Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. Basically I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff.
Alright, so this “dry hopping” thing, why do beer lovers get so excited about it?
Hops themselves are exciting, they’re gorgeous to look at, wonderful to smell and they bring so much to beer – bitterness, flavour and aroma. That’s quite the significiant contribution!
Check out – Beer Interpretation #1: Hoppy
Hops, being the magical beasts that they are, get added at various stages of the brewing process and dry hopping is just another way for brewers to use hops.
Dry hopping happens after fermentation, so when the yeast has made bubbles and booze, and it’s done to give the beer a nice big hop aroma. The best examples to see dry hopping in action are beers like pale ales and their extended family, i.e. IPAs, double IPAs, etc, where a full hoppy nose is more than welcome, in fact it’s compulsory!
When hops are added early in the boil it results in the alpha acids in the hops becoming isomerized, which means the alpha acids undergo a chemical change, which results in bitterness. At the other end, after fermentation, dry hopping sees the hops treated a little more kindly. Whilst the temperature will still be warm, it won’t be anywhere near the high temperatures needed for the boil so the hops just hang out for a while, maybe a week, maybe more or less, allowing the intact essential oils from the hops to dissolve into the beer and BOOM, hello wonderful hop aroma.
I get super excited when I stick my nose in a beer and like what I smell, it’s like a prelude for the palate and we all know how significantly taste is impacted by smell. That’s why you’re always hearing beer geeks bang on about glassware, your beer doesn’t want to be caged up inside a bottle, release your beer and all it’s wonders!
The problem with hop aroma is that it starts to fade, pretty much straight away and after a couple of months the aroma faded or changed alot, either way, not what you want. This takes us back to my previous post in this series, “Beer Interpretation #2: Fresh is Best”. Think of it like a fresh mango, when it’s ready to eat you want to grab that sucker and enjoy it, delaying just makes for a sad mango and nobody wants that.
More Reading: A Perfect Pint – Beer School: Hops
Go Buy Some Beer …
Your best bet for big dry hopping is going to be fresh pale ales and IPAs, much like my list for the first post in this series, so grab WA local beers like Feral Hop Hop, Nail Golden Ale*, Eagle Bay Pale Ale, Mash Copy Cat (and also Grasscutter, I had one today and forgot how good it smells!) to taste and smell what dry hopping can do for a beer.
Looking outside of WA, there’s plenty of great options, for instance pick up Mornington IPA (Victoria), Epic Hop Zombie (NZ) or pretty much anything Pirate Life (Adelaide).
*disclaimer: I still work for Nail Brewing