Monday, December 30, 2013

Meridian Hops - Tasting Notes

A single-hopped Meridian Pale Ale is up for tasting next. These were 6.7% AA pellets that I got from Hop Heaven from the 2012 harvest. Pellets had aromas of apricot/peach with some dankness.

The nose of the finished beer is predominately nectarines and apricots. There is also some pine and some dankness.

The palate finds more peach/nectarine, and maybe a hint of tangerine. This leads into a resinous bite with some pine and dankness. Bitterness is moderate but it hangs around for a bit from the resin.

I'm really liking Meridian. It is predominately stone fruit in flavor, but on the sweeter side (I think of it as nectarines or even apricots while Caliente is more like a red plum). It has a nice bite to it that balances the sweet stone fruit. I think I'd like this best in hoppier styles since it does have a bit of a bite, but I think you can use it as a dry hop in a lot of other styles if you want to get creative (dry-hopped Berliner Weisse, maybe?).

This is a hop that you don't want to use in an underattenuated beer. The sweet nectarine note can be a bit much if you have too much sweetness left in the finished beer.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Caliente Hops - Tasting Notes

A couple of years back I was able to pick up some Caliente hops from Yakima Valley Hops. At the time they were just available in a limited amount as whole leaf hops. Last year YVH had a bigger supply, with both leaf and pellet hops available. I haven't seen anyone else carrying them yet.

I'll be honest - the raw hops themselves really didn't leave me with high hopes based on the smell of them. All I got off the cones was a really generic "hoppy" (i.e., grassy and nondescript), which seemed pretty mild. In the hop's defense, I did get these shipped to me in the middle of a 90+ degree July heatwave, and I'm assuming they were the better part of a year old at that point as well. Still, I couldn't pick up anything specific in the aroma of the hops themselves.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised with the finished beer given what I picked up off the raw hops. The aroma has a little lemon zest and a hint of pine, but it is dominated by a very distinct stone fruit aroma. I got a really nice juicy aroma of fresh peach/nectarine/plum from this hop.

On the palate, the fruitiness is much more subdued. There are notes of peach and lemon, but it's fleeting. It almost reminded me of a flavored seltzer in that respect. As the beer warmed, I started getting a lot more earthy/woody notes coming out. On the flavor side, it seems like Fuggles, but with a bit of fruitiness.

I think this one will pair nicely with Motueka. I could definitely see it as an interesting addition in an English IPA. The fresh plum note makes me want to find a way to combine this with Special B and D-180 in some way as well. Maybe some kind of bastardized dubbel/amber hybrid? This hop was definitely a pleasant surprise from these batches, and I'm definitely looking forward to using it again soon.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Motueka Hops - Tasting Notes

The next batch I'm tasting was brewed with Motueka. These are another fairly new hop from New Zealand. The hops I used for this beer were 7.2% AA and came from from Rebel Brewer. My aroma notes on the pellets themselves was herbal/citrus (noble-like with a citrus kick). I had a note that I really liked the aroma of these pellets and had them earmarked for use in a Pils based on what I was smelling.

The finished beer had aromas of lime and lemongrass. It's citrus, but not explosive, C-hop type citrus. It's definitely softer and more complex, almost like a sweet citrus.

On the palate I still pick up the lime, but it's relatively soft with some faint herbal/floral flavors. Again, it's citrus, but not the typical C-hop grapefruit/passionfruit bitter/juicy citrus. Because it's a bit less assertive of a hop, I got more of the malt flavor coming through.

I don't think Motueka could take the lead role in a hop-bomb, but it would definitely be nice as a supporting note. It's mellow enough where you could use it in place of noble hops in a lager. The flavor is distinct enough where it would probably throw a Pils out of style, but it would definitely make for a refreshing summertime brew. I'm thinking it could also be nice in a hoppy saison, an American wheat or maybe even a wit.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Summit Hops - Tasting Notes

The next set of tasting notes is for a batch that was brewed with Summit. These were 15.5% AA and came from Austin Homebrew Supply. The pellets themselves smelled dank, with herbal/grassy notes and a distinct onion aroma. There was a rather indistinct citrus note behind the dankness, but onion and dank were the main aroma from the hops themselves.

I was surprised by the aroma of the finished beer. There was a huge blast of tangerines with some grapefruit. There is a bit of dankness/spiciness in the nose, but it is way in the back behind the citrus.

