Monday, February 7, 2011

I said a hip HOP.....and you don't stop

A lot has happened since the last post. Much of that involving copious amounts of beer, celebrating, tears, happiness and disappointment. Let's take a quick minute and think about drinking. Drinking beer is really not that fun unless you're with great people enjoying great beer. No one likes to sit there and drink beer by themselves listening to Sugarhill Gang. People do it, but it's really not that fun. You can't play photo hunt by yourself at the bar. You can't enjoy sports with a beer by yourself because there's no one to high five when the Steelers score a TD or the Pens score a goal. Let's face it, when you drink it should be done with more than yourself. Same with brewing beer. It's best done with multiple people. Can't wait to get back with the old crew and talk about brewing beer together.

As I promised last time, this post will be about the wide, wonderful world of hops. Let's hop in (pun intended).

Let's start off easy. What are hops and what do they do?

Hops are the main bittering agent in beer as well as a natural preservative. There are 2 main varieties of hops, bittering and aroma.

  1. Bittering - increased alpha acids 10% by weight / these are added at the start of the boil process
  2. Aroma - lower alpha acids 5% by weight / these are added at the end of the boil process
Now that you know there are 2 main types of hops in brewing and the basic time they are added to the boil let's move onto hopping processes and types of hops.

Bittering Hops
  • These additions are boiled for 45-90 minutes  to isomerize the alpha acids
  • Most common internal boil time here is 60 minutes
  • Usually use 1/2 ounce 
Flavoring Hops
  • These hops are added 20-40 minutes before the end of the boil
  • Most common time is 30 minutes before the boil is over
  • Any hop variety can be used - usually lower alpha varieties are used
  • High alpha varieties that can be used in this rare occasion are Northern Brew and Challenger
  • Small amounts of several varieties are recommended - usually 1/2 ounce of several varieties will be combined at this stage to create a high complex flavor
Finishing Hops
  • These hops are added closer to the end of the boil to retain more hop aroma
  • 1 or more varieties can be used here as well
  • Amounts can vary from 1/4 ounce to 4 ounces depending on the character desired
  • Most people use 1-2 ounces per hop added
  • Finishing hops are added 15 minutes or less before the end of the boil or added at the "knockout" - when heat is turned off
  •  and allowed to steep for 10 minutes
  • In some setups a "hopback" is used but I won't be using this step in my brewing. Mostly because I won't have a heat exchanger or chiller. If you want to know about the hop back you can go to and search it
Next I'll talk a little bit about dry hopping. Dry hopping is not the safer alternative to sex, but it is a different way to add hops to your beer.

Dry Hopping
  • This is when you add hops to the fermenter to increase hop aroma in the final brew step
  • The fermenter is the bucket your beer sits in so the bacteria can do work son.
  • This step, if done, is best done late in the fermentation cycle
  • Usually 1/2 ounce per 5 gallons of beer - rule of thumb
  • After bubbling has slowed and beer is going through conditioning
  • Good idea - add hops to nylon mesh bag to facilitate removing hops
  • High alpha varieties used in this step are usually Centennial, Columbus, and Horizon

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