Hop crop 2012

Fig 1: Cascade in Spring 2012

Eureka, this is my hop crop report for 2012. The report from last year can be found here. I currently have four hop varieties: Hallertauer Mittelfrüh (since 2011), Northern Brewer (since 2011), Cascade and East Kent Goldings (both since 2012). And one plant of each variety. As the Hallertauer and Northern Brewer plants were in their second year, I hoped to finally be able to harvest some hops. I missed the right time to harvest the hops last year and got only a few grams of each variety. I bought two additional hop varieties this 2012 Spring (Cascade and East Kent Goldings) to have some very fresh aromatic hops available in the future. However, I did not expect a huge amount of both varieties in their first year.

Fig 2: Northern Brewer in Fall before crop

Well, the two varieties from last year (Northern Brewer and Hallertauer) grew very well (Fig 2). The Cascade and East Kent Golding plants grew as well but nothing compared to the two older varieties. However, I could harvest some hops of each variety by the end of August 2012 and beginning of September.

Fig 3: Fresh Northern Brewer hops

Fig 4: Fresh East Kent Goldings hops

Fig 5: Fresh Cascade hops

My hop crop for 2012:
– Northern Brewer: 1044 g (wet hops)
– East Kent Goldings: 80 g (wet)
– Cascade: 188 g (wet)
– Hallertauer Mittelfrüh: roughly 1’500 g (wet)

After cropping the hops, I left them on some screens to let the cones dry. Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact weight of the dried hops after the drying process. I assume the weight of the dried cones is somewhat like 10% of the wet mass.

I already used 150 g of dried Hallertauer hops for a kind of harvest ale (#64 Belgian Vienna Brown Harvest Ale). The remaining Hallertauer hops are in a well ventilated place to oxidize them and use them for sour ales in the future. The Cascade, East Kent Goldings and Northern Brewer hops are in vacuum sealed bags in my refrigerator. For further use…

I am quite happy about the 2012 hop crop. I finally got some fresh hops and used them for a recipe already. By the way, the Belgian Vienna Brown Harvest Ale I was talking about previously was my first batch where I used hop leaves instead of hop pellets. However, I still prefer hop pellets because the hop leaves do not settle down to the bottom of the kettle during the whirlpool as easily as the hop pellets do.

Dry hopping vs. bitterness

Eureka, its time for another experiment. But not about yeast this time… Sorry! The following experiment is all about hops and their role during dry hopping and bitterness. All started with a batch of Pale Ale where I tried the first wort hopping technique and added some hops for dry hopping (100 g of 14% AA Simcoe to 22 L (5.8 gal)). And the tasting revealed an overpowering bitterness. And some really grassy notes as well. This made me wonder how the bitterness could increase to such a high level in the first place. And there are two possible explanations in my opinion: The first wort hopping technique or the dry hopping. And this experiment was to find out, if the dry hopping can increase the bitterness in some way. Some say that the bitterness only increases when the hops are boiled and the alpha acids isomerize. Others say that the bitterness can increase as well if the hops are not boiled. Lets find out how is right.

What I did was the following: I took a Vodka and diluted it down to have 400 mL of a 5% alcohol solution. I did so to have the same amount of alcohol like you would have it in an average beer. Using pure Vodka could lead to false conclusions since the higher alcohol content could extract different/less/more compounds from the hops. I then added 100 mL of the diluted Vodka to a bottle each and added some Simcoe hops to have the following hops to volume ratio: 4 g L-1, 8 g L-1, 16 g L-1 and 32 g L-1. Common rates for dry hopping are in the range of 3.9- to 7.8 g L-1 (according to Calagione Sam mentioned in “Extreme brewing”).

03/02/12: Added 14% alpha acid Simcoe hops to the four bottles according to the mass to volume ratios mentioned above. I stored the bottles at room temperature at a dark place for nearly three weeks before a tasting.

03/22/12: The tasting begun. I first start with the color differences of the liquids. It could be easily observed that a higher amount of hops lead to a darker, more orange pronounced color (Fig 1). Unfortunately, there is a light difference between the two bottles shown in Fig 1 (brighter on the left side). Nevertheless, there was a difference.

