If you’re like me when it comes to beer, when you pick up a 22 oz or look at a draft list you study the ABV and the style and the origin of the beer and you think about all the little things that go into it. And one of those fine descriptors you will find on the sides of the 22 oz (along with some hilarious anecdotes… check out any Stone Brewery description, they are wonderfully witty) is the term dry hopped.
Now, If you’re also like me and terms such as this sound exotic, like they are drying the hops in the sun as if they were tea leaves or like they dry the beer and then place hops all over it as a form of decoration (which it can’t be, but we’re talking base-level understanding here), then you have no friggin’ idea of what this CRAzYii term could mean when it comes to making beer.
That was me about 12 months ago, when I picked up my favorite beer (Racer 5 by Bear Republic Brewery Big Bear, CA) and saw that on the side. As time moved on and I drank more of this and many other dry-hopped beers, I came up with my own definition. “Oh, its like when they add more hops, right guys?” I’d say to my friends, and they’d all laugh and smile and be merry and, of course, drunk.
Now, this Philistine-like response was actually, as it turns out, half correct. They do add more hops, but not just as an afterthought. Or, so I thought before I went into the Brewer’s Emporium for the first time. While running through the list of beers I wanted to make my first time, the one I cared most for was a Rye Ale. (I was going to name it “The Sun also Ryses.” Come on, that’s hilarious.) Anywho, I picked up the kit and the kind man helping us said, “Oh, that’s intermediate because it has dry hopping involved.” And when Wolfie turned to me and said, “What does that mean, dear?” I responded, “You add more hops in.” And the kind red-headed man said, “Yes.”
Now, why on earth would adding more hops make something more difficult? Well, John J. Palmer’s How to Brew reccomends that you siphon the beer from the fermentation bucket into a second one and dry hop in there. Or put the dry hops in a mesh bag. And that’s all, my friends. That’s as complicated as it gets. And here I was, clamoring around in my wannabe-aficionado world of liking better beer than my ole favorite, PBR, slamming Sierra Nevada Torpedos out of people’s hands and watching the glass shatter because “It’s not a true Imperial if it’s not drop hopped.”
Let’s boil it down to the facts here. Dry hopping:
- Does not make the beer more bitter. In fact just adds to the aroma and slightly affects the flavor.
- Does not require some “intermediate” brewing ability.
- Is not mystifying in any way.
- Also, is awesome.
And even as I opened the lid on my fermentation bucket and just threw in those hops without a care, I still got excited. Because, why the hell not? Don’t we all still watch Elf even though we know Will Ferrel isn’t real? Sure. So, my only question is, why market this, breweries? So that a young, enthusiastic girl like myself can fawn all over y’all like you’ve got some crazy drying equipment? And the answer is yes!
What a great marketing tool! What a sham! But I love it! It makes my room smell good and will make my beer taste good! But damn you, Bear Republic, Stone, Smuttynose, etc., for making me think you were out-of-this-world IPA innovators with special equipment that only exists in and for your breweries (and many others, obviously).
Just open it up, pour it in, close it, leave it for a few weeks. Just “add more hops.” Intermediate brewing. Just dry hop it.
P.S. I really did think that they were stuffing full stalks of hops plants into a fermenter and leaving it there for weeks, and I told at least ten people that.
P.P.S. I didn’t shatter any Sierra Nevada Torpedos… but I wish I did, and give me time, and it shall be done.