Where Do Brewing Hops Come From?

Hops Being HarvestedHops are the flowers from the plant known as humulus lupulus. The hops plant sends up vines (technically “bines”) in the spring, which may climb as high as 20 feet or more. Since only the flowers are used in the brewing process, only the female hops plants have commercial value for brewers.

 

Where Do Brewing Hops Grow

Brewing hops grow best between the latitudes of about 35 and 55 degrees. This translates to a strip ranging across roughly the northern two-thirds of the US and most of continental Europe. If you live in this zone, you may be able to grow hops yourself.

Many traditional beer styles are characterized by the variety of hops that grow in a given region. For example, American ales, such as American IPAs, typically exhibit characteristics of hops grown in the Pacific Northwest – notes of citrus and pine are common. The majority of brewing hops grown in the US come from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Examples of American hops include Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Willamette.

There are a number of hop varieties specific to continental Europe. The noble hop varieties (Hallertau, Tettnang, Saaz, Spalt) all come from Germany and the Czech Republic, and are most often found in traditional European styles like German ales, German lagers, and Czech lagers. Many Belgian beers feature these same hops, as well as Styrian Goldings from the region of the former Yugoslavia.

The UK is another popular hop growing region. Fuggles, East Kent Golding, and Bramling Cross are natural choices if brewing English bitters, porters, barleywines, or stouts.

In recent years, brewing hop production has increased in the southern hemisphere. Hops grown in places you might not expect have started to hit the market: Chile, Argentina, New Zealand. Sierra Nevada pays tribute to some of these distant hop growers with their Southern Hemisphere Harvest IPA.

 

From the Growing Fields to Your Home BreweryShop Brewing Hops

At the end of the growing season, hops are harvested by machine or by hand, then processed either into pellets or packed in whole cone form. They’re usually pressed into bales for easy shipping and storage.

At some point in this process, the hops may go to a broker who effectively buys the hops from farmers and then distributes them to the various buyers: breweries, homebrew shops, and other hop suppliers.

Throughout this process, hops must be stored cold in order to preserve their flavor and bittering characteristics. This makes sure that by the time the hops hit your brew kettle, they’re just as fresh as they were when they left the field!

Have you ever grown your own hops? What are some of your favorite hop varieties?

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

How to Clear Your Beer with Gelatin

Gelatin to clear beer.Using gelatin is a very effective way to clear beer. But what is it, and how does it work?

 

What is Gelatin?

Gelatin is derived from animal collagen. Now, hold on to your stomachs for a second. Collagen is a protein found in connective tissue like tendons, bones, cartilage, and skin. It’s processed (heated) to form gelatin, which is then purified for use in the food industry.

Now, before you go all PETA on me, keep in mind that collagen is found in many foods – meat (in its natural state), desserts, and candy – as well as cosmetics. But if the idea of an animal-based product in your beer freaks you out, remember that whatever gelatin you add to the beer will settle out completely. Still, if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan you may want to avoid using gelatin to clear your beer altogether. For the rest of us carnivores, gelatin is perfectly acceptable way to get a bright, clear beer.

 

How Does Gelatin Work?

When mixed with water, gelatin creates a thin, positively charged solution. When added to the beer, it attracts negatively charged particles – yeast and protein – which clump together. Their collective mass helps them settle to the bottom of the fermenter or keg.

Gelatin works best in combination with other finings, like Irish moss, a fining agent that gets added during the boil. Essentially, Irish moss will help protein coagulate at the end of the boil. Whatever doesn’t settle out in the cold break will then have another opportunity when the gelatin is added at the end of fermentation.

Ready to improve the clarity of your homebrew? Find step-by-step instructions for using gelatin in your homemade beer below:Shop Irish Moss

 

How to Use Gelatin to Clear Your Beer

About two days before bottling or kegging:

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, then allow to cool to about 150˚F or below.
  2. Measure out the recommended amount of gelatin for the batch size of beer you’re making (typical dosage is 1 tsp. per 5 gallons) and dissolve in the water.
  3. Pour the gelatin/water mixture into your fermenter and wait two days for the beer to clear. You may wish to cold crash to accelerate clearing.
  4. Bottle or keg as usual.

