Continuous Hopping: Experimenting with Hops at Home

In 2001, Dogfish Head released the “90 minute”  IPA, and ever since, people have been trying to figure out exactly what Dogfish Head meant by “continuously hopping” a beer.  On the renown of this nearly perfect IPA, Dogfish Head rose to prominence as one of America’s greatest breweries.  While they had already created several incredible concoctions (like the India Brown Ale, Immort-Ale, and World Wide Stout), 90 minute became Dogfish’s most important contribution to the beer world.  Esquire magazine even called it, “the best IPA in America”(1).  In fact, beer enthusiasts loved 90 minute so much, that the brewery decided to create an entire line of continuously hopped IPAs around the beer which now include a 60 minute, a 120 minute (previously reviewed), and a 75 minute variety (“a cask-conditioned blend of 60 and 90 minute”, with a little maple syrup added into the mix).   However, while thousands have enjoyed the complicated tastes of one of these excellent American IPAs, many people are still wondering what continuous hopping means and how it changes the taste of the beer.  If you or anyone you know has ever pondered these questions, here’s your chance to find out.  Let’s start with hops.

According to Charlie Papazian, beer expert and home-brewing guru, “brewers first used hops in making beer over a thousand years ago”.  In those days, hops were primarily used as preservatives and antiseptics, but by the mid 19th-century, brewers were utilizing hops for their astounding aromas and tastes (2)*.  Hops are flowers, and brewed into beer much like tea is steeped in water. The lupilin glands in each hop contain resins and oils that aid in the brewing process, and create the hops’ bitter tastes.  Brewers add hops to the mix (or wort) at varying points in the process to aid in the “bitterness, flavor, and aroma” of the beer.  Brewers around the world have come up with a simple way of describing how bitter a brew is as a result of the alpha hops used.  They call this standard International Bitterness Units, or IBUs.  “One IBU is equal to 1 millogram of isomerized alpha acid (the resin that makes hops bitter) in 1 liter of…beer.”

So, why is all this information important?  Well, in traditional brewing, hops are added at the beginning of the boil for bitterness, later in the process “for flavoring”, and at the end of brewing, for aroma (3).  However, Dogfish Head had the bright idea of “continuously” adding hops to the beer throughout the entire process of brewing.  They named the beers they created by the time spent continuously hopping each of the brews (60 minute, 90 minute, etc.)  In order to standardize the amount of hops, they had to create a machine, which they called “Sir Hops-A-Lot”. The beers they created were revolutionary in style and precision.  They even have perfect IBUs. 60 minute has 60 IBUs.  90 minute has 90.  I bet you can guess how many 120 has.  Many people have tried continuous hopping at home.   Several people have blogged about attempts at using a stop watch to add hops on a fixed cycle.  I have a friend who has tried dropping in hops at different points in the boil, sometimes with a stop watch and sometimes on whim.  The results differ based on how much, how often, and when you decide to add your hops.  One man, Paul Zocco, went so far as to design his own “continous hopping” device to help standardize his results.  He called his machine, “The Zopinator”.  You can read about it here. However, no home brewer (to my knowledge) has been able to replicate Dogfish Head’s accuracy and precision in making continously hopped beers.

While nobody may be able to duplicate what Dogfish-head has created, you too can experiment with continuous hopping.  You can try simulating Dogfish’s process, making a hopper using Zocco’s method, or creating your own novel way of adding hops. The hops Dogfish Head  uses are “warrior”, “amarillo”, and a “mystery hop X”.  Some people have guessed simcoe, but with so many hops on the market, it’s hard to know.  Mess around with the recipe a little, and you might discover your own 90 minute is better than Dogfish’s.  Either way, play around with hops! Experiment, have fun, and no matter how you go about it:

“Relax. Don’t worry. Have a Homebrew!”

-Charlie Papazian

*Relatively recently brewers have also learned that hops “coagulate and eliminate undesirable malt proteins in the brew kettle”.

1.  Dogfish Head. Shaun Tyndall. 1995. Dogfish Head. 7/11/12 <http://www.dogfish.com/&gt;.

2. Papazian, Charlie. The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2003.

3. Paul Zocco, The Zopinator Zocco, Paul. “Zopinator.” Dogfish Head.  Shaun Tyndall. 1995. Dogfish Head.  7/15/12 <http://www.dogfish.com/files/Zopinator.pdf&gt;.

