Before I dive into the geekery, I'd like to announce that Rachel and I are parents! Our daughter was born last Sunday and words can't express how happy we are! Whoops, I think we just entered Extreme territory.
Back at the Craft Brewers Conference, I attended a seminar about maximizing hop flavor and aroma. The speaker was Van Havig, QA/QC manager of the Rock Bottom brewpub group, and his presentation detailed a company-wide experiment to assess the effectiveness of various hopping methods. Essentially, 30-some breweries produced the same baseline IPA recipe with varying late hopping procedures (yes, Miller's advertising department, we all add hops several times throughout the process). The experiment was loosely controlled, which was both good and bad. For example, differences in water treatments between breweries led to some interesting data. However, the fact that each brewery was allowed to use its own house yeast strain was - in my opinion - in direct conflict with the purpose of the experiment. Even with its flaws, the investigation was the most ambitious and informative of its kind that I've seen in the craft brewing industry.
For the experiment, each brewery utilized one of the following late hopping methods:
-Method 1: add 1 lb/bbl of hops at the end of the boil.
-Method 2: add 1 lb/bbl of hops at the end of the boil and wait an extra 30 minutes before cooling.
-Method 3: add 1 lb/bbl of dry hops after primary fermentation.
-Method 4: add 0.5 lb/bbl of hops at the end of the boil and wait an extra 30 minutes before cooling, then add 0.5 lb/bbl of dry hops after primary fermentation.
Mr. Havig used formal sensory evaluations, laboratory tests and statistical analyses to determine the impacts of the various methods. Here are some highlights:
-Methods 2 and 4 tied for the strongest hop flavor, which implies (1) that brewers can reach a point of diminishing return with kettle additions and (2) that hot residence time increases hop flavor.
-Methods 3 and 4 tied for the strongest hop aroma, which implies that brewers can reach a point of diminishing return with dry hopping.
-There were significant positive correlations between perceived bitterness, perceived hop flavor and perceived hop aroma.
-The correlation between perceived bitterness and measured IBUs (International Bitterness Units) was insignificant, which implies that our senses measure bitterness differently than industry-standard lab methods.
-There was a significant negative correlation between perceived hop character (flavor, aroma and bitterness) and sulfate concentration, which directly opposes the "Burtonize your water for hoppy beers" theory.
Being the good pseudo-scientist that I am, I decided to brew a Summer IPA using some of these new hypotheses. Here's what I did:
-Raised my water's calcium content with primarily calcium chloride instead of calcium sulfate.
-Added about 65% of the beer's IBUs at the end of the boil.
-Allowed the wort to sit for 30 minutes before cooling (on my homebrew system, I usually start cooling immediately after the boil ends). With the high evaporation rates of most homebrew kettles, DME formation shouldn't be a concern.
-Added 0.5 lb/bbl of dry hops after primary fermentation.
The results: a clean and refreshing beer, but HOLY HOPS!! It blew my previous Pale Ale out of the water. I'm a convert.
The beer was destined for a wedding, so it required a label:
The wedding isn't until June 28th, but the beer is already on the road. Hopefully its massive hop character will pass the tests of time, travel and temperature swings!