Some homebrewers add gelatin directly to the keg or bottle the beer immediately after adding, but personally, I’d rather give it a chance to settle out in the fermenter before bottling or kegging. Either way, gelatin is an effective tool for improving the appearance of your homebrew.

Do you use gelatin to clear your beer? What other techniques do you use to improve beer clarity?

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David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Is Reusing Yeast Cake From A Homebrew Fermentation Okay?

Reusing Yeast Cake When Homebrewing.After bottling a batch of beer, many homebrewers have looked at that inch-deep layer of yeast and wondered, “Hey, isn’t there something I can do with all that yeast?” As a matter of fact, there is!

When we think about reusing yeast cake, our natural inclination is to pour another batch of wort right onto it and let ‘er rip. Why not save a few bucks, right? While it is possible to be successful with this strategy, there are a number of factors to consider when reusing yeast cake. Among others, these include:

 

  • Is the style of homebrew appropriate for the yeast being used? If pitching wort onto an existing yeast cake, the styles of the two beers should be relatively similar. Many American and English ale yeasts can be used interchangeably to produce a variety of ales, so you could probably get away with using an ale yeast to make another ale. The same thing with many of the European lager strains. The main exception is with very distinctive yeast strains,Shop Conical Fermenter especially those for Belgian ales and German hefeweizen. You’d be safe if reusing yeast cake from an English pale ale to ferment an American stout, but you obviously wouldn’t want to use a Belgian strain to ferment an English pale ale (though you may end up with a very tasty Belgian pale!).
  • How long has the beer been sitting on the yeast cake to be reused? The longer the beer has been sitting on the yeast, the greater the number of yeast cells that may be mutated or dead. Dead and mutated yeast cells can contribute off-flavors to your beer, so if you plan on reusing yeast cake, use one that has only been in primary for a short amount of time (7-10 days).
  • What was the gravity of the original beer? High gravity fermentations and the alcohol produced from them stress yeast more than lower gravity fermentations. And yeast stress leads to – you guessed it – off-flavors. You’d be better off pitching a high gravity wort onto the yeast cake from a low – to mid – gravity fermentation.
  • How hoppy was the original beer? The amount of hops in the first beer can influence the second. You generally want to pitch a hoppier beer onto a yeast cake from a less hoppy beer (e.g. pitch an IPA onto the yeast cake of a pale ale), otherwise you may end up with excessive hop bitterness or flavor.
  • What color are the two beers?Shop Liquid Beer Yeast As with hops and bitterness, the color of the first beer can influence the second one. To avoid a change in beer color, pitch a darker wort onto the yeast cake from a lighter beer. For example, pitch a stout onto the yeast cake of an amber ale.

 

Other issues that come into play when reusing yeast cake include accurately predicting the number of yeast cells being pitched and whether there was any infection in the original batch. For these reasons, it may be worth starting with a batch of fresh beer yeast. If you really want to reuse yeast cake, consider harvesting and washing the yeast to reduce the impact of dead yeast cells, beer color, and bitterness, and then use a calculator like Mr. Malty to get an estimate of how much yeast slurry to pitch into the second beer. And as always when working with beer yeast, practice impeccable sanitation techniques to avoid contaminating the yeast.

Have you ever pitched onto an old yeast cake? How did it work out? Shop Temp Probe

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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

Home Brewing With Hops: A Simple Resource Guide

Beer Wort Boiling HopsWithout hops, most beers would be unrecognizable. Hops are both a preservative and a bittering agent, and their oils are responsible for much of the flavor and aroma found in beer. Whether you prefer a malty beer or you’re a full-blown hop-head, home brewing with hops is a critical part of making beer at home.

Here are a number of resources to get you started on your journey of learning all about home brewing with hops:

 

About Hops

  • The Anatomy of the Hop – Hops, as used in homebrewing, are the flower of the humulus lupulus This post explains what it is about the hop flowers that make them so valuable to brewers.
  • What are Noble Hops? – You’ll often hear the term “noble hops” if you enjoy brewing traditional beers from Europe. Learn what makes these kinds of hops so high and mighty.
  • A Quick Guide to American Hops – What makes American hops different from other hops? What are some popular American hop varieties you can use in your American IPA, American pale ale, or American stout?