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Coming Back

Sorry for the delay on posts. I was having some technically difficulties, but thankfully I’m back!  Over the next few days, the site will be getting some much needed updates in terms of format and design.  Also, expect several reviews and articles from the past few weeks to come flooding in on top of the usual weekly reviews.  And finally, and MOST importantly… information on the brewery bus tour coming VERY very soon…

I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

Your Friend,

Joshua Bennett Schwartz

Dogfish Head-120 minute IPA

Type: Bottle

15-21% ABV

120 IBU

A+

This is the greatest IPA that is readily available on the US market.  It’s rare and a bit overpriced, but the complex hops and effervescent aromas are unrivaled.  120 minute pours golden orange, with a medium head.  On first taste, it’s sweet like a barley wine, but sharper and tangy.  It doesn’t taste that alcoholic, despite it’s extremely high ABV, which is unusual.  If you’ve had Dogfish’s Fort or World Wide Stout, you’ll know what I mean.  The only sense of how strong this brew is comes from the warmth inside, like the best whiskeys.  The striking hops, which taste of grapefruit and pine trees, mixed with the sweetness of the brew, create a unique IPA experience without overpowering the senses.   If you’ve had 90 minute, you’ve got to at least try this.  There is absolutely nothing like it.  The quality of this beer is so amazing that Dogfish Head  threw out a batch in 2011.  As they said at the time “each and every batch of beer we brew at Dogfish Head goes through over 40 Quality Control check points and while this batch passed many of these check points we decided with the results of the final sensory panel, days before packaging, that we dont feel this batch of 120 Minute IPA is up to par.”  Remember (“because remembering is so much more a psychotic activity than forgetting”*), this beer is very alcoholic (more so than wines), despite how mild it tastes.  Sip, don’t swallow.  And you may want to share this with a friend, as finishing a glass by yourself can confuse the senses.   Despite how good this beer is, at ten dollars a bottle, I have to give it is a B+ for price.  I’m not sure any beer is worth a dollar an ounce, no matter how good.  That being said, I buy a bottle of 120 minute whenever I can.  If you’re interested in IPAs and you see 120 minute, you should buy it quickly. Some places sell out in less than half an hour, and this is a fantastic beer for aging.In fact, buy a few bottles (if they let you).  Place one in the fridge for drinking, and save the others in a pantry or cellar.  It’ll be worth it, trust me.

In Conclusion:  The best IPA in America, but also only for those who can handle the high alcoholic content.  Great for IPA and Whiskey fans, and also those who enjoy citrus hops.  Wonderful, but a little too expensive.  Save for special events.

Food Pairing: The best Charcuterie and/or Tapas you can find.

“I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.”

-Homer Simpson

*Quote by Speed Levitch, Waking Life

River Horse-Tripel Horse

Type: Bottle

10% ABV

30 IBU

B

As a traditional Belgian Tripel, Tripel horse is about average for the field. It pours golden brown, with a full head.  On first taste, the beer is sweet and alcoholic.  There are notes of butterscotch, caramel, and almond.  As the aromas linger, there’s also a hint of orange and banana. There are even some slight herbs, but the sugary thick alcohol of the sweet yeasts dominates the palate.  In fact, the beer is a little too alcoholic without providing the complex base of a true Tripel.  However, for twelve or fourteen dollars a six pack, it’s a really good buy for a strong Belgian ale.  As a result, it earns an A for price.  In fact, I buy this beer a lot for small get togethers.  If you’re interested in the Tripel style, you can easily find more definitive brews in presentation and originality.  However, for casual drinking, you probably won’t find a better deal.

In Conclusion:  There are better Tripels out there, but River Horse’s Tripel Horse is a lot cheaper than most of those.

Food Pairing: Spicy and creamy pork or poulty dishes, Greek food, and pungent cheese like Limburger or Taleggio.

“Milk is for babies.  When you grow up you have to drink beer.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Alchemist / Ninkasi / Stone – More Brown Than Black IPA

Finally started taking pictures!

