Faster Hop Testing!

BYOB by | May 2013 | Issue #76

Illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

Recently, the Beeradvocate.com homebrewing board has been lighting up with news of a fast and cheap way to explore the nuances of dry-hop character—pop open a Bud Light, drop some hops and re-cap it. Wait, pour and enjoy!

After Anchor Brewing’s senior brewers discussed the technique on the Brewing Network’s “Sunday Session” online radio broadcast, homebrewer Scott Bert tried it himself and wrote about the results on his blog, bertusbrewery.com. Since I’m always looking for educational opportunities for my homebrew club, I grabbed 24 bottles of Anchor’s California Lager, split it among four growlers (heresy, I know) and hit each growler with an ounce of hops.

I went with Anchor’s lager for three reasons: because I’m weary of giving money over to ABI; I really don’t like capping on twist-offs; and lastly, we’re going to create dry-hopped, flavorful beers, so let’s start closer to the desired result. People argue in favor of using the relatively characterless and bland Bud Light to highlight the hops, but I like a more “real” taste experience.

The great thing about this technique is the endless variety. I started with a theme of “Hop Range” and presented: Fuggle for the earthy, Cascade for the citrus, Citra for the tropical and Saaz for the spice. What other themes can you think up?

One other word about the technique—remember, this is going to only give you the dry-hop character, not the boil character. You can certainly infer the impact it will have at other stages, but you never know.

Sampling Recipe
6 neutral beers, 12-ounce bottles, chilled (Bud Light for some, but I prefer a craft lager or Blonde Ale)
6 pellets each of sample hops (for my experiment—Cascade, Citra, Fuggle, Saaz)
6 bottle caps

1. Pop the cap, drop in the pellets and cap—quickly! If the bottles aren’t chilled aggressively, expect massive foaming. In other words, chill the beer first.
2. Invert the bottle to mix in the hops. Allow to settle for one to two weeks.
3. Pop open the bottle and pour the beer through a fine mesh sieve to serve.

For a Crowd
• Use five bottles of beer; gently pour into a cool and sanitized growler. Prevent foaming by having the growler stay a little wet after sanitizing.
• Add the pellets to the growler and seal tightly.
• Invert the growler to mix, and store cold for a week.
• Crack open the growler and decant through a sieve into a pitcher for service.