Every year John plans a new brew to use up his homegrown hops. This year he chose to brew a lager beer to put some of his hops into. We’ve discussed the success he has had in competition brewing beer and using homegrown hops despite not knowing the exact alpha acid content of his hops. And he has done quite well. This year is no exception as he brewed up this year’s harvest offering and now he’s focused on dry hopping.
The approach to dry hopping is nothing new. Adding hops to the beer after fermentation is what dry hopping is all about. Attempting to capture the essential oils in your hops, these critical oils are what contribute to the hoppy aroma in our beers. When using home grown hops people get a little concerned over the alpha acid content. When dry hopping the alpha acid content is less critical because its the essential oils that we are after.
You can get a good idea about essential profile by rubbing hops in your hands to generate a little heat and to displace some of those oils out of the hop cone. You can get a sense as you whether the hops will be spicy, floral, herbal or fruity.
John applies his dry hops when he sees that the primary ferment is starting to slow down. The reasoning is that post the bulk of fermentation the pH has dropped in the beer and the yeast have also produced alcohol. That combination is relatively microbial static. Meaning that what ever microbes (yeast, bacteria or molds) are caught up in the hops they won’t really have a chance to flourish in the fermented beer.
Another reason to add your dry hops to the beer before fermentation is complete has to do with oxidation. Whole hop cones have a lot of airspace within them. That void space can lead to some oxidation in the beer post packaging. If you add the dry hops to fermenting beer yes, some of the essential oils get scrubbed out by the CO2, but more importantly the active yeast take up the oxygen for their own metabolism protecting the beer in the process. (And if you think the scrubbing effect is a big deal, then add more hops to compensate!)
John’s last word of advice for dry hopping with homegrown hops is to not be afraid to over do it. In the end, be bold and add more than you think you need. You can’t really have too much aroma can you? But you certainly can have too little!
Stay tuned to future smash beer, BIAB, dry hopping experiments in the near future.