Dear Mr. Wizard:
I brewed on a Saturday. It was a perfect brew day and everything was going great! Or so I thought. Three hours later it occurred to me that I didn't add the hops to the wort. I rushed to my fermenter and threw in one ounce of Cascade. Was this all right or is my perfect brew a wash? It was a Sam Adams duplicate.
Mr. Wizard replies:
There is not much great news to report on this unfortunate oversight. Hops need to be boiled to convert the insoluble alpha-acids into the soluble iso-alpha-acids. Unless the alpha-acids are "isomerized" during boiling, they will not impart bitterness to beer. Now, if you had added the first hop addition and later forgot to add the aroma hops, then dry hopping in the fermenter would certainly be a viable back-up plan. But unfortunately you forgot the hops entirely.
The hop addition is the most anxiously awaited part of the brew day because of the wonderful aroma that gently wafts from the kettle. I think one of the reasons so many homebrewers and microbrewers make really hoppy beers is so they can intensify the smell of the herb during boiling. So explain again: How the heck could you forget to add the hops? I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to mistakes, but you really opened yourself up to some friendly ribbing with this question!
If you have the appropriate supplies and tools you can correct your mistake after fermentation by adding a pre-isomerized hop extract to your beer. Some large brewers use pre-isomerized hop extracts for bittering and add them either to the kettle or to the beer after fermentation. Most add them after fermentation to minimize losses. Hop losses occur during fermentation when the bittering compounds stick to yeast cell walls and get lost when the sediment falls to the bottom. Some homebrew supply stores sell these compounds, but use them carefully because they are usually very concentrated and it's easy to add too much, which can give you "bitter beer face" in a matter of seconds! If you find a pre-isomerized extract that is very concentrated you can dilute it with a neutral grain spirit like vodka to make it easier to measure out.
By the way, the next time you brew your Sam Adams Boston Lager recipe, try dry hopping with Hallertau Mittelfrüh.That's the variety Boston Beer uses to get that intense, hoppy nose.
Dear Mr. Wizard:
I have been brewing for about seven years. I started with kits, which gave me the confidence to move on to the all-grain brewing process. So far, all of my batches have been drinkable with no major mishaps.
Here's something I have been pondering: Would it be possible to mix your grains with cold water, then put them in the oven at 150 degrees and leave it overnight? A friend of mine did this and it didn't convert. Do you have an idea why not? Also, is it possible to get too much tannin out of the husk with this method? If it goes from 100 degrees to 150 degrees in a period of say, eight hours, wouldn't all the temperature breaks be covered, to make a complete mash?
Mr. Wizard replies:
The oven-mash method can be effective. A very slow increase from 100° to 150° F will give all mash enzymes an opportunity to convert the starches in malted barley into fermentable sugars. But the problem with such a long, slow temperature increase is that the wort may turn out to be too fermentable and will result in a very dry beer. This is how some commercial brewers produce light and dry beers. For example, Anheuser-Busch uses a very long rest (about 3 hours) at around 140° F to make Bud Light. This is the optimal temperature for beta-amylase activity. Extending this rest, coupled with a slow increase to 150° to 158° F for conversion, results in a highly fermentable wort.
I would set my oven at about 162° F to get a slightly higher conversion temperature of about 156° to 158° F. Setting the temperature a bit higher than your target will assure the mash makes it up to temperature. Since the rate of temperature change decreases as the air temperature and mash temperature get closer, it could take a long time to hit your target temperature. Remember that thermometers and thermostats require calibration. My guess is that your friend's oven is out of calibration. This is a common problem with household ovens. If you want to give the oven-mash method a try, you should begin by calibrating your oven with a calibrated thermometer.
The easiest way to calibrate a bi-metallic thermometer (the most common type of household food thermometer) is to make an ice bath. The temperature of an equilibrated mixture of ice and water resulting from the ice melting is 32° F. If the thermometer does not read 32° F, you can calibrate by using its calibration screw or turning the dial. After checking it on the low end, boil some water and check the boiling point. The boiling point of water should be around 212° F. If it's not exactly 212° F, don't worry because boiling point is affected by altitude and atmospheric pressure. Once you know your thermometer is accurate, check the oven dial thermometer against it.
I have never gotten around to trying this method myself. However, I have used a variation on the theme. When I first started homebrewing, I used to mash in a big kitchen pot and would stick the pot in a pre-heated oven to prevent the grains from cooling off during the mash.Your method would be handy if you were staying up late on Friday tasting some good brews. You could mix up your mash, toss it in the oven and get up the next day and finish brewing by noon.
Dear Mr. Wizard:
I have been "full mash" brewing for several years now. A friend and I planted some English hops. They are thriving and will soon be ready for harvest. Can I use fresh hops or do I have to dry them out first? If I can use fresh hops, what are the proportions I should use (for one pound of dried hops, how many pounds of fresh hops should I substitute?)
Mr. Wizard replies:
Fresh, unkilned hops can certainly be used in beer and there is no right or wrong way to use them. I think fresh or "green" hops are best for late-hopping because of the great aroma they impart. They also contain a lot of moisture (about 80 percent) and you would have to use a huge amount for bittering.
The first green-hop beer I ever tasted was a beer brewed by Sierra Nevada called Harvest Ale. It had an intoxicating hop aroma that smelled completely different from a hoppy brew made using kilned hops. The beer itself was pretty intoxicating, too. Its original gravity was around 1.068 but it was so smooth and tasty I thought it was a normal-gravity beer. Oh well!
The key to using fresh hops is to use them immediately after harvesting. Sierra's Harvest Ale was brewed by coordinating the shipment of hops from the hop field directly to the brewery using an overnight express freight service. Grant's in Yakima also makes a beer with fresh hops. Their hop delivery is easy to coordinate since Yakima is in the heart of Washington hop territory.
I have brewed a fresh hop ale for the last two years. The first year, I added about one pound of fresh hops per barrel of wort (31 gallons) right at the end of the boil and got a nice, fresh, hop character. The aroma has a pungent grassy note, kind of like fresh-cut hay. The second year the hop yield was not so great, so I decided to dry hop with the green hops. This time I added two pounds of green hops to one barrel of pale ale. It went from fairly hoppy in the nose to super hoppy! I drank a bottle just the other day; the nose was still intense and the flavor was delicious.
Don't substitute fresh hops for kilned hops in a recipe. I would use the fresh hops for aroma at a fairly heavy-handed rate, keeping in mind that they have a lot of extra weight because they are moist. I have used 3 ounces per 5 gallons with nice results. If your hops are good quality and are used when fresh, you won't be disappointed!
Mr. Wizard, BYO's resident expert, is a leading authority in homebrewing whose identity, like the identity of all superheroes, must be kept confidential. To see more of Mr. Wizard, check out the latest issue of Brew Your Own at better homebrew shops and newsstand locations.