Wednesday, March 30, 2011

OCD IPA Dry Hopping

Alright, so for all of you non-brewers out there, here's a little lesson on hops.

Hops are the female flower pod of a cool little climbing plant that grows in the northern hemisphere. I have no idea what the full history is, but apparently, they started putting them in beer as a preservative. However it happened, I'm just glad it did.

Nowadays, hops serve two main functions for beers -- bittering and flavoring/aroma. The bitterness is extracted from the hop when it's boiled. It's believed that it takes around 50 minutes to extract all of the bitterness from the hops, so that's why a typical boil will last for 60 minutes.

As the bitterness is boiled out of the hops, the aroma is lost as well (because it evaporates off). Therefore, hops added at the beginning of the boil will only impart bitterness into the wort, whereas those added toward the end will give it flavoring, some bitterness, and aroma. Dry-hopping is the process of adding hops to the beer after the beer has finished fermenting. Dry-hopping is used to give beers a hoppy aroma without affecting the bitterness or flavor.

While we're talking about hops, here's a couple more fun facts:
  • Hop plants can grow to around 20 feet tall!
  • There are over 70 varieties of hops, each having its own distinct flavor and aroma

Getting back to the OCD IPA, last Thursday (3/24/2011) marked the 18th day of fermentation. Typically, fermentation lasts anywhere from 3-7 days for "regular" beers (i.e. - those around 5% alcohol). Since this beer is a bit "bigger" than a typical beer (and will be closer to 8% alcohol), I wanted to let it go long enough to ensure fermentation was complete before dry-hopping.

I knew it was safe to dry-hop when another gravity reading taken on Thursday was the same as the one I took the previous Sunday -- 1.020. Although the beer was still 10 points away from my target final gravity of 1.010, I was hoping that by racking the beer to a secondary fermenter I would stir up enough yeast to finish the job.

Here's the beer in my new carboy right after I siphoned it out of the primary fermenting bucket, along with the hops I'm going to dry-hop with (2oz of Centennial):

The foam on top of the beer is just some leftover StarSan sanitizer (I made sure the beer didn't splash even the slightest bit while I transferred it).

Here is the dry-hopping:

Back in the closet it goes, next to Cook's Light:

Some more pictures of the hops as the pellets broke apart and started settling to the bottom of the carboy:

As any good newbie brewer must do, I had a sample to try to learn how the flavors will change over time. The beer was still a little sweeter than I like, which was reflected by the gravity, but otherwise, this beer is close enough to the original Ruination for me to be proud of. I'm excited to see how the flavors develop over time, and hopefully it will get even closer to the original, but even if it stays like this I'll be completely happy.

Since I like numbers, here are some quick facts.

At the bar a couple weeks ago I had a Ruination and it ran me $7 for a single bottle.

Ruination sells for $17.50 for a 6-pack at the store. That's $2.92 per beer.

The ingredients for this kit ran me around $60 (I think it was closer to $55, but let's round up). Assuming I'll yield 48 beers from this batch, that would put it at $1.25 per beer. Maybe that's why Jennifer is so supportive of my brewing...

My wife is the bestest ever!!!!  (yeah, she typed that, but it seemed appropriate :) )


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