Monday, March 18, 2013

Evaluating Taste and Aroma Of New Hops

New hop varieties are raining onto the beer scene in surprising quantities, which is of course great if you're a hophead. However, getting familiar with the flavor and aroma profiles of all these new hops is a task that is worth investigating. As a homebrewer, it could be easy to just brew a batch of beer with a new variety to see how it comes out, but which new varieties to choose from? If you're going to go through the 2-4 week process of producing a beer with the new hop, which one matches your flavor preferences the best?

As my local homebrew club (RIFT) is getting ready to do another round of our Single Hop Beer Experiments, several of us have been looking at all these new hops and wondering which one to claim. In order to help augment the hop selection process, we decided to do a quick-n-dirty technique which Anchor Brewing has used, or at least described in a recent interview. Thanks for the Bertus Brewery blog for inspiring our club to give this a try.

Essentially, the method involves taking a 6 or 12 pack of Bud Light (or other industrial lager), pops the caps off, drops in a few hop pellets, and then recapping the bottle to let the dry hop infuse its oils (more details can be found on the Bertus Brewery page). Granted only the dry hop flavors will be present and not the flavors produced when boiling in a kettle, but its a creative and quick way triage hops.  By using these low-in-flavor stypes of beer as a base, the hop flavor and aroma becomes a focal point without distractions. Plus, since multiple hop varieties can be done all at once, it makes for a great tasting panel to evaluate what the hops might taste or smell like. In other words, a great way to find out if that unknown hop is worth the effort of putting into a full batch of beer.

For the RIFT tasting, we decided on using Narragansett Lager as our base beer since it is local and is not as watered down as Bud Light (which Anchor described). Two or three of us each picked up a six pack and will be dry hopping with hops coordinated from our freezers. The plan was do two bottles per hop variety (so there is enough for everyone to taste) and use both common and uncommon hops (with the common hops acting as a reference flavor). The three hops I'll be doing for the panel are: Amarillo, Northern Brewer, and Newport

After dry hopping my beers last night, the biggest challenge was trying to reseal the twist-off bottles. Since almost all the commercial lagers come with twist-off caps, sealing them back up is a problem.  When I recapped the bottles, most of them began to produce small amounts of foam/fizz from under the cap when the bottles were agitated. I tried recapping a number of times to see if I could get a good seal, but only 2 out of the 6 had great seals. Its gotten me a little worried. 

In an effort to maintain some level of carbonation, I’m going to keep the beers cold during the 3 day dry hop (thereby keeping more CO2 in solution) and minimizing and handling or jostling of the bottles. It seems like a very primitive approach, but if I can just keep enough CO2 in the beer until Thursday (when the club meets), I'll be ok.

If you have any tips of tricks for resealing twist-off bottles or other methods for quickly evaluating hops, please let us know.



“Americans express hops better than anyone.”
-Garrett Oliver


  1. Can't you twist them off, then just twist them back on? I'd use a small towel, but would think it "should" work

  2. Chuck,

    That's a great suggestion and it might just work. I would have certainly given it a try if I had thought of that on Sunday (hindsight is a #$%@). I may try a few other hops after the meeting, in which case I'll attempt to recap with the same twist-off cap.




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