On Dry Hopping
Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to fermented, non-carbonated beer. It allows for the hop oils to get into the finished product without adding any bitterness and really accentuates hop aroma. The result will be fresh hop aroma as soon as you pour a glass. IPA’s are always dry hopped and pales ales usually are. Any beer style can be dry hopped if that’s what you want to do, although many styles do not call for it. It’s your beer so it’s up to you! I’ve had dry hopped stouts, kolsch’s, saisons, brown ales, sours and even cider!
A fun way to see if a hop will work as a dry hop for the style you’re making is to do it a on small scale first. Get a commercial example of the beer style you want to dry hop, put some in a french press, add some hop pellets, wait a few minutes and press. The beer will be a little flat but will give you a pretty good idea if dry hopping will work for that beer. This method works with other flavors too, try some ginger or other spice. It will save you time (and beer) by having an general idea if the ingredient will work.
Dry hopping is easy. I like to put my hop pellets in a sanitized muslin bag first. No need to sanitize hops, they are virtually bacteria free. I add the hop bag to my primary fermenter five or so days before packaging. Just open the fermenter and throw them in. It’s always a good idea to wipe some sanitizer on the outside of the fermenter before opening it in a draft free area.
You can rack your beer to a secondary vessel (like a carboy or bucket) before dry hopping. The advantage of this is getting the beer off of the yeast. The yeast can metabolize some of the hop oils and create new flavors, but scrub out some of the aroma via carbon dioxide production. Sometimes I will add the hops just two days into fermentation so the yeast can create these flavors and then add dry hops after fermentation for aroma. The downside to racking to a secondary vessel is oxidation and contamination. I am not a big fan of moving my beer too much for this reason.
What should you be looking for in a dry hop? Most important information can be found on the hop producer’s info sheet, like this one. YCH Hops provides excellent descriptions for their hop varieties. The two things you’ll be most concerned with are the aroma description and total oil content. The higher the oil content the more aroma you will get out of that hop variety. The alpha acid percentage doesn’t really matter when dry hopping because you won’t be boiling the hop.
We like our dry hopped beers here at Bitter & Esters. Two of my favorites are Autumn Red IPA and Charlie’s Brown. Autumn Red is a perfect holiday beer for the hop head in your family. Dry hopped with Mandarina Bavaria and El Dorado hops, it features unique orange and fruit notes.
Charlie’s Brown was written for Bitter & Esters by homebrew guru Charlie Papazian. Charlie dry hops this american brown ale with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops for a wine like quality that balances the richness of the malts.
We also have several hop forward pale ale and IPA recipes. Two awesome ones are our Big Citra IPA (generously hopped with delicious Citra hops) and our Mosaic Pale Ale which showcases the amazing Mosaic hop.
Whatever beer you feel like making, think about adding dry hops to it. It’s a great way to make any recipe your own.