And for your enjoyment today, a guest post:
Jake Metzler is a home brewing fanatic who loves to write and share his knowledge with others. When he’s not brewing, you can probably find him rock climbing and/or listening to eighties metal.
As a home brewer, I often find myself latching on to the latest trends in beer. If I see that a commercial brand has just released pomegranate ale or something else I haven’t tried to make, I start researching into how I could make something similar.
Since IPAs have gained popularity over the last few years, I’ve been using a lot of hops in my home brewing. IPAs are noted (and sometimes hated) for their bitterness, since they use a lot of bittering hops, put into the brew during the boiling process when they will release the most alpha acids.
One trend I’ve noticed recently though is the act of dry hopping. When I first came across this term, I was not sure what it meant, since any hops I had ever bought were definitely dried. Turns out that it refers to adding aromatic hops to the brew either late or even after the boiling process. This reduces the amount of acids released and usually results in a floral aroma.
A lot of commercial brands have tried dried hopping in at least one of their brews. Sierra Nevada’s “celebration”, Samuel Adam’s Pale Ale: the list goes on.
Since I am a hops fan, I enjoy dry hopped brews, and have enjoyed experimenting with the technique. Before, I usually focused on the type of hops I used, but now, the point in the process when I add the hops I the most important thing. I’ve added late in boiling, right at the end of primary fermentation, and even in secondary fermentation.
Of course, not everyone enjoys hops as much as I do, and I’ve gotten some people who don’t like the floral aspect of the beers. I haven’t had people say it’s too grassy or oily like many websites warned me, but I have had people say it’s not their style.
The reason I started brewing in the first place is because I like to do things for myself. I figure that the less dependent I am on outside sources, the better. It also gives me a hands-on hobby that I enjoy. So it shouldn’t be surprising that all of this research got me thinking about growing my own hops. I’ve never been much of a gardener, but mostly because I’ve never thought much about it, not because I didn’t want to.
Beer is a motivation though, so last year I decided to get some hops rhizomes and plant them in my back yard. If my research was correct and my luck was good, I would have some homegrown hops in time for my fall brew.
When growing hops, the most important thing is placement. Apparently South-facing is preferred. You want the plant somewhere where the vines will have support. I planted mine near my fence. I dug my holes about a foot deep and put a bit of fertilizer in with it.
In beer brewing, the amounts are always important. You want your ratio of hops to malt to yeast to be right to get the right reactions and flavor. When planting hops, I learned that if you put too much fertilizer, the plants will basically suffocate due to too many chemicals.
Due to some bad weather and what might be a black thumb, I didn’t get any hops last year. But I’m going to be trying again this year. I see it as a way to be even more involved in the process of my beer brewing.
And it turns out, that hops don’t naturally grow all dried and shriveled up. When you grow your own hops, you have to dry them before you use them, which can be done by using a food dehydrator (which always makes me crave jerky), a low-heat oven, or even being set outside on a sunny day. Hops can get too dry though, so you have to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get brittle and brown.
What’s your opinion on hops? Love them? Hate them? Have you tried growing your own?