 

About Hop Bitterness Shop Hops

  • How to Calculate the IBUs of Your Homebrew – International Bittering Units (IBUs) are a measurement of the bitterness in beer. It’s a factor of how much alpha acid is extracted and isomerized into the wort.

 

About Hop Flavor and Aroma

  • Understanding Hop Oils – Hop oils are the seemingly magical ingredients that give beers a wide range of flavor and aroma characteristics, from citrus and pine, to grapefruit and herbal. Learn more about hop oils and how to maximize their contribution to your homebrew.
  • How to Dry Hop in a Homebrew KegShop Bazooka ScreenSome homebrewers like to dry hop right in the keg. Learn how to do this so you don’t end up with a bunch of hops in your pint glass.

 

Hoppy Extract & Partial Mash Beer Recipe Kits

 

Hoppy All-Grain Beer Recipes

 

Hoppy Home Brewing Resources

Want to learn even more about hops? If after mastering the topics above you still want to learn more, I suggest the following:

Is there something you want to learn about home brewing with hops that isn’t covered here? Share in the comments below!Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
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David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Pellet Hops vs Whole Leaf – Which is Better?

pellet hops and whole leaf hopsAmong the “this or that” debates of homebrewing, the question of whether to use pellet hops or whole leaf hops is primarily a matter of personal preference. But, there are a few things to consider when deciding what kind of hops to use when brewing.

 

Pellet Hops vs Whole Leaf

The term “whole leaf” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to talking about hops. Brewers use the flowering part of the hop plant, often called a cone or a strobile. When hops are harvested, the pinecone-shaped flowers are picked by hand or with a machine. Then the hops are dried in an oast. Next, if the hops are being processed into pellets, the hop cones get milled and pressed into pellets. Finally, the hops are pressed into bales, vacuum packaged, sealed, and stored cold.

One of the main arguments against using pellet hops in your beer is that heat generated during the pelletizing process can degrade the quality of the hops, but most any modern hops farm will take precautions against this. You can be confident that any of the major hop producers you buy from have taken care to prevent any degradation due to pelletizing of the hops.

Without further delay, below are several of the pros and cons of pellet hops vs whole leaf.

 

Pellet Hops: Pros Shop Hops

  • Less plant material means less wort gets lost in the kettle trub, improving brewhouse efficiency.
  • Pellet hops offer slightly higher hop utilization, meaning more IBU bang for your buck.
  • Pellet hops store well.
  • Pellet hops are readily available.

 

Pellet Hops: Cons

  • The processing of the pellets may damage some of the aroma compounds in the hops. That said, with modern harvesting and processing techniques, actual damage is likely negligible. Hop pellets are used by brewers all over the world.
  • Since the hop material is shredded, it can sometimes clog spigots and tubing. A bazooka screen can be installed inside the brew kettle to protect against this.

 

Leaf Hops: Pros Shop Bazooka Screen

  • Whole leaf hops can be used as a filter bed when drawing wort from the brew kettle.
  • Whole leaf hops are the best option if brewing a wet hop beer.
  • Some think whole leaf hops offer better flavor and aroma characteristics. Sierra Nevada uses exclusively whole leaf hops. Randy Mosher, author of Radical Brewing, also prefers whole leaf hops.

 

Leaf Hops: Cons

  • Whole leaf hops take up more space in storage and in the brewing kettle.
  • Whole leaf hops offer slightly less hop utilization than pellet hops.
  • Whole leaf hops may not always be available or their selection may be more limited.

 

There you have it. There are some of the pro’s and con’s of pellet hops vs whole leaf hops. As you can see they are somewhat minor, even thought there is a minority who believe whole leaf is the only way to go. In the end, both can be used to make excellent beer.Shop Hop Bags

So what’s your preference – pellet hops or whole leaf?

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David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

Sweet! Home Brewing With Chocolate

Home Brewing With ChocolateAmong the many different herbs, spices, and flavor additives that can be used to make creative and intriguing homebrews, chocolate is one of the most tantalizing. Is it chocolate’s antioxidant power? Its aphrodisiac properties? Whatever the reason, millions of people around the world find chocolate irresistible, so why not put it in beer?

