Differences in Hops

I’ve gotten a number of homebrews under my belt. One way I decided to experiment was to make the same beer in terms of malt and process but change the hops. While it’s helpful to read the hop profiles that people have put together the only real way to figure out how I perceive the profiles is to dive in and and see what happens. The basic idea is that I’d be able to pick out differences in how well a hop bitters, flavors and adds aroma when it comes to my taste buds. So far I’ve only done two of these experiments but the results were enlightening!

The Rules

Hop PelletsTo do the experiments such that I could trust the results I needed to have rules in place:

1. The same DME and steeping grains (if used) must be used for all brews in the experiment
2. A standard IBU must defined to hit. I decided on 40 IBU
3. More than two hop additions must happen during the boil. One addition must be at 15 minutes or under
4. Dry hopping will always be 1 week and will be 1 oz
5. Only 1 variety of hops may be used

Experiment 1: Chinook

My first brew for the experiment was all Chinook. I read a bit about the hop and noted the conventional wisdom was that a little goes a long way. What better hop to try than one that most people think can be overdone! The result of a 40 IBU Pale Ale (closing in on IPA) was a beer that was complex enough to stand on it’s own. The bittering was strong and set up for the flavors to follow. The flavoring brought with it pine, earthy notes and a little orange and grapefruit like citrus. One person described it as “orange rind like”. Aroma is where chinook fell down. Dry hopping did not produce the strong aromas that I would have expected from such a potent hop. While present, the aroma was light. All in all this was both a success for the experiment as well as my taste buds.

Experiment 2: Citra

Citra is a very popular hop addition which is spoken of fondly by many homebrewers and avid IPA lovers. As the name implies it has a strong citrus side but also includes a lot of tropical fruit like characteristics. Citra also produced a good, strong bittering. This I expected based on the Chinook results. as both varieties have high alpha acids. However the flavoring and aroma differences were quite shocking. The flavor is much more citrusy than chinook. This itself was not shocking but what did get me was the simplistic nature of the hop when compared with chinook. I found myself highly enjoying the pint to start and, by the time I was 7/8’s through the glass being bored. The complexity that chinook has is not present with citra but more on this in a moment. The aroma that citra gives is strong and inviting. A combination of sharp citrus notes and smooth tropical fruits. Using this in a dry hop mixture seems like it would produce some great things! Unlike chinook it seemed like citra needs mixing to get the complexity that my taste buds want. The flavor and aroma was pretty much the same (and the bittering was bittering as one expects). So by the time the glass was nearing empty I was bored with citra. I think citra shines best when used with other hops, not as a single hop.

Conclusions

I didn’t expect the two to be that different in their usage. I figured there would be differences in flavor and aroma but not as much in the complexity ability. Both produced good beers but, of the two, the chinook based on is easier to drink more than one while the citra based beer is good for a glass (and fades through the glass). In other words the experiment has already proven useful to me and I’m only two hops into it. I’m eager to find out how other hops fit into the puzzle!

Second Homebrew: Great Success!

My first homebrew was an experience that taught me a lot but had poor taste results. My second attempt, an American IPA, turned out much, much better. As one would expect my IPA was full of hoppy goodness. Since I’m still new I decided to use a kit from the fine folks at American Brewmaster. The recipe I used called for Summit, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo. I decided to add Columbus for a short dry hop as a way to make the recipe my own.

Hop Bill

After brewing I kept in primary for 10 days and then racked into a secondary for dry hoping. While I probably didn’t need to move to secondary to dry hop I decided it was worth doing due to my worry about keeping the beer on the trub too long (I know now it takes a lot longer than a few weeks to cause a problem ..). Next I dry hopped in secondary for 4 days. Why four days? Mainly because I really wanted to find out if my brew worked out this time and couldn’t wait. So after four days I racked to my bottle bucket with my carb sugar, filled the bottles and capped.

After 1 week of bottle conditioning I decided to see how well carbonation was coming along. This is what I saw after an aggressive pour.

Test Batch #2

I was happily shocked. I was not expecting so much carbonation so quickly! My first brew never got half that carb’d! Like my first try the aroma was amazing but I knew the kicker would come with a first taste. So I took a few bottles and threw them in the fridge for tasting later.

I pulled the bottle and shared it for a testing. Both of us agreed it was quite good. It cleared up a bit compared to the above picture but it still needed some time to settle. Here is my review (of my own beer so take it with a grain of salt…).

Sciential Ale Labs: Test Batch #2

Appearance

Hazy. Color similar to Lagunitas IPA. A finger and a half of slightly off white head which slowly dissipates into small layer of persistant head.

