Poignancy In The Everyday

This weekend will find me in gorge-ous Hood River, Oregon. We head there annually for My Fine Husband to attend an industry event.

Belle (r) & Hops, nose to nose

We stay on the shores of the Columbia River, in a canine friendly hotel and soak it all in. He gets education and connects with others in his industry (he’s a pro brewer) and I get to see people I know and wander the shoreline with the Kids or work or whatever I feel moves me.

This year is particularly poignant because last year, on this exact trip, our 15+ year old beloved dog died. It was dramatic and fitting all at the same time. Her breed, Labrador Retriever, can’t get enough of water.  We had arrived and were stretching legs having made the 6-hour car trip. She slipped over the bank quicker than we realized and paddled weakly in the Columbia. My husband shouted to me in that EMERGENCY tone – I ran to him, saw her in the water and immediately jumped in. I fished her out of the river, having gotten to her after her head began nodding under the surface, no longer paddling….I can understand how humans lift cars off their loved ones in a panic. Her 65 pounds of limp wet weight was nothing to me in that moment.

Your heart stops at the same time instinct kicks in. I didn’t hesitate for a moment in jumping in this massive river to save her. Thankfully I could touch bottom and we brought her up the bank, settled her head downhill to try to get rid of some of the water she had taken in.

I quickly and strangely enough realized that it was her time to go.

Hops, wondering where Belle has gone.

Even typing this now my emotions well up and I miss her something fierce, caught in the memory of what happened. And how unexpected yet perfectly fitting of an end she had to a wonderfully full and giving life. The vet who answered the late night call was compassionate and professional, which obviously helped ease the pain everyone – Belle included – was feeling.

Why the hell am I sharing this with you?

Because Belle is on my mind and heart. Because there is meaningful poignancy in everyday living. Sometimes we see it, live it viscerally, sometimes we don’t realize what’s happening until we’re in the middle of it and sometimes we don’t see it at all.

How does this relate to Beer?

In my world, everything is related to everything else. Belle, my beloved canine, saw me through the entire launch of my businesses – all of them, beginning in 2002. I knew her longer than I knew My Fine Husband. And she knew me better than anyone else. My Fine Husband fell in love with and got to know dogs because of her. He feels the pain acutely as well, his first death of our beloved immediate family member.

Life without dogs ain’t worth it to me. Life without beer goes on.

Züc, our newest family member, soaking up the sunspot.

When life goes wonky, we need to keep it all in perspective. A family member dying is difficult at best; when it’s a member we truly and deeply love it’s brutal. The celebration of her life this weekend will help us keep moving through it, though the feelings never completely dissipate. Memories of our beloveds, like my friend Walt says, they live in our hearts forever – and isn’t that a great place to be.

Yes. If we can’t be together in life, then we’ll always be connected in our hearts. But damn, I miss her.

Take it all in stride, don’t stress out about things that ultimately don’t matter – like being a beer snob or not being able to get the beer you want at any one time. Life moves. It’s up to us to act with grace and take it all with gratitude, not for granted.

There is poignancy in the everyday. Enjoy it all.

We’ll celebrate her with a memorial picnic, with Hops – the other four legged family member who lived it with us – and our newest family member, Züc. Our humblest effort to cheers a fortunate life well-lived and appreciated.

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Hops Is A Food Product


Noun 1. food product - a substance that can be used or prepared for use as foodfood product– a substance that can be used or prepared for use as food

food, nutrient – any substance that can be metabolized by an animal to give energy and build tissue

Of course they are. What else would they be? Food involves solids, liquids and everything in between. Beverages are still foods. Ask the FDA and USDA and all other governing bodies if you’re in doubt.

As such, hops need to be handled with care and intent that it will be going into bodies. This means that cleanliness, attention to details, standards of operations to ensure quality and safety are all attained.

Our hosts, HopUnion, brought this to the surface at Hop & Brew School, a few weeks ago. It’s prescient to be thoughtful of the fact that ingredients in all facets of creating beer need to be regarded with respect and care.

