Quickly Evaluating Hops

Sometimes it’s just not practical to do a full brew in order to try out a particular hop, or judge one against another. I stumbled upon a method while searching for info on hop teas that seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d never thought of doing it before. Take some fairly bland shop bought lager and dry hop it with a few pellets!

Bud light seemed the obvious first choice as its light character and lack of flavour would allow the hops to really come out, but it’s still relatively expensive. Instead, I bought a 10 pack of French premium lager from a cut price supermarket chain and used that instead. Uncapping each one, I dropped 1g of hop pellets and recapped it, marking which hop was in that particular bottle. Word of warning – cheap beer comes in cheap glass. I managed to shatter one bottle while recapping, only ending up with 9 samples at the end of it. I also had a couple of different leaf hops I wanted to try, so I put in 1g of them in to their own bottles also.

Hops used were:

  • Simcoe
  • Mittlefruh
  • Cascade
  • Mosaic
  • Ekuanot
  • Chinook
  • Nelson Sauvin
  • Endeavour (leaf)
  • Pilgrim (leaf)

I left them warm for 3 days and then popped them in the fridge for a day. Everything had settled out by then, though there were still some leafy bits floating in the Pilgrim and Endeavour. It’s definitely easier to do this with pellets as it’s a simple matter of decanting, however a small sieve/tea strainer over the glass kept the vegetation at bay.

The leaf hops were quite old (2016) and it was clearly evident. They ended up as drain pour, but not until I’d at least made some notes. +1 for going with the 30p per bottle option!

Results – all dry hopped to 4g/litre

Pilgrim: Light citrus, quite woody.
Endeavour: Also woody, some dark berry flavours.

I’d like to try both of these with fresher hops, and maybe being leaf it leached more grassy flavours into the beer. They both had a hay bale type of aroma that wasn’t particularly pleasant.

Chinook: Very strong pine/resinous aroma and flavour – dank. Grapefruit citrus.
Cascade: Lemon zest flavour. Not quite as strong in aroma punch as Chinook.
Mittlefruh: Very spicy, both on the nose and flavour. All spice (clove, nutmeg, cinnamon)
Simcoe: Tropical/passion fruit.
Ekuanot: Lower aroma punch, slightly floral. Citrus and tropical fruit flavour.
Nelson Sauvin: Grape skin aroma and resinous flavours.
Mosaic: Very resinous with some blueberry flavours.

After trying them all separately I started mixing different hops together. Simcoe & Mosaic and Simcoe & Nelson were both very good. Chinook & Cascade seemed to mellow each other out for a pleasant citrus character.

Not only did I manage to get some profiles from each hop, I also gleaned some info in to how much to use. While they were all dry hopped with the same weight of pellet, it was clear that different hops need different rates. Mosaic and Ekuanot work better at lower doses, particularly Mosaic – a wonderful hop when used more sparingly, I think. You could probably push Simcoe to much higher levels before the effect starts to verge on unpleasant. Maybe I’ll dig deeper into the different levels of each of the terpenes in the hop oils to see if there are any conclusions to draw there.

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