When home brewing with chocolate, it’s important to consider the balance between the chocolate and flavors of the base beer style. You would probably use a light hand if adding a note of chocolate to a pale ale, for example, but for a porter or a stout, you can be more liberal, as the chocolate will blend into the dark roasted flavors of the darker beer. Most people eat chocolate that has been sweetened, so you also consider supporting the chocolate flavors with some sweet caramel malt, unfermentable lactose sugar, or residual malt sugars derived from a higher mash temperature.

It’s also a good idea to think about the color impact of home brewing with chocolate. “Dry-hopping” your beer with cacao nibs will impart less color than boiling cocoa powder or baker’s chocolate. Again, brewing a chocolate porter or stout will leave more room for error than a paler beer style.

 

Below, find six of the best ways for home brewing with chocolate:Shop Beer Flavorings

  1. Chocolate malt – Before experimenting with adding actual chocolate to your beer, be sure to consider the possibilities of achieving the flavor your want with chocolate malt. No, chocolate malt isn’t made with chocolate. A skilled maltster is able to manipulate roasting temperatures to bring out chocolate flavors, yet keep the malted barley from tasting too burnt or bitter. Chocolate malt is roasted beyond the sweeter caramel malts, but shy of the more heavily roasted black patent malt or roasted barley. Use chocolate malt for as much as 10% of the grist in porter and stouts. In smaller amounts, it’s also an effective way to adjust beer color. Also consider experimenting with chocolate wheat and chocolate rye.
  1. Chocolate syrup – Chocolate syrup is a convenient and effective means of adding chocolate flavor to your homebrew. It can be adding directly to the boil or during secondary fermentation. Due to its sugar content, it can even be used for priming (1 cup per five-gallon batch). For best results, make sure the syrup is fat-free.
  1. Cocoa powder – Cocoa powder is the finely ground, unsweetened beans of the cacao plant. Cocoa powder can be added to the mash or the boil, but contributes a fairly subtle flavor and may have problems dissolving. Double check to make sure your powder is made from pure cocoa, and start by using two to four ounces in a five-gallon batch. Shop Malted Grains
  1. Chocolate bars/baker’s chocolate – Chocolate bars can also be added to the boil, but be careful what kind you use. Many of these bars have high fat content or other additives that can negatively affect your beer. For best results, melt the bars before mixing into the kettle. Use 2 oz. of baker’s chocolate as a starting point for a stout.
  1. Chocolate liqueur – Chocolate liqueur, often sold as crème de cacao, is a great way of adding chocolate to your homebrew. It’s sterile, and it offers the ability to add measured doses of chocolate flavor post fermentation. Read more about Bottling Homebrewing with Flavored Liqueur.
  1. Cocoa nibsCocoa nibs are roughly crushed cocoa beans. They’re great for “dry-hopping” your beer to give it a subtle, nutty chocolate flavor. When used this way, they impart little color to your beer. Three or four ounces of cocoa nibs is a good starting point for a five-gallon batch.

 

Interested in trying your hand a home brewing with chocolate? Try this Chocolate Milk Stout! Shop Steam Freak Kits

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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

The Essentials Of Adding Fruit To Beer

Results of adding fruit to beerWith the spring and summer seasons come the harvest of strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and more. Why not experiment a bit and make something a little different – your own seasonal brew? These warmer months are ideal for adding fruit to beer.

Before you start throwing apples and oranges in the brew kettle through, it’s a good idea to think about how much fruit to use and where to add it in the brewing process.

Here are some suggestions for adding fruit to beer:

First, try a few commercial fruit beers and think about how much fruit flavor you want in yours. Several craft beers on the market are made with fruit, with flavors intensities ranging from barely noticeable to a full-frontal assault. Some examples include: Pyramid Apricot Ale, Sweetwater Blue, and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon. New Belgium has released a sour beer called Pluot, made with a hybrid of the plum and the apricot.

So do you want just a hint of fruit flavor, or something more dominating? Think about where you want to be on that range for your batch of fruit beer. Depending on the fruit in question, you may want to start with half a pound or so of fruit per gallon and work your way up from there.

