Skip to main content

How to age hops for less-bitter beers

If you're a fan of hop-forward beer styles like IPAs, Pale Ales, and Imperial ales, you're probably not going to be interested in this post.  Those styles tend to benefit from fresh hops, and as much of them as you can infuse into the beer.  There are other beer styles, like Belgian ales, lambics, and others which aren't hop-forward in nature.  These beers can benefit from more-subdued hops bitterness and flavor which allows their malt character to shine through.  This is where aging can make a difference.

Although I'm familiar with aging wines, cellaring certain beer styles to allow them to age, and even bottle conditioning some home brews to improve the flavor, I'd never heard of aging hops.  At Barley's 20th Annual Meet the Brewers event, I met brewmaster Sam Hickey of Smokehouse Brewing and Lenny Kolada (a co-owner of Smokehouse).  Sam was there with his Brewtus Maximus Belgian Quadrupel (which is an absolutely excellent beer).  I told Sam that I'd brewed three batches of Belgian tripel over the year and they just weren't working out to my taste.  The first used UK Goldings hops and had an unusual bite to the bitterness that I didn't like.  The second used the same recipe, but swapped the UK Goldings for a blend of Styrian Goldings for bitterness and Czech Saaz for flavor and aroma.  That one got much closer to what I wanted, but still wasn't quite right.  The third, which I just put in the fermenter a few days ago, used Northern Brewer, Stryrian, and Saaz.  It also used a different combination of malts and sugars, plus sweet orange peel and coriander.  When he heard my frustration at getting the bittering right, Sam suggested that I might want to look at aging the hops.  I told him I'd not heard of that.

As you're probably aware, the bitter flavoring we normally associate with hops comes from the acids in the hops cones. As these acids are exposed to oxygen, they break down and lose some or most of their bittering capability.  Fortunately, they retain their ability to prevent infection in the beer, which is useful in styles where the bittering isn't as important - like wheat beers, Belgian ales, and others.  Aging hops takes away some of the flavor as well.

To age hops, simply leave them in a dry place like an attic for one to three years.  Keeping them in a brown paper bag is a good way to keep them relatively clean during the aging process.

Aging generally requires whole leaf hops, as pellets don't age as quickly.

Hops aging can be accelerated by placing the hops in a 150-degree Fahrenheit oven for up to twelve hours.  The down-side to this is that it can create a very intense aroma in the house that lingers for days.

There are some suppliers that offer aged hops.  Hops Direct, for example, offers aged hops at a variety of prices in the $5-10 per pound range.

This is something I plan to experiment with.  I will first need to find some whole hops in the varieties I prefer to use in my Belgian ales, then get them aging...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Things I've Learned Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 2

In the last post, I shared an overview of The Grainfather, recommended equipment to use with it, and an overview of the brewing process.  In this installment, I'm going to talk specifically about mashing and sparging. Having brewed over a dozen batches with it, I'm finally becoming very comfortable with the device, the mash process, and how to get what I want out of it. I don't consider myself a "master" of it yet, though. For those who have never done all-grain brewing, I want to provide a quick overview of the mash process itself. Mashing - With or Without The Grainfather The goal of mashing is to turn the starches in the grain into sugars. More specifically, you want to turn the starches into a mix of fermentable and unfermentable sugars that provide the flavor profile associated with the beer you are brewing. A sweeter beer might warrant more unfermentable sugars. A more dry beer will demand few unfermentable sugars. To a great extent, controlling the

Yellow Label Angel Yeast vs. Typical Brewing Yeast

I currently have my second batch of rice wine fermenting with the "magical" yellow-label Angel Yeast from China, and wanted to share some of the more unusual aspects of using it.  If you've never seen or used this yeast, I suspect you're not alone.  It ships in a 500 gram package that looks like this: What makes it "yellow label" is that yellow box you see in the upper left corner of the package.  This implies that it's yeast for distilling (though you do not need to have a still or distill the output to use it).  As I understand it, inside the package is a mix of yeast and other materials which will convert starch into sugar and directly ferment it, without the need for a traditional mash step.  This can radically shorten your brewing time.  For my most-recent batch of rice wine, I heated 3 gallons of water to 155F, poured it over 13+ pounds of uncooked rice straight out of the bag, let that soak for an hour, rehydrated some of this yeast in warm water,

Grainfather Specifications for BeerSmith, Beer Tools Pro, and Other Software

Recently, I've been trying to "dial in" settings in BeerSmith and Beer Tools Pro so that I can do a better job getting my actual brewing results to match up to the figures in the software. Below are some of the figures I've worked out with my US Grainfather. Given manufacturing variances and possible measuring errors on my part, these might not match exactly to yours, but hopefully they're close enough that it will help you. BeerSmith Equipment Profile: Brewhouse Efficiency: 83% (based on my experience, yours may vary) Mash Tun Volume: 8 gallons Mash Tun Weight: 8.82 pounds Mash Tun Specific Heat: 0.12 Cal/gram-deg C Mash Tun Addition: 0 gallons Lauter Tun Losses: 0 gallons Top Up Water for Kettle: 0 gallons Boil Volume: 6.25 gallons Boil Time: 60 minutes Boil Off: 0.40 gallons per hour Cooling Shrinkage: 6% Loss to Trub and Chiller: 0.53 gallons Batch Volume: 5 gallons Fermenter Loss: 0.40 gallons (yours may vary) Whirlpool time: 0 minutes B