Late Hopping: Tips from the Pros

Hop additions have been pushed back later and later in the brewing process of hoppy beers as brewers look to maximize aroma and flavor. We asked three pro brewers renowned for their hoppy beers how they get the most out of their hops.

Ben Edmunds, Brewmaster at Breakside Brewery in Portland, Oregon

We build on hop flavor through traditional late kettle and whirlpool additions. Even though a lot of the aroma from these charges gets evolved out of wort/beer later on, the residual compounds are important for structure and depth of flavor. Flavors contributed from dry hopping build upon that and provide the majority of the primary flavors in our beers. Judicious use of CO2 hop extract during the boil, mash hopping, dry hopping with whole cone hops, and dry hopping at cooler temperatures all are some more advanced techniques that we’ve used occasionally over the years to drive hop flavor and mouthfeel in certain beers. That said, a traditional hotside schedule with additions at 60 and 10–15 minutes before flameout as well as a whirlpool or 0-minute addition will set you up for a very nice, flavorful, hoppy beer. I also encourage people to use lower alpha hops for late kettle additions — hops in the 6–10% AA range such as Cascade, Amarillo®, and Comet.

We don’t do it for all of our beers, but cooling the wort a bit before adding the whirlpool hops is a technique that allows us to make larger charges of higher-alpha hops in our whirlpool without the concomitant bitterness that a near-boiling addition would bring. I don’t think this has a huge influence on aroma but it allows us to layer soft and rich hop flavors into beers. 

On the subject of aroma, the two most important things anyone can do to make a beer with great hop aroma are dry hop it appropriately and keep oxygen out of the beer. Even a small (>10 ppb) pickup of oxygen at the time of packaging will have immediate deleterious effects on aroma no matter how heavily dry hopped a beer is. 

We vary dry hop additions based on the type of beer and total dry hop load. Our most basic approach would be a standard 2–3 lbs. per barrel (1–1.5 oz./gallon or 8.5–11.5 g/L) dry hop done around 68 °F (20 °C) after a beer is at terminal gravity, typically 5–6 days after brewing. For hazy IPAs and beers with larger dry hop loads (1.5+ oz./gal. or 11.5+ g/L), we usually split the dry hop into two separate charges. Typically, we do 5–6 days of total contact time. 

We’ve seen dry hops as little as 1⁄3 lb. per bbl (0.2 oz./gal. or 1.3 g/L) in a lager have a huge impact on beer aroma, and more is not always more. While a very large dry hop might have some huge short-term aroma impact, it also puts a lot of additional variability into a beer. The hugely dry hopped beer inevitably is going to change more over a 10-, 20-, 30-day period than a beer with a smaller dry hop. That said, our typical dry hop rate for IPAs and other assertive hoppy beers ranges from 2 lbs. per barrel on a mellower pale ale to 5.5 lbs. per barrel (1–2.8 oz./ gal. or 8.5–20.8 g/L) for some double IPAs. Above that, we have not seen much increased impact.

The paradigm in American hoppy beers has shifted to focus primarily on the flavors and aromas driven by Citra®, Simcoe®, and Mosaic®: Tropical fruit, sweet pine, grapefruit, dank, resin, blueberry, mandarin, lavender. The challenge is getting that flavor profile without just using the same three hops over and over. A lot of the New Zealand varieties play well in this realm especially when used as supplemental hops; good Chinook has a lot of overlap with Simcoe® and a lot less mercaptan-derived cattiness; Strata® is the new hop on the block that will join the cool kids club; El Dorado®, Cashmere®, and Comet are all great supporting hops that can be used to great contemporary effect as well. 

Ryan Speyrer, Head Brewer at Parish Brewing Co. in Broussard, Louisiana

At Parish we focus on making flavorful base wort with generous late-hopping additions in the kettle. Many of our beers don’t receive hops until flameout at the earliest, and these additions typically range from 1.25–2 lbs./bbl (0.65–1 oz./gal. or 4.8–8.5 g/L) depending on the recipe. We also perform “sub-iso” additions on some beers (including all of our hazy IPAs), where we cool the wort going into the whirlpool tank to below isomerization temperature and add hops at a similar rate. This technique seems to impart richer citrus and melon flavors from hops that already exhibit those potential flavors.

Most of our hop load goes into the dry hop post-fermentation where we will use quantities from 2 up to 10 lbs./bbl (1–5 oz./gal. or 8.5–42 g/L) in a couple of hop bombs we have made in the past. Moving beyond this threshold we have found a significant rise in vegetal, grassy, and hop astringency imparted to the beer (not to mention tremendous yield losses). The later you add the hops in the brewhouse, the more aromatics will be retained in the wort. Generous flameout additions and cooling the wort in the whirlpool before adding even more hops all contribute to aroma. There is no getting around dry hopping to get maximum hop aroma in your beer, however. The active fermentation off-gassing by the yeast will have a scrubbing effect on some of those more volatile hop aroma compounds, so some loss will be observed between the brewhouse and post-fermentation. Conversely, yeast contact with the hops can provide interesting flavor changes via biotransformation whereby certain yeast strains can chemically alter hop aroma oils into new compounds with different flavor profiles. 

We add dry hops as soon as primary fermentation is complete and we have pitched any yeast that needs to come from the tank for other batches. We cold crash the tank after removing the yeast and start dumping trub from the bottom of the tank before transfer. Keeping contact with the hops warm will impart undesirable grassy and vegetal notes to the beer, especially with very heavily dry-hopped beers, so we consider the cold crashing step to be more important than simply looking at contact time. We’ve found two days is all that’s needed for most of the flavor to come from dry hop additions.

Jeremy Wirtes, Co-Founder/Director of Brewing Operations at Triple Crossing Brewing Co. in Richmond, Virginia

For us, we place heavy emphasis on dry hopping, and more specifically, hop aroma/quality out of the bag prior to dry hopping. If it smells great out of the bag, chances are it’ll show up in the beer. We dry hop most beers twice with two separate additions days apart to ensure we get the aroma we’re after. We’ll hit the beer with its first round just prior to the tail end of fermentation, and then another round roughly 3–4 days later to get both ends of the dry hop spectrum. We use 3–4 days contact time, which also seems to allow for any hop creep to occur if it’s going to, which with our house UK ale yeast, we don’t often see. Surprisingly enough, with the cleaner Chico yeast we use for our West Coast IPAs and pale ales, we occasionally find hop creep that will throw low levels of diacetyl, which requires some waiting for the yeast to clean up after themselves prior to cold crashing the tank.

We look for both complementary hop character (Amarillo® and Simcoe® are pretty classic in that regard), but we also really like looking for opposing hop character as well, as in Citra® and Columbus, or Mosaic® and Falconer’s Flight®. We just started hop selection last year and that has been an entirely new learning experience for us. 

We haven’t yet explored anything north of 6 lbs./barrel (3.2 oz. /gal. or 23 g/L) in dry hop additions, but that doesn’t mean we won’t. One of the greatest things about homebrewing is that you can do ridiculous money wasting things and even if it doesn’t turn out, it’s not your rent or mortgage payment. We have a 7-barrel system we use as a proving/testing ground for many different beers, and we dump a fair amount of them that don’t work out because our 20-barrel production site helps to keep the lights on. Maintaining the freedom to take a chance or trial out something in brewing both commercially and at home is key, in my opinion. 

Issue: October 2020