Imperial, bourbon barrel-aged, brettanomyces inoculated, aged on fresh fruit collaboration brews are innovative, I guess. They certainly are hot button terms. Mash a few of them together, make up a couple words and reference an ancient brewing style and you’re on the forefront of the celebrity brewing movement. Joking aside, there are other ways to throw a curve ball at that same old recipe. One is fairly simple: add more hops.
Specifically, the topic of this post is adding more dry hops. For those unfamiliar with the process, after the beer has been brewed and has finished its first stage of fermentation (referred to as “primary”), the beer is taken off of the accumulated yeast and allowed to condition in secondary fermentation. It is during this stage that you can add more hops to the head space of the fermenter in a process called dry-hopping. The result will be more hop aroma and flavor without all the bitterness that comes with boiling the hops.
During Stone’s Most Bitter Challenge, local beer bar Taps put on a keg of Double dry-hopped Ruination along side a collection of bitter stone beers. It was a perfect opportunity to see how the double dry-hopping process affected this beer with the fresh original recipe side by side.
The result was a softer hop bitterness, as if the dry hops somehow filtered out a course, resinous flavor. At the same time, fruity notes from the hops emerged as the flavor and aroma were significantly increased. Visually, the double dry-hopped version was noticeably hazier than the standard brew. In the end, the Ruination became an incredibly smooth drinking beer; one that may have bee a bit too easy to drink considering the potency that still lay within.
I can’t say this result is unexpected. The majority of hop driven beers today are dry-hopped, so the technique isn’t new. That said, it’s not often you get to try a beer when the dry-hopping is turned up to 11.
Previous examples of double dry-hopping that stand out in my mind happened two ways. Some were completely on purpose while one was a wonderful accident.
Last year, to mark April 20th, the Toad in the Hole requested a special cask of The Kronik Censored from Laguinitas. So many hops were forced into the vessel that the cask couldn’t handle it, bursting open and spewing hops and conditioning beer into the air. A valiant effort was made and the beer was saved. With the threshold for hops having beer established, the rest of the conditioning process went as planned. The result was a rich, malty, incredibly hoppy beer that was like hoppy nectar ready to quench the incredible thirst of crowd that day.
In a similar situation, Bear Republic brought a firkin to the Toad in the Hole during the most recent SF Beer Week. So many hops were forced on top of this Racer 5 that when tapped, the bung spewed hop leaves in the air. As anyone who has been showered with freshly-tapped firkin beer can tell you, the hops were a welcome change of pace. Once again, the resulting beer took the well-known beer and transformed it into something new. Additionally, that something new was much softer on the palate but loaded with hop flavor.
My favorite story of double dry-hopping comes from San Leandro and the brewers at Drake’s Brewing. On a day that started as any other IPA brew day, former brewer Josh Miner (now of Sequoia Brewing), went to a tank of IPA, added 20 lbs of dry-hops needed to brew Drake’s IPA then went back to work. Later that day he again visited the tank and dumped in the 20 lbs of dry-hop that was needed…wait, this sounds familiar. In a stroke of genius, Josh shrugged his shoulders and with a “whatever” continued to allowed the tank to brew. The result was Aroma Coma IPA which went on to take the bronze at the Bistro’s IPA festival.
What are your experiences with double dry-hopping. Should this technique catch on? I’d love to see more double-dry hopped session strength beers, getting the big hop impact without having to take down a 9% Imperial IPA. Your thoughts?
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