I have an experiment for you to try. Go to that secret hiding place where you keep the bag of jelly bellies (or maybe it’s skittles? Starburst? Whatever you’re hiding in there.) close your eyes, cover your nose, reach right in and pop one in your mouth. What does it taste like? Now before it’s gone, un-cover your nose. Now, what does it taste like?
I think we all know the importance of smell when it comes to taste. But maybe we take it for granted? Imagine if you couldn’t smell (or… maybe you can’t? If so, ignore me, you humble warrior.), and you picked up a glass of fresh dry-hopped hazy IPA. It wouldn’t taste like much of anything. Truly, beers like that are designed to blast you with aromatics
So, how does this shake out for the brewer? How do we ensure that you, the recipient of our output has a perfect pour? If we work in reverse-
The frothy head on top of a well poured cool glass of beer is the first thing that you come i to contact with. A glass poured all the way to the top will not give you the best experience as the frothy head captures aromatics and shoots them in to your olfactories so that before you’ve even touched the glass to your lips you know what you are going to get. As we previously learned, a large part of why we choose the glassware we use is decided by how the glass will effect the aroma of the beer. This is also why we like a frothy head on top of our beer, those aromatic compounds are trapped there, and released to your senses as you sip.
The beer, especially dry-hopped beer, should be as fresh as possible. The aromatics we tirelessly work to capture degrade relatively quickly. Another experiment: Try buying a six pack of a dry-hopped beer that has a very recent packaging date on it, drink one right away and write down your feelings your beer scrapbook (I know you have one), and then put one away for three months so. Try it again and compare your notes. Completely different!
So, the beer was freshly packed and perfectly poured into the perfect glass. All things prior to these moments are where we brewers put all our efforts to make the best beer we can, and when we’re talking about aromatics, we’re mostly talking about dry-hopping. What’s that, you ask? Simply put, adding hops to fermenting, or finished beer in hopes to capture some of the aromatic oils . While there is a little bit of this from late hop additions during the boil, the compounds are extremely volatile and all but lost during the boil and fermentation. There is no exact science to this, and there are many crazy ways to get them in there. Hop Canons, Hop Torpedos (hence the name Torpedo IPA, from Sierra Nevada ) to The Randall we brewers have spent, and are spending enormous resources to figure out how to make you the dankest aroma bomb you’ve ever had. Dankest? Most Dank?
The largest variable in the equation, is what hop to use? The exact number of strains is impossible to know, as there are many research teams making more clones and strains constantly. Some make it, most don’t. If you want to ruin an afternoon, here’s a list: https://www.brewcabin.com/hop-varieties/ . Much like it’s cousin, marijuana, there are an enormous amount of subtle aromas in these little buggers. Citrus, Pine, Earth, Pepper, Grass, stone-fruit, cat (yes, cat. Like the one that ruins your furniture), pineapple, cherry, cheese, rose, magnolia, geranium….. the list goes on and on. Some of what we choose may be dictated by current trends, by what’s available in the quantity we require, and by historical tradition. But some of us go off the rails from time to time as well. It’s our creative duty as humble brewers. Like the previously mentioned Monks who would boil up some gruel and thank the lord when it fermented, we will throw things in to our beers as well, just to see. Sometimes it’s really good (Have you tried our SHE? Lemon zested deliciousness?), and sometimes… it isn’t so good. We’ll refrain from examples of the latter.
We here at Gyppo love our fruit forward hops, especially for Beach Beer, our Gluten reduced session Ale which uses Amarillo, Citra, Cascade, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. A bonafide hop salad. Come down and try one. Tell us what you think it smells like. And don’t forget to bring your scrapbook.