Next, pick your beer recipe as your base style. Fruit beers work well with pale ales and wheat beers, but also dark beers in some cases. Raspberry works well in stouts, especially when combined with chocolate. Pick out a recipe kit that you think might fit with your fruit of choice, or develop your own recipe.

 

Shop Steam Freak KitsPeel, puree, or juice?

Next, think about how you want to add fruit to beer. In some cases, such as when brewing a Belgian Wit, a little citrus peel is enough to impact the flavor of the brew. Orange is the most common, but why not experiment with lemon, lime, or grapefruit? Adding peel will likely contribute more bitterness than fruit flavor.

In my experience, adding fruit to beer in secondary fermentation is an effective way to get fruit flavor into a beer. The exact method for preparing the fruit will vary depending on the fruit in question and whether it’s fresh or frozen fruit you are adding to the beer. Fresh fruit should be peeled, frozen, and thawed, while frozen fruit should just be thawed to avoid shocking the yeast in the fermenter.

You could also add fruit juice or puree to the secondary fermenter. I suggest using 100% juice without preservatives or artificial colors and flavorings. Start with a cup or so of fruit juice or puree in a 5 gallon batch for a subtle flavor, or more for something more intense.

Shop FerMonsterWhether you add whole fruit, pureed fruit, or fruit juice to your beer, keep in mind that some of the sugars in the fruit will ferment, raising the alcohol content of your homebrew and possibly adding fermentation time to the process.

 

Fruit Extract

Another way of adding fruit to beer is to use fruit extract and add a few drops to each beer bottle on bottling day. You may want to take a sample of beer and play with ratios to figure out how many drops each bottle should get.

 

Fruit Liqueurs

Fruit liqueur can be used as both a flavoring and a priming agent. Instead of priming with corn sugar, the sugar found in liqueurs is enough to carbonate your beer. Marty Nachel points out that “One 750ml bottle contains just about enough sugar to prime a 5-gallon batch of beer. Because the actual sugar contents of any liqueur depends on the company that made it (although it more likely has too little sugar than too much), you may want to add another ounce or two of dextrose to be sure.”

Shop Liqueur FlavoringsHave you every tried adding fruit to beer? How did it turn out? Share in the comments below!

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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

What Are Noble Hops?

Noble HopsPerhaps the most celebrated ingredient in American craft beer is the hop. It’s what gives beer its bitter quality, and it also contributes to flavor and aroma. The hop makes classic American Pale Ales citrusy, floral, or piney.

Many homebrewers have heard the term noble hops. But what are noble hops, and what makes them so noble?

 

NOBLE HOPS
There definition has become somewhat vague and diluted throughout time, but in general, noble hops are traditional European hop varieties. They are generally characterized as having low alpha acids and subtle aromatic qualities. As such, noble hop varieties are most suitable in low IBU beers and traditional European styles, especially lagers. Though there is some debate about exactly which varieties are noble hops, it’s generally agreed that there are four that fit solidly into the category. Here is a the noble hop list along with their basic characteristics:

 

  • Shop HopsHallertauer - Hallertauer hops are grown in the Hallertau region of Germany, north of Munich. Germany produces a significant portion of the world’s crop and most of these are grown in Hallertau. Hallertauer hops are noted for their floral and spicy flavor and aroma characteristics and are popular in European lagers, especially German Pilsners. (Alpha acids: 3.0-6.0%)
  • Tettnanger – Tettnanger hops are grown in Tettnang, Germany (see a trend here?). They are a good aroma hop and noted for their spicy and fruity character. (Alpha acids: 3.5-5.5%)
  • Spalt – Also grown in Germany, Spalt hops are known for their complex aromatic qualities with floral and spicy notes, similar to Tettnanger. (Alpha acids: 4.0-7.0%)
  • Saaz – Authentic Saaz hops are grown in Czech Bohemia, near the town of Žatec. They have a distinct floral aroma with a slightly spicy flavor and are traditionally used in Pilsners. Pilsner Urquell is a classic example of a Bohemian Pilsner brewed with Saaz hops. (Alpha acids: 3.0-6.0%)

 

These noble hop varieties are grown in the US, but much like grapes, hops have distinct characteristics based on their local terroir. As a result, those hop varieties grown in the US are not usually considered noble hops.