Fig 1: Hop infused Vodka, 4 g hops per liter (left), 8 g per liter (right)

Then the tasting. I have to mention first, this was by far the worst tasting ever! I advice you not to replicate these results. It was just horrible. But step by step:

4 g L-1: At the lower end of the dry hopping rates. Alcohol was easy detectable, very faint hop aroma. Maybe some hints of oranges. And the taste was just bitter. Not overpowering, but bitter.

8 g L-1: At the higher end of dry hopping rates. More intense hop aroma than the previous one. Very grassy. And the taste was just horrible. Just like eating a hop pellet. And it was definitely more bitter than the previous one as well.

16 g L-1: Extreme hoping rate 1. Orange notes in the aroma. Floral notes as well. This one is my favorite of the four concerning the aroma. And the bitterness was comparable with the one before.

32 g L-1: Extreme hoping rate 2. Floral notes, very aromatic hop aroma. The aroma is too intense for my taste. And again, the bitterness is very similar to the one before.

To conclude, the intensity of the aroma increases with the amount of the hops you add for dry hopping. I guess this is no surprise. What I am a bit more surprised is the fact, that the bitterness increases with the amount of hops as well. But only to a level of 8 g per liter of liquid. Further addition of hops does not increase the bitterness. Or at least not in a way that I could taste it. I have to mention here that I am talking about perceived bitterness not IBUs. I have no idea about the IBUs of the four samples.

Lets assume the IBUs of the different beers are the same if we consider that the IBUs originate from isomerized hops. Lets further assume that no isomerization happened during the experiment. How could we explain the increase in bitterness now? One possibility could be the extraction of compounds from the hops by the alcohol present. This would imply that further compound(s) in the hops can increase the bittering sensation. And basically lead to the conclusion that a higher amount of dry hops can increase the bitterness. Not the IBUs but the perceived bitterness.

I assumed that hops for dry hopping could maybe just add a bit of bitterness. But here we are talking about huge impacts. The liquids with the highest amounts of hops tasted like liquid hop pellets… I am still not really convinced here. Maybe this is just something happening only in the used Vodka-based liquids. It is therefore advisable to replicate these results using a fermented barley-based liquid. However, I conclude that a higher amount of hops in a Vodka-based liquid leads to an increasing perceived bitterness (can’t tell if the IBUs increased).

Please let me know if anyone out there has an idea what happened here or if you obtained different/same results as well. Cheers and stay tuned for further post.

Hop growing 2011

Hallertauer Mittelfrüh

Eureka, time for another post about a cool project. Today, growing your own hops in the garden.

As I am a very interested in gardening as well (like carnivorous plants and such), I purchased a Northern Brewer and a Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hop plant from Germany. After they arrived, I planted them into big buckets and installed a kind of climbing aid for the plants. I used normal strings for that. The hop harvest 2011 begun.

Northern Brewer plant on the left and Hallertauer on the right

After some watering and caring, the plants begun to grow.

The Northern Brewer plant grew very rapidly and I could collect nearly 200 g of hops in the Fall. Unfortunately I picked them too late and they already turned yellow and had a very musty smell after drying. But I vacuum-packed them anyway and are still in my refrigerator for a brew or an experiment. I really did not expect to have so many hops as it was the first year and the summer was very dry at my place. So I had to do a lot of watering…

The Hallertauer plant was a bit a troublemaker. After several weeks, I could observe a few lice and I used a soap-water-mixture to get rid of them. But they did not seem to care about that. So I added some alcohol to the mixture and sprayed the plant every second day until I finally got rid of the lice. The plant lost all its leaves in the region of the lice attack but continued to grow after all. Thats why there are now leaves at the lower part of the right plant in the picture on the right. And I could not harvest any hops as well…

In addition to the two plants, I purchased a Cascade rhizome and planted it right after I got it. But I could not see any growth after all. The rhizome is still in the soil and will try to get it to grow this year. I have to mention that I purchased the rhizome late in the season… But the hop season 2012 is near to begin and I’ll buy myself another Cascade plant for sure. Maybe some other cool variety like Centennial or East Kent Golding?

I hop(e) that I can brew my first harvest ale in 2012 with freshly harvested hops. That would be awesome.