th, 2011 by Chris

So, I was thinking this evening about what to try next …

The goal here is to try to make beer and wine from things that can be locally grown. One of the more interesting fruit that you may not know can be grown in Ohio is Kiwi. So, what’s more natural than to make some kiwi wine!

Growing kiwi in Ohio will require a cold hardy variety, which aren’t exactly like what you would get in the store. Seems like a good idea to try the wine (even with grocery Kiwis) before investing time in growing them, don’t you think? So, I’ll grab a bag full from the grocery and try it out.

Thinking about kiwi’s makes me think about strawberry-kiwi Snapple … not sure why, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Which brings me to my next fruit of choice … strawberries. We’ve grown strawberries for the past two years with some decent success last year. They tasted awesome … unfortunately, none ever made it into the house as we were eating them faster they they could grow. Something about a fresh ripe home-grown strawberry is completely irresistible. So, while it’s not likely I’ll have enough to make wine into … it’s worth adding some strawberries (even if we have to buy some from a local farm stand) to the kiwi wine.

What says spring better than some strawberry kiwi wine … to bad it’s 10 degrees below freezing tonight. Guess I have some time to plan still.

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How to make Maple Wine

Posted in Wine on March 23rd, 2011 by Chris

Finally, I finished putting together the video on how to make maple wine. The video speaks for itself, if you need recipes I have my current and past recipes listed here:

Maple Wine Recipe 2011

Maple Wine Recipe 2010


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Maple wine racked to secondary

Posted in Wine on March 22nd, 2011 by Chris

Today I racked the 2011 batch of maple wine into the secondary fermenter. The SG at this point is 1.042 … so it’s slightly more than halfway done fermenting. Which means … when you take a glass out to check it’s flavor, be prepared to be knocked over by what tastes like a super sweet mixed drink (not my cup of tea). But if you’re looking for a sugared up Sangria …. go for it.

I did notice a few things that surprised me:

1) The color is a solid yellow … not red, or brown like I was going after this year. I’m not sure I can pinpoint what give it the color because I would of expected the more concentrated maple sap and rooibos tea to give it a darker color. I guess it’s time to do more research.

2) The maple flavor is going away quickly. Even with it only halfway fermented the maple flavor is drowned out by the alcohol. I know with age this will change but didn’t expect it to go away some completely. Only time will tell how the final product will taste. Other than the sweetness, the taste is very good. So, either way … I have no doubt it will taste good.

3) The clarity is that of orange juice. I believe last year it was cloudy but this seems more intense. I’m guessing it will also clear up with enough time racked back and forth. I guess it’s a sign of activity because without the yeast, it started completely clear.

Here are some pictures.

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Maple Wine is Started

Posted in Wine on March 15th, 2011 by Chris

The maple wine for this year is bubbling away now. I boiled it down and put all the ingredients together this weekend. The fermentation picked up today and it’s now well on it’s way to becoming some more awesome wine! The how-to video should be coming as soon as I find time to finish it up … I’m still hoping that will be within the next couple days.

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How to label bottles

Posted in Beer, Wine on March 12th, 2011 by Chris

I documented the labeling process better this time, so sorry to repeat if you’ve already seen this but it’s for the how-to section.

For labeling, I’ve been using some printable pre-glued label paper I found on-line. I’ve had fairly good luck with it and only 1 or 2 times it tried to take up more than one page. I got the label paper here.

To layout the label I’ve been using GIMP, a free photo editor software.

Here are the labels printed up and ready to go.

The next step is to cut them apart. The paper doesn’t have specific perforations so you can layout the labels however you want. I chose to make them a little smaller this time to save paper.

The labels have a dry glue on the back (like stamps used to). So, to stick them to the paper you need to wet them. To do that I have a sponge on a plate soaked with water.

Simply press the label down on the wet sponge. The apply to the bottle and viola, labeled beer.


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Maple Wine Day

Posted in Wine on March 11th, 2011 by Chris

Well, I’m making my 2011 batch of maple wine today.

I collected the sap (over 60 gallons in total, though I’ll only use 20 for wine). Don’t forget to check out the video I did about collecting sap here:

Also, I considered what I changes I wanted to make in the recipe from last year. You can see the recipe for 2011 here:

Today I’m boiling down the sap and starting the wine making process. I’ll be documenting it so don’t forget to check back in a few days for a video on how to make maple wine!

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Maple Wine recipe 2011

Posted in Wine on March 4th, 2011 by Chris

Results: Pending … tasted good as I racked it to the secondary but it still has a long time to go before it’s mature enough to say for sure.

Update: I posted a video on how to make maple wine. You can see it here.

To start, if you need instructions on collecting sap from maple trees, feel free to check out the how-to section. I’ll be making a few changes from last year so I wanted to document them. Here’s the plan for this year.

2011 Maple Wine Recipe

- 20 gallons maple sap (boiled down to 2 gallons) (1.07 SG target)

- ?? cups granulated sugar (to get OG to 1.09)

- 1 lemon, sliced up thin

- 1 cup strong roibos tea

- 1 campden tablet

- 1 packet yeast (K1-V1116)

- Yeast Nutrient


The process:

1. Boil the sap

2. Check specific gravity, and add sugar to adjust to target

3. Add tea, lemon, and campden tablet and let rest overnight

4. Add yeast … AND yeast nutrient

5. Rack into secondary at one weeks, re-rack at one month, and again at three months

6. Bottle at 3 months or bulk age for remainder of 1 year

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