The flavor profile is a different story altogether. It's like eating onion rings. It's not overpowering, and I like the taste in general, just not in a beer (especially not in a session beer). I think it's the malty Munich flavor that combines with a savory/spicy onion-garlic note that really reminds me of breaded onion rings. I think I picked up something that reminds me of aged parmesan or asiago as well.

So my thoughts on Summit are, maybe it's only suitable in small quantities, or maybe it's better suited for dry-hopping only. Maybe it would be OK paired with another hop. I just know that while I like the flavors that I'm getting in this beer, I just don't like them in beer.

On the other hand, this beer will likely be awesome to cook with.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hop Shot Hop Extract - Tasting Notes

One of my single-hopped brews was made using Hop Shot hop extract. This is a CO2-extracted hop extract. It is essentially all the "good stuff" from hops with all the vegetative material removed. It still needs to be boiled to isomerize the alpha acids, and it also contains all the hop oils so it can (theoretically) be used for flavor and aroma as well.

I had no real way to gauge the oil content of the extract, so I simply used 40 IBU's worth as FWH, the rest of the syringe at flameout, and then a full syringe as dry hops. The smell of the extract reminded me a lot of "B-Hoppy" hop candies. Much like any other extract, the aroma is clearly hops, but it's not quite the same as smelling the real thing.

The aroma of the beer has citrus, and some dank earthy/oniony notes. The flavor is dank, herbal and resinous. There is some definite onion going on, but nothing like Summit. The onion is not the dominant note, and it doesn't have that real "savory" character that I got from the Summit. In general, I thought the flavor was a little flat for my tastes. I'll be saving this for bittering purposes only from now on.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lambic Wort - An Alternative to Turbid Mashing (?)

I've recently started to dabble in brewing sour beers. Right now I have one house culture going that I built up from dregs from some of my favorite sours (Gueuze Girardin, Gueuze Fond Tradition, and Lost Abbey Red Poppy). I'm just starting to fill up my pipeline of sours now, so it will still be a little while before I have some results to share.

I've heard a few podcasts recently discuss the production of lambic wort. Traditionally, a turbid mash process is followed to produce a starchy, dextrinous wort for the lambic. This ensures that the Brettanomyces will have food to work its magic over the long haul after the other microbes have consumed the simple sugars in the wort. The turbid mash is a rather lengthy process, but given the high enzymatic content of modern malt there are few other options to produce the type of wort you're looking for.

But, to coin a phrase, "Ain't nobody got time for that!". I've heard of other ways around this. Some brewers add flour. Others use a short, high-temperature mash. I haven't tried either, and while they probably get you in the ballpark, I have another approach that I think will get me the results that I'm looking for..

Lambic wort is typically just pilsner malt and unmalted wheat. To get the dextrins, I'm going to do a short, high mash (162F) on the pilsner malt portion of the grain bill. To get the starch, I'm going to steep some flaked wheat separately. After the wheat steeps, I'm going to raise the temp on that fraction of the wort to the 190F ballpark. Once the pilsner mash is done, that will be run off into the wheat wort. This will bring the mash above mashout temps a lot quicker than if I were going to heat the whole thing directly. Hopefully this will lock in the dextrin and starch content by rapidly denaturing any enzymes left in the mash. This will be followed by a short boil just to get about 8-10 IBU's from my hop addition.

If everything goes as planned, then I'll have a batch of lambic wort ready to go in almost as little time as it would take for a batch of extract brew. I'll keep you posted on my results.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rakau Hops - Tasting Notes

Next up are some tasting notes for a single-hopped beer brewed with Rakau. This is one of the fairly new hop varieties coming out of New Zealand. These were 11.4% AA pellets that I got from Rebel Brewer. My aroma notes for the pellets read "grassy, tropical fruit, spice".

The nose of the finished beer has an indistinct "sweet fruit" aroma along the lines of papaya and sweet apples. There are also some perfumy/floral notes.

The palate finds herbal flavors, along with more generic "fruit" flavor. I also pick out some floral and spicy notes along with some resin. Overall, the hop flavor seems kind of muddled and indistinct, although I did get some nice cinnamon flavor as the beer warmed up a bit. The Rakau's not bad, but not something I'd go out of my way for again.