 

NOBLE HOP SUBSTITUTES
Shop Hop BagsA number of hop varieties are considered to be acceptable substitutes for noble hops, and some are even related to them genetically:

 

  • English Fuggles – Fuggles is a low alpha acid, earthy hop, typical of traditional English ales. It works fairly well in place of Tettnanger. (Alpha acid: 3.0-5.0%)
  • Liberty – Derived from Hallertauer, Liberty is a fruity and floral hop. It’s a possible substitute for both Tettnanger and Hallertauer. (Alpha acids: 3.0-6.0%)
  • Mt. Hood – Also a descendant of Hallertauer, this clean and herbal hop is typically grown in Oregon. It’s similar to Hallertauer and Liberty. (Alpha acids: 4.0-6.5%)
  • Vanguard – Vanguard is a slightly spicy hop, similar to Saaz and Hallertauer. (Alpha acids: 5.0-7.0%)
  • Willamette – Derived from Fuggles, Willamette is also grown in Oregon. It is an earthy and spicy hop and can often be used in place of Tettnanger. (Alpha acids: 4.5-7.0%)

 

Want to experiment with some different hop varieties?

Shop Steam Freak KitsHomebrew ingredient kits include all the hops required for a 5 gallon batch, but you can also order individual kinds of hops on E.C. Kraus. Simply go to the product Pelletized Hops, then select the type of hop you need.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Increasing Beer Head Retention And Body

Increasing beer head retentionAre you looking for a more foam and body in your homebrew? Drinking a beer that has poor head or no head at all, or is thin and non-lasting can be a disappointment. As a homebrewing you want a beer with a foamy head that lasts and leaves behind some lace on the side of the glass.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do, like utilizing certain specialty and adjunct grains. By using these grains you will be increasing beer head retention and body.

 

What are specialty grains and adjunct grains?

It’s easy to get hung up on nomenclature, but it’s really quite simple. A specialty grain is anything other than the base malt used to make beer. They can contribute flavor or color to your homebrew. They are used in smaller proportions relative to the total grain bill. Examples of specialty grains include caramel malt and black malt.

Adjunct grains are a type of specialty grain, anything other that malted barley, that are used to make beer. They typically contributed additional fermentable sugar to the beer. Examples include wheat, rye, oats, spelt, corn, and rice. Specialty grains used for increasing beer head retention and body often have higher protein content than barley, which contributes to body. Specialty grains and adjunct grains are typically added to the mash or, in the case of extract beers, steeped as a specialty grain along with some base malt.Shop Barley Grains

Without further delay, here are some of the most commonly used specialty grains used for increasing beer head retention and body.

 

  • Caramel maltCaramel malt is high in unfermentable dextrins, or complex sugars. When these sugars remain in the beer, they help contribute to a full mouthfeel. Adding caramel malt, taking note of the color and flavor contributed by the grain, is one way to enhance the body of your beer.
  • Carapils — Like caramel malt, Carapils (Briess’s brand name dextrin malt) is high in dextrins, but unlike caramel malt, it is light in color, so it will do little to affect the color or flavor of your beer. Use up to about half a pound in a five-gallon batch for more body and increasing beer head retention.
  • Wheat — Imagine a thick, chewy hefeweizen. That creamy body and the billowy head on top of the beer are thanks to the wheat. There are a few choices when choosing wheat: White malted wheat, red malted wheat, torrified wheat, unmalted wheat, and flaked. You can also use a Midnight Wheat in darker beers. Use about 10% wheat to add some body to a pale ale. As much as 50% or more can be used in wheat beers such as hefeweizens and berliner weisse. Malted, flaked, or torrified wheat can be added directly to the mash; raw, unmalted wheat will need to be cooked first.Shop All Grain System
  • Oats — Oats are another adjunct grain used for increasing beer head retention and body. It’s most often found in beers like saisons, wits, and oatmeal stouts. Flaked oats are pressed between hot rollers to make the sugars more accessible, but if you’re not too concerned about gravity points, straight oats from the store work well too. Use at most about 25% flaked oats in a grain bill. Most beer recipes will have 5-15% oats.
  • Rye — Like oats, rye can increase body, but might contribute to an oily character. People often describe rye as spicy, but there’s some debate over whether it’s mistaken for the spicy hops that are often paired with rye. Brewers can choose from flaked or malted rye – both give similar results and work wonders in a rye pale ale.