Smell

Slight pine with earthy/herbal notes. Nothing overpowering. Reminds me more of a pale ale.

Taste

Nice and bitter but balanced well with a malty backbone. There is also a very slight ester profile as well which surprisingly works in the brews favor adding a bit of fruit complexity. The hop profile is hard for me to really explain but the closest comercial beer I can equate the bitterness portion of flavor with would be Sierra Nevada‘s Torpedo. As the ale warmed up the bitterness came through even more. Even nearing room temperature the beer still was tasty!

Mouthfeel

Medium mouthfeel with consistant carbonation. Possibly a little creamier than should be due to things still not being settled.

Overall

Happily surprised. For me this is a pretty unique beer (though is probably pretty common in homebrew circles). My rating is 4/5 stars.

Others

I’ve gotten two pieces of feed back so far on my first successful homebrew. The first was simply “Oh, that’s good!” during the shared tasting. The other was an unsolicited text from a friend when he popped the cap and gave it a whirl: “Your beer is excellent.” That feedback made me feel pretty good.

On Deck

I’ve since brewed an Abbey Dubbel and a single hop American Pale Ale of my own design. Both are in primary. If both of these come through successfully I’ll feel pretty confident in my process.

Trophy: A Nano Brewery

Nestled a bit behind Raleigh’s Central Prison is a new nano brewery which has already been making some waves. It’s name? Trophy Brewing. It is a three barrel brewery which already has plans for minor expansion with pizza planned in the near future. And this is happening in a place where craft beer has been booking and new breweries are opening up left and right. But enough of all the background, let’s get down to the good stuff.

The Place

Right now the size of the place is holding Trophy back. My guess is roughly 30 people can be in there at any one time as long as about half of them are standing. They are working on adding a patio which should open things up a bit.

For now things are tight. The first two times I wanted to stop in the place was so packed I decided to just move on. After a while the traffic will slow down but for now finding the right time to make it in requires luck and some voodoo.

Parking is very limited. It’s probably best to park elsewhere and walk over.

The place has trophies lining the edges of the ceiling as well as trophies for tap handles. The decorations are minimal. Color scheme is woody and slightly retro.

The Beers

Sampled

Trophy Wife

American Pale Ale

Untappd

This was a highly drinkable APA. Generally I like more hop in a pale ale but this take on the style works. A bit sweeter than I would have expected with a much more understated citrus characteristic. So much so that it’s even less than the citrusy west coast IPA styles.

If you wish APA’s would be have less citrus, less hops yet keep the same mouth feel, aroma and a bitterness bite this should be on your list.

Biggest Flirt

Belgian IPA

Untappd

This was, unsurprisingly, my favorite of the tasting due to my love for Belgian style beer. Staying true to the Belgian heritage the brew was not overly hoppy. If it wasn’t for the name I’d have thought it was a lighter in color, general Belgian ale of some kind. Don’t let the IPA in the name fool you. It also was quite low in carbonation. I don’t know if this was a choice or just the will of the yeast. In appearance it was a bit of a turn off but the taste and liveliness of each sip did not suffer.

Best In Show

American Saison

Untappd

I have been on a saison kick and was a bit disappointed in this one. It was just too sweet and not as complex as I’d like in the style. Even the color was different than what I normally see in other saisons.

Don’t misunderstand me the drink is not poorly crafted, just not what I want out of a farmhouse ale.

Note they do specifically call this out as an American Saison. I’m not sure if there is a difference between traditional saisons or not.

Limbo Champ 

American Brown Ale

Untappd

This was the biggest surprise for me. Usually brown ales do nothing at all for me with exception to the CBC Maduro. Limbo Champ adds another exception to my list. Not only did I notice how easy it goes down but was intrigued by the chocolate and toffee notes I usually notice in its stouty brethren. Brown ale purists need not apply.

Eye Catching

The King

Belgian Dubbel

This I’ve yet to have only because they had already ran out of it before I was able to get in! Peanut butter and bananas (brewed with peanuts and includes plenty of esters). Here’s hopping it makes a comeback.

Trophinator

Dopplebock

This I took home in a growler for sampling later. Trophy describes it’s as a “Strong German style lager with notes of caramel and brown sugar.” Can’t wait to try it! It’s mocking me from my fridge.

Conclusion

In a city that has breweries springing up everywhere Trophy is going to need to find it’s nitch to stand out. Brews like The King, Limbo Champ and a few others not listed above show Trophy is willing to embrace the old extreme beer notions and experiment with taste. If they can grow to understand and supply the demand for their concoctions they may be able to take a front seat in a crowded NC beer marketplace.