If they’re mistreated, how do you suppose they’ll perform?

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IBU's Are Not the End All Per Hops Contributions

hops field at Hanley Farms

Cheers today to our very sharing and fun beer friend, David Kapral. His generosity in sharing beer knowledge is greatly appreciated.

Per debate whether IBU has any value, and if so, how much?

I used to work for a major brewer. We used about 12 to 14 varieties of (cone) hops and blended them to maintain IBUs’ Flavor and so forth. Every four months or so, the pilot brewery would make batches of the same beer, each Batch was hopped to 10 IBUS with a single variety of hops, eg one batch had only Tettnang, one was made with only Cascade and so on….One of the batches was made with liquid hops (which stands out).

We then tasted them side by side. What was astounding to me is that the IBU value by itself was not sufficient to predict the bittering and other sensory impacts of the hops. Some were exceptionally draggy and astringent, Some seemed exceptionally bitter, others seemed to have no particular hopping at all! Each individual hop had it’s own peculiar sensory characteristics even though the beer made with it was normalized to 10 IBU’s. To me this was quite enlightening and helped me better appreciate hops, IBU’s and people who have the skill to blend these hops (spices) to come out with a balanced flavor.

So, do IBU’s matter? I am sure they do, but there are other factors to be considered, including individual hop characteristics and the equipment being used (Brewkettle paramaters, quality of boil and style of calandria). These have all been seen to make a dramatic difference in the wort and beer profile, as well as whether the hops are “stewed” or whether the boil has extracted the hop components efficiently. What makes it more interesting is that milling, especially of dark grains, can have a dramatic impact on perceived astringency, sometimes confused with bitterness.

For me at least, IBU measurement, by itself, is not the be all to end all when it comes to the discussion of beer bitterness and balance.

WEB’s follow-up comment: Do IBU’s matter to women?

Answer – to some who are beer geeks, maybe. Usually they simply want to grow their knowledge of all the ingredients, hops are still a mystery to most and they for sure enjoy learning about how hops can impart bitterness and/or aromas.

There is a local hops farm just outside of town and we’ll be taking a field trip there with a second stop at an historic farm that also have hops growing. I’ve volunteered to help tend them…
The point for the consumer is to learn. Therein lies empowerment and support of the passion of the brewers and breweries.

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Hops at Hanley Farms

Eager hops in Southern Oregon

Women Enjoying Beer has been invited to help tend the hops plants at the historic Hanley Farm in Central Point Oregon. This connection came along with a reach out to the Southern Oregon Historical Society. Christina, SOHS, and Richard, Hanley Farm, and I met a few weeks ago.

That visit was followed by another visit, this time to the farm as a result of the meeting. And what a good connection it’s proving to be!

The SOHS, which owns and takes care of this incredible community asset and working farm, wants what WEB also wants: Outreach.

So the hop-ortunity to help them tend and nurture the hops bines up the trainers is a welcome one which will help us learn more about hops, share that knowledge forward to patrons and droppers-by, and each other.

Hops looking for a way to climb

Rest assured this is also a hop-ortunity for WEB to reach out to the hops farmers and growers and industry folks we know to help us get the information right. It stands to be a very mutually beneficial relationship – one we’re excited about!

Take a look at these beauties. As it happens, we do need to replant for some hops that apparently didn’t make it to this year. The great thing is that there are several plants that are really robust and will provide the needed shoots (rhizomes) to divide and conquer.

Poles at the ready to string hops

We’ll head back to the farm regularly, including later this week to make up some easy to read ID tags for the plants and their varieties. So far we’ve found tags that indicate Centennial, Golding, and Sterling hops. What I need is a book that can ID the plants based on leaves, instead of final cone flowers for most accurate accounting (I’ve got the USA Hops Variety Manual already). Any suggestions?

Come visit the hops plants at the farm soon. We’ll be arranging some dates to talk about the hops growing out there too. Stay tuned.

Support your local hops grower!

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