One other thing I noticed is that the Rakau beer had a pretty sharp bitterness. My bittering additions on these beers are a pseudo-FWH, so it's hard to say for sure what kind of results this would give as a 60+ minute addition in an IPA. I have this earmarked to try out in place of Chinook/Columbus/Nugget as a bittering addition in the near future. I'll be sure to report back once I try it out.

Mosaic Hops - Tasting Notes

I'm starting off my series of hop tasting notes with Mosaic. Mosaic is an offspring of Simcoe and has rapidly become a favorite of both craft and homebrewers. You can refer to my previous posts for more details about my recipe and methods for brewing single-hopped beers to trial hop varieties.

The hops I used were 12.3% AA whole cone hops that I got from Freshops. The raw hops smelled grassy, with some sweet fruitiness and a hint of tomato vine.

The nose on the Mosaic beer was very powerful with citrus (I picked up both grapefruit and lime), mango and some pine/dank notes. I also got a hint of onion, but just faintly.

On the palate I get citrus and tropical fruit notes balanced with dank & piney notes. I also pick up faint herbal notes, some anise and a hint of onion/BO. Again, the onion is there, but not overpowering. Bitterness level seems to be middle-of-the-road.

I've used Mosaic in quite a few brews before trying it out in this single-hopped brew. It's interesting that I've never noticed the onion in any beers using Mosaic prior to this. I'm not sure what to attribute that to, but it's something I'll be looking out for in the future.

It's no wonder that Mosaic has become such a huge hit. It just screams "IPA". It's a powerful, oily, complex hop and it tastes fantastic. Every homebrewer who's into hoppy beer should have a pound or two in their freezer.

Single-Hop Beers (Part 2)

So in yesterday's post I gave the basic recipe and philosophy I use for the single-hopped pale ales that I use to trial new hop varieties. Today we'll delve a little bit deeper into the nuts and bolts of the process I follow to be able to crank a bunch of these batches out into a single brewday.

Since this is just a hop trial I'm not really worried about hitting my numbers dead-on. This isn't so much about producing a repeatable product. You just want your batches to be close enough that you can compare one batch to another. This means I don't bother with gravity readings. These are extract batches so there's no reason to be worrying about efficiency.

Also, even though I design my recipe by weight, I measure the extract by volume. I weigh out the first batch for the day in a measuring cup, then I just scoop out my extract for the remaining batches. This is much easier than having to break out the scale for each batch. Hops always get measured out on my gram scale, though. I try to weigh the hops at the beginning of the process so I'm not messing around with that once I hit a good rhythm.

So here's the basic flow of things:

  1. One gallon of water goes in my boil kettle and the burner gets turned on
  2. I start to add & dissolve my extract in the water. I don't wait until the water heats up. It may take a little longer to dissolve the extract this way but there's less risk of scorching (if you keep stirring).
  3. Once all the extract is dissolved I add my FWH.
  4. Once it hits a boil, I set my timer for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes, I kill the heat. As soon as all boiling activity stops I add my flameout hops and stir them in for a minute or two.
  6. At this point I pour the hot wort into a second pot and begin to chill it in that vessel. I rinse out my kettle, then it goes back on the burner.
  7. Repeat steps 1-4
  8. Once batch two hits a boil I return my attention to batch one. At this point it should be cool enough to transfer to the fermenter (usually a 1-gallon jug). Don't worry about the trub, just dump it all in. It doesn't have to be all the way down to pitching temp, just cool enough where you're not going to damage the fermenter or burn yourself.
  9. Rinse the chill vessel. Repeat steps 5-9 for as many batches as you're brewing.
  10. I move all the fermenters into a tub of cold water to get them down the rest of the way to pitching temp.
  11. Pitch about 2-2.5 grams of dry yeast into each fermenter.
  12. Ferment at cool ale temps (low-mid 60's). Add dry hops after 7-10 days.
  13. Bottle about 7 days after adding dry hops.
So that's my basic workflow. After the initial batch is cooling, each additional batch takes me about 30-40 minutes. I'm working indoor on a ceramic stovetop. If you can hit boiling faster than me, you might be able to turn a batch around even quicker.

I can get 6-8 batches done in the time it normally takes for one all-grain brewday. To me, that's what makes the effort worthwhile. I'd be hesitant to waste a full brewday just to try out one new hop. But if I can get a whole series of brews done at once, then it's much easier to justify to myself.

