In many craft beers–particularly American styles enjoying a current surge in popularity–hops are the star of the show. You take in an American Pale Ale’s or an IPA’s or a Double IPA’s nose and you’re struck with, above all else, hop aroma. The hops can smell floral, like citrus, piney, herbal, or like many other things. You taste these beers and the hop flavor dominates.
There’s a good chance this hop-centric beer you’re enjoying has been dry hopped by its brewer.
What, exactly, is dry hopping? Dry hopping, simply, is the dumping of hops in the fermenter while your wort ferments.
It doesn’t take long to dry hop: twenty-four to forty-eight hours to achieve the desirable results. The desirable results? A fuller, more present hop aroma.
With the brewing of any beer, hops, whether you dry hop or not, are added in the process of wort boiling. Adding hops to the boiling kettle, bitterness as well as aroma is imparted. Dry hopping is thus an extra, optional step in the brew process, and it can only boost aroma, as no bitterness comes from dry hopping. Boost aroma it will, too. When you use this technique, the hops’ aromatic compounds are better absorbed by the wort than when you boil.
At Kalispell Brewing Co., we dry hop our Cloudcroft IPA, our Trenchant Double IPA, and our Century Brick XPA. According to our brewmaster, Cole, a brewer can dry hop any beer of their choice. Some beer styles work better than others. Stylistically, it makes sense to implement the process in hop-forward beers. It would be ill-suited to a Dunkel or a traditional Scotch Ale, for instance. But the option is there, depending on how the brewer wants to interpret the style guidelines of a beer.
Dry hopping does have one disadvantage. That disadvantage? The hops, soaking in the fermentation vessel, absorb a considerable amount of the fermenting beer. At KBC, we typically lose 25% of our Cloudcroft’s volume to hop absorption, using 4 pounds of hops per finished barrel. In essence, the more hops you use, the more beer you lose.
Most brewers will tell you the popular aroma hops–what our brewmaster calls “the sexy hops”–are best suited to dry hopping: Mosaic, Citra, Galaxy, and other hops with interesting fruity or floral character. We dry hop a lot with Cascade and with CTZ at Kalispell Brewing. So, you might as well come over and assess the results–the results of this simple and effective process known as dry hopping.