Ask Mr. Wizard

Hoppy beers without dry hopping

TroubleShooting

Dan Dolan • Hannibal, Missouri asks,
Q

I am an avid brewer and also am a big fan of the hoppy beers brewed by so many US craft brewers. When I try brewing these styles, however, I am disappointed with the hop aroma in my beers and am a bit leery to use dry hopping. What suggestions do you offer?

A

The envelope of hoppiness has been pushed and pushed by US craft brewers over the last thirty years, and the most common trait of these very hoppy brews is the lovely aroma of fresh hops. The preferred technique in making these beers is dry hopping.

I have stated many times in the past that dry hopping does not introduce spoilage organisms to beer and I think the popularity of dry hopping today is good anecdotal evidence in validating the method. There are certainly different schools of thought about how to go about dry hopping, however. Many brewers use pellet hops and others swear by cone hops.

Brewing large volumes of dry hopped beer presents production challenges, both for those brewers using pellets and those using cone hops. If you use pellets, the hops are typically added to the top of the fermenter. This is not a big deal for pub brewers, but breweries with bigger tanks have logistical challenges, such as humping relatively large quantities of hops to the top of the tank. Then there is the issue of gas break out, which is when the beer sometimes begins to fountain out of the tank as the hop pellets dissolve and act as gas nucleation sites for gas release.

Some brewers who use pellets have adopted methods to dissolve the hop pellets in beer or water and then to pump the hop preparation into the beer to be dry hopped. Others have developed hop conveyors to deliver hop pellets to the top of the tank.

Then there are the brewers who only use cones. The method many craft brewers prefer is to use a hop bag to hold the whole cones during the dry hopping process. Some brewers toss the bag through the side of the tank, some hoist big bags up through cone bottom manways and others add them from the top of the tank. This makes hop addition and removal easier than simply dumping in a bunch of loose hops and then having to remove them from the tank after racking. I’ve brewed beers using this method and I can assure you that the cleanup is a major pain in the backside. Several years ago Sierra Nevada started experimenting with ways to sequester hops in a container that beer could be pumped through without having the hops in the fermenter and along came the hop torpedo.

The bottom line is that the hoppiest monsters on the planet use some form of post-kettle hop addition for aroma, and dry hopping seems to be the most common method. I suggest brewing an IPA with a moderate OG, 14.5 °Plato (1.059 SG) is a happy medium between session beer gravity and high gravity beers with more alcohol and esters, a firm bitterness in the 50-60 IBU range and a color somewhere between golden and amber. Dry hop the beer with about 0.4 ounces of hops per gallon of beer (11 g per 3.8 L). It is best to add hops after fermentation is complete, but before the beer has been chilled for any cold aging period that you may use.

Response by Ashton Lewis.