So, now that I've shared the method to my hop madness, it's time to move onto the fruits of my labor - my tasting notes. The majority of these are from test batches I've brewed over the past year or two and were initially posted on the AHA forums. Be sure to check the comments section as I'll be keeping things updated as I use these hops more and more often.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Single-Hop Beers (Part 1)

If I'm going to be running a blog called "The Hop Whisperer", I should really start off by posting about hops, right? There are a lot of new hop varieties that have become available to homebrewers in the past few years. A lot of times all the information you have is a half-sentence description on the website you're looking to buy your hops from. If you really want to know what a hop is all about, then the best way to figure that out is to brew a single-hopped batch of beer with it.

I've done this a few times now and have come up with a recipe and procedure that works pretty well for me. Generally, my goal is to stick to a recipe that will really let the hops shine through, but with enough malt backbone so you get a decent picture of how the hops interact with malt. My secondary goal is to be able to crank out as many batches as possible in a single brewday.

For the sake of efficiency, the recipe I use is an all-extract recipe. The idea is very similar to the "15-minute Pale Ale" recipe as seen on Basic Brewing Video and Beer & Wine Journal. To keep things even simpler, I don't use any steeping grains either. I'm not a big fan of Crystal malt in my pale ales anyways.

Here's a sample recipe. I shoot for 1.055 OG and 40-45 IBU's. That's enough IBU's to get a picture of how the hop works for bittering without being so much that it overshadows the flavor/aroma.

Title: Single Hop Pale Ale

Brew Method: Extract
Style Name: American Pale Ale
Boil Time: 15 min
Batch Size: 0.8 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 1 gallons

Original Gravity: 1.055
Final Gravity: 1.015
ABV (standard): 5.21%
IBU (tinseth): 40.96
SRM (morey): 4.8

0.8 lb - Dry Malt Extract - Extra Light (72.7%)
0.3 lb - Liquid Malt Extract - Munich (27.3%)

0.15 oz - Apollo, Type: Pellet, AA: 18, Use: First Wort, IBU: 40.96
0.25 oz - Apollo, Type: Pellet, AA: 18, Use: Boil for 0 min
0.5 oz - Apollo, Type: Pellet, AA: 18, Use: Dry Hop for 7 days

Fermentis / Safale - American Ale Yeast US-05

Add 2-2.5gm of dry yeast.

This is a 1-gallon preboil batch, which gets me roughly 0.8 gallons into the fermenter after a 15-minute boil. The hopping schedule is designed to maximize the amount of hop flavor and aroma. You'll notice I use a "FWH" addition as opposed to a 15-minute addition. I'm trying to get a little extra flavor contribution here, so the hops go in before the boil. The brewing software I use (Brewer's Friend) calculates FWH IBU's as a 20-minute addition, so I feel that this is a decent approximation of IBU's here.

Also note that for a relatively high AA% hop you can make a batch using a single 1-ounce bag of hops. Low alpha acid hops might take 2 ounces to hit the IBU level you want.

So that's the down & dirty on my recipe. Next up I'll give you a rundown on my procedure and how I get 7 or 8 batches done in the amount of time it normally takes for a typical all-grain brewday.

Click here for Part 2.

By Way of Introduction

Welcome to my new blog, The Hop Whisperer. I've jumped into the homebrewing hobby feet first over the past few years. In that time I've learned quite a bit of useful info through others, and more importantly, through my own experimentation. I plan on sharing what I can through this blog.

I've been an avid craft beer fan for the past two decades. I've spent quite a bit of time honing my palate (see my Critical Tastings blog for some of my tasting notes on commercial beers, as well as chocolate, coffee and a few other things), so picking up homebrewing was a natural extension of that. Honestly, even if I were never to brew another batch of beer, what I've learned from homebrewing has increased my appreciation of beer a hundredfold.

IPA's have long been one of my favorite beer styles, so I immediately started gravitating to hoppy styles when I started homebrewing. I've done a lot of experimenting with different hop varieties, "hopping up" styles that traditionally aren't quite so hop-forward, and pushing the boundaries of what would be considered sane hopping levels. But I'm not solely into hops. I also really enjoy the recipe design aspect of homebrewing, including recipes that fall outside the boundaries of the common beer styles. Hopefully, there will be a little something here for everyone, hophead or not.