Bittering hops, does it matter what you use?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by GeeL, Oct 11, 2012.

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  1. GeeL

    GeeL Initiate (0) Aug 27, 2008 Massachusetts

    I was told earlier this week that bittering hops don't impart any flavor, so it's no use using more expensive hops. Just cheap ones, or anything with a higher alpha, regardless of the flavor (citrusy, spicey, etc. doesn't matter) because the flavor boils out and the bitterness remains. In other words, shoot for an IBU. Because flavor is mostly smell, the later additions are what matters.

  2. Homebrew42

    Homebrew42 Initiate (0) Dec 20, 2006 New York

    I used to subscribe to the belief that hops boiled for 30 min or longer yielded no flavor/aroma, but I've experimented with brewing enough at this point to know that this isn't the case.

    For example, I brewed a SMaSH barleywine that was nothing but 100% maris otter and a single hop addition of northern brewer at 60 min, and this clearly resulted in a beer that displayed some northern brewer flavor. Yes, even after 60 min.

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it had a BIG hop flavor like it would have with a late addition, but northern brewer has a distinct flavor, and there was most certainly some component of it still there after 60 min.

    Having observed this, it becomes fairly easy to recognize that if one used a large 30 min addition, you would definitely end up with significant hop character. Would it be the same as if you added the hops at 10 min? Absolutely not, but it would still be there.

    People will continue to argue that hops boiled for 30 min or longer yield no flavor, but having tasted both commercial and homebrewed beers brewed in this manner, I can no longer argue that position.
  3. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Pooh-Bah (2,561) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Then there is the harsh/smooth bittering aspect of a hop variety. Make a beer with a fair amount of IBUs from Chinook then make it with Magnum.
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  4. ggroller

    ggroller Initiate (0) Sep 26, 2004 Pennsylvania

    Agree 100%
  5. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    Of course it matters.
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    If the only hop addition you make is a bittering hop addition then which hop you utilize can have a flavor affect. I once brewed an Altbier with only Spalt hops added for bittering. I used a large amount of Spalt hops (5 ounces) for bittering and there was a significant amount of Spalt flavor; I suspect that I experienced a lot of flavor since I used so much (5 ounces).

    If you brew a beer that has a fair amount of flavor and aroma hops utilized, then the hops used for bittering isn’t quite as important. The hops utilized for the flavor and aroma additions will dominate and you will not be able to perceive the flavor of the bittering hop.

    A number of folks also believe some hops has harsh bittering (e.g., Chinook) and other hops have smoother bittering aspect. In the particular beers that I homebrew I have not noticed this effect. For example, I used Chinook hops many times for bittering a clone of Celebration Ale. I personally did not notice any harshness to the bitterness; in that beer I mostly noticed the flavor/aroma of Cascade/Centennial hops that I generously used for flavor and aroma. If I were to brew a beer where my sole hop addition was Chinook for bittering I may be able to notice a harshness to the bittering.

    So, depending on the beer you are brewing (only bittering hops added vs. a batch where you use flavor/aroma hop additions) the selection of hops for bittering can matter.

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  7. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    And some noble german varieties seems to give a smooth dryness on the tongue vs. bitterness. And a hop like amarillo or citra give a sharp pithy bitterness.
  8. quirkzoo

    quirkzoo Initiate (0) Jul 7, 2011 Colorado

    I think this is the key issue here. It always contributes something, if there are no other hop additions then that small contribution will be more noticeable. If you have several other flavor/aroma additions than the small flavor/aroma from the bittering addition is negligible.
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  9. Unbrewery

    Unbrewery Initiate (0) Dec 28, 2011 Massachusetts

    We're talking a lot about bittering properties of hops, but it's worth noting that there's more to a hop than its AA content. Alpha (and beta, to an extent) acids only make up so much of a hop's weight -- there are other acids and hard and soft resins in there, as well, some of which may contribute characteristic flavors to a finished beer. This is especially true of aged hops, where beta acids and resins provide the bulk of bitterness -- a bitterness which can often be quite different than the bitterness expressed by the same hop's alpha acids.

    (Pretty sure there's a section on this in "Designing Great Beers," for reference, but I might be mistaken.)
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  10. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Not really...if late hopping also and not making something delicate...IMHO
  11. mattsander

    mattsander Initiate (0) Feb 3, 2010 Canada (AB)

    It absolutely does matter which ones you use. Brew two identical recipes and bitter one with warrior and one with columbus to the same IBUs, very eye-opening.
  12. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    "if one used a large 30 min addition, you would definitely end up with significant hop character"

    So...a small 60 min/FWH addition would be something less than significant?
  13. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Pooh-Bah (2,502) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    I tend subscribe the idea that it does. I think you'll pick up subtle hints, and tend to try and make it meld with the overall profile of something.

    For instance, if I have say.... Magnum and Columbus... if I'm going for a citrusy IPA I'll pop the Columbus in there because it'll get me "some", but it's debatable.. It just flows better, IMO.

    If I'm going for a bit cleaner, spicy, herbal... Magnum is good to go!
  14. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I an extent.... I've made plenty of IPAs with Summits (and other intense hops) for bittering that I'd defy anyone to pick long as you don't use them in a SMASH or unblended late.
  15. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Pooh-Bah (2,502) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    Agree.. I've done single hopped beers, and you'd be hard pressed to decide if I used Amarillo for bittering along with Amarillo for every other hop addition.
  16. mrjimcat

    mrjimcat Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2002 New York

  17. Homebrew42

    Homebrew42 Initiate (0) Dec 20, 2006 New York

    Obviously the smaller the addition and the longer you boil it the less flavor it will impart, though some argue that FWHing gives you more flavor than late boil additions, which I personally do not believe.
  18. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Pooh-Bah (2,502) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia

    I don't know about more flavor from FWH, but I have found it to be less sharp.. which perhaps one could argue as less.. noticeable? I'm on board with that idea, but find that I like using FWH and leaving it be, until the next addition, at 30 or less.
  19. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Savant (1,093) Nov 21, 2008 Texas

    It depends. If it's a beer with substantial late additions I'm bit less concerned about the flavor profile contributed by the early "bittering" additions. If the late additions are slight, none or meant to impart a subtler flavors, I am going to consider the greater potential impact of those early additions.
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  20. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Oh shit...I think I inadvertantly started a FWH debate : )
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