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Dry Hopping: Stop and Drink the Flowers
Though all beers contain some hops, you’ll notice them more in certain styles. Learn how brewers highlight their taste with Groupon’s exploration of dry hopping.
On their twisting stalks, tangling skyward on high trellises, hops perfume the air and, once they’re picked, your beer. Normally, the sticky flowers are tossed into boiling wort, the sweet, unfermented precursor to beer. When they hit the hot water, bitterness from alpha acids and resentment that no one ever thinks to put them in a bouquet begins to cook into the malty liquid.
Much of their complex fragrance, though, is stored in oils that break down after just 10 or 15 minutes at high temperatures. Since wort boils for at least an hour, hops added toward the end of the process have a greater effect on the beer’s ultimate aroma. Dry hopping takes this logic one step further, adding in the hops only after the mixture has cooled. (Not many flavoring agents can be plopped directly into the fermenting brew without heat to slay microorganisms, but hops are so acidic that they make a decidedly unwelcome home for bacteria.) Since yeast is constantly bubbling, dry hopping is most effective after primary fermentation, given that the stream of carbon dioxide can carry away precious fragrances.
By concentrating the hops flavor, brewers endow their beers—especially IPAs and other pale ales—with the distinctly floral or citric bite that many aficionados crave. The technique has powered one major trend of the craft-beer world over the past several decade: breweries promoting “double” and even “triple” IPAs, competing to produce an intensely hoppy flavor designed to utterly overwhelm the palate. That needn’t mean bitterness. Because it’s heat that extracts the bitter oils from the hops, adding them to cool liquid will deliver complex aroma without making your tongue shrivel up.