Type: Bottle

7.4% ABV

80 IBU

B+

I realize I’m kind of in the minority here.  Most people consider this to be an A.  I just didn’t find it to be nearly as complex as most. It pours dark brown, with a medium head.  The hops definitely have a lot of citrus, and you can taste the stone fruit, but it finishes dry and bitter.  The malt give a solid base, while remaining light and allowing the hops to take control.  However, beyond the citrus, I didn’t really find that much complexity for the variety of hops that went into its creation. For several dollars a bottle and as a special collaboration, I expected more.  This would be a great standard IPA to have in your fridge, if it wasn’t so expensive.  That being said, all the proceeds go to Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund, a non-profit that helps family’s affected by Hurricane Irene (which also destroyed the Alchemist brewery).  For that, the beer gets an A+ for price.  Who can feel bad drinking a beer that genuinely helps people?

In Conclusion:  Not the best IPA in the world, but definitely worth trying for the cause.  Everyone should buy at least one bottle to help Alchemist and the people affected by Hurricane Irene.

Food Pairing:  Pungent and strong cheeses like Cheddar and Gorgonzola, fruit, particularly stone fruit, and sweet breads and meats.

“If the beer finishes a little bit dry, it makes you kind of thirsty.  It makes you want to drink it again.”

-Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing Co.

Founders-Breakfast Stout-Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout

Type: Bottle

8.9% ABV

60 IBU

A+

A rich and creamy Stout, brewed with flaked oats, bitter and sweetened imported chocolates, Sumatra and Kona coffee, all of which somehow taste through in the brilliant notes.  Pours black and thick, with a warm brown head.  When it first hits your tongue, you immediately taste the rich chocolate and Kona coffee, the aroma tantalizing the tongue with its contrast of creamy sweet and robust bitter.  Then the beer slows down as the thick fullness of the oatmeal settles, and Founders still finds time to round out the whole experience with some very slight hops and herbal flourishes.  This is by far the best stout I’ve ever had.  That’s not to say I won’t have a better one in the future, but I’ve never tasted anything more full and scrumptious.  For price, I also have to give this beer an A+.  At around twelve dollars a four pack, it may be the best deal on a rich imperial stout you’ll ever find.

In Conclusion: This is the king of breakfast stouts.  Founders has really made a masterpiece.

Food Pairing: Creamy Cheeses like Gouda and Brie and Smoked Meats.

“They who drink beer will think beer.”

-Washington Irving

Dogfish Head-Midas Touch

Type: Bottle
9.0% ABV
12 IBU

A

Made from a  2700 year old recipe found in the tomb of “King Midas”, this beer is nearly liquid gold.  Midas Touch is a barley based brew with honey, grapes, and light saphron.  It pours a hazy golden yellow, with a medium head.  The beer tastes mostly of the honey and grapes, which is why dogfish head describes it as “between wine and mead”, but behind that is the grainy and creamy barley.  Miraculously, Dogfish has found a way to balance the sweet fruitiness of this beer with savory spices.  That was the real “Midas Touch”.  For price it’s a B+ at about twelve dollars a four pack.  As one of Dogfish’s ancient specialty beers, it’s pretty cheap, considering the others are only available in more expensive champagne bottles.

In Conclusion:  A great beer for special occasions or special meals.  Buy if you’re having a dinner party and you have friends who like white wine.

Food Pairing: Sweet and Succulent dishes with a lot of fresh herbs and spices.  Pork, Fish, Risotto, Curry, and Goat Cheese.

“Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.”

-Jack Nicholson

Flying Dog-Raging Bitch-Belgian IPA

Type: Bottle

8.3% ABV

60 IBU

B+

As a Belgian-IPA, it’s not the best, but also definitely not the worst. Pours Clean Red Amber with a full head.  Tastes a bit like a Belgian Blonde for a millisecond, but then the hops take over.  If you don’t like hops, you won’t like this. There’s an assault of complex hops, acidic, piney, and pungent, with only a waft of Belgian style.  That’s the reason why this beer gets a B+.  It doesn’t quite live up to its Belgian title. Flying Dog makes a fairly good Tripel (Kerberos), and you think they could have brought a little more of that styling to this beer.  That being said, as far as price goes (it’s something like twelve or thirteen dollars a six pack), this is definitely the best of the canis majors, and perhaps the best tasting. For price, this beer deserves an A.

In Conclusion: For price, one of the best beers you can hope to buy.  It’s not really Belgian, but as a refreshing IPA, it’s almost perfect.

Food Pairing: Hearty and spicy foods. Steak, pork chops, lamb, savory breads, and bleu cheese.

“He was a wise man who invented beer.”

-Plato