 

Adding specialty malts to you beer recipe is a practical and natural way for increasing beer head retention and body in your homebrewed beers. Body and head retention should always be kept in mind when creating a beer recipe, trying to brew to style, and even when trying to please your own palate.

Shop Grain MillsLooking for other ways to enhance body and head retention in your homebrew? Read: How to Make a Full-Bodied Homebrew Beer.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

What Are Hop Oils? Explained!

Showing Hop OilsWhile the resins and alpha-acids found within hops are responsible for making beer bitter, essential oils within the hop cone contribute many of the flavor and aroma characteristics that we know and love in some of our favorite beers. If you drink a pale ale or an IPA with a wonderful citrus or pine aroma, you can thank the hop oils for delivering those delightful sensations.

 

What are hop oils? How are they used in home brewing?

In the anatomy of the hop flower (or strobile), volatile hop oils account for about 1-3% of the weight of the cone. That may not seem like very much, but when you think about it, it doesn’t take a lot of hop oils to give your homebrew a delicious hop flavor.

Hop oils are more delicate than the bittering compounds found in the resins of the hop. That’s why hops for flavor and aroma are typically added towards the end of the boil. Boiling hops for too long drives the hop oils away through evaporation.

Aside from late-boil hopping, dry-hopping is another technique for imparting hop aroma. The hops are essentially steeped in the fermented beer for a number of days until the desired flavor and aroma is reached. An alternative to dry-hopping (if you’re so inclined), is to build your own hop back device, which circulates beer through the hop material to extract those precious hop oils. Here’s more information about adding hops to beer.

Shop HopsSince hop oils begin to degrade immediately after they’re harvested, it’s important that hops are stored properly, preferably nitrogen flushed, air tight, and frozen. In light of the fact that hops degrade so quickly, many people enjoy fresh or wet hopped beer, using the hops as soon as they’re harvested.

 

What are the types of hop oils and their characteristics?

Within the hop, there are several different types of hop oils. Their proportions vary depending both on the hop variety and on seasonal and local conditions. Learning a little about the characteristics of the different oils can help with understanding the flavor and aroma profiles that different types of hops can contribute to a beer. The four primary hop oils found in hops are listed below:

 

  • Myrcene – Myrcene is the most prevalent hop oil found in many hop varieties, often comprising 50% or more of the total oils in the hop cone. Myrene is commonly associated with floral or citrus aromas in beer. Citra and Amarillo hops are examples of hops varieties with very high myrcene content.
  • Humulene – Humulene is the second most common hop oil, though in some cases it may be in greater quantity than myrcene. It contributes woody, spicy, and herbal characteristics, and tends to withstand high temperature better than myrcene. Many of the European and noble hop varieties exhibit higher levels of humulene. Some humulene-dominant examples of hops include Hallertauer and Vanguard.
  • Shop Wort AeratorCaryophyllene – Though usually lower in quantity than myrcene and humulene, caryophyllene has a distinctive woody and herbal aroma, and often contributes an herbal character to beer. Northern Brewer and Perle hops often have higher levels of caryophyllene hop oil.
  • Farnesene – Farnesene usually represents less than 1% of the oils in the hop, though may be as high as 10% or more of the total oil content. But just because it is lower in quantity, doesn’t make it any less potent than the other hop oils. Farnese usually contributes a woody or herbal character. It is well-represented in Czech Saaz, Tettnang, and Sterling

 

Because hop producers don’t usually label homebrewing hops with individual oil levels, it’s best to consult a resource such as YCH Hops or this hop oil chart to get a general sense of the oil content in your hops. You can also try the sniff test, rubbing the hops together between your hands, or make a tea from the hops.

This is just a basic overview of what hop oils are. Of course, the best way to learn about the flavor and aroma characteristics of different hop varieties is to brew beer with them. You might consider trying this simple experiment, and do a side-by-side comparison of several different hops.

 

Interested in learning more about hop oils?

Shop Steam Freak KitsDesigning Great Beers is a great resources if you’d like to learn more about the specific types of hop oils.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.