What is Dry-Hopping?

Hops
Hops

If you’ve been trying beer for a while, you may have heard the term “dry-hopping”, but what is dry-hopping, and how does it affect your beer?

Let’s discuss hops.  In the beginning of beer, hops were not the primary bittering agent or preservative.  Instead, other ingredients were used, including a mixture of herbs called gruit that was regulated by rulers, and was taxed heavily.

After some time of being excessively taxed, brewers began to look for other additives that would allow them to preserve and balance the beer without the excessive taxation of gruit.  That’s when hops were discovered for use in beer.  Initially, they were added mainly as a preservative, and were used in styles such as Pale Ales and India Pale Ales.  Also, at the same time, beer drinkers began to like the hop flavor and aroma, and brewers began to use hops exclusively, and even began adding hops during other parts of the brewing process to enhance the flavor and aroma.

Fast forward about a hundred years, when beer-lovers in America started enjoying these hop-accentuated styles.  After some time, we loved the flavor and aroma of hops so much, we expanded the use in hops even further.

Normally, hops are used in the brewing process during the boiling of the liquid, also known as wort (pronounced wert), to balance the flavor, so the finished beer is not overly sweet.  After the wort has been boiled, it is cooled, and the yeast is added to convert the wort into beer.

The idea of dry-hopping is to enhance the hop flavor and aroma of the finished beer.  Because the oils in the hop cone are volatile, the aroma tends to boil off during the boiling of the wort, and escape from the fermentation vessel when carbon dioxide is created and released.  By the time the beer is finished, there is still some aroma left, but to enhance this, brewers add hops to the finished beer.  This allows the hop oils to saturate the beer, and improve the finished hop aroma and flavor.

What types of beer styles are usually dry-hopped?  As just mentioned, Pale Ales and India Pale Ales are the usual suspects, but any time the brewer wants to enhance the hop flavor and aroma, dry-hopping is used.  Some of my favorites include Saisons and a few Irish Red Ales .

Personally, I recently created an IPA, and dry-hopped using Simcoe hops.  It ended up being my most hop fragrant home-brewed beer to date, and I can’t say enough great things about dry-hopping!

So, the next time you see that a certain beer is “dry-hopped”, you now know that you should expect to have a great flowery/citrusy/floral hop aroma and flavor to enhance your beer.

Now that you are an expert on dry-hopping, what’s your favorite dry-hopped beer?

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