The Process of Dry Hopping

Posted on August 20th, 2009

Randall the Enamel Animal

Randall the Enamel Animal

Previously we’ve explained what hops are and covered how they are used in the brewing process, but that’s not all hops have to offer. Despite what some companies would have you think, hops are generally added to a beer three times during a boil, once for bitterness, once for flavor and once for aroma. Sometimes though even more hops are added  through additional processes; plenty of brewers have developed new and interesting ways to add that extra hop touch. Although some breweries have devised unique methods all their own, such as Dogfish Head’s Randall the Enamel Animal, there are some more tried and tested methods which many breweries employ. Today we’re going to take a look at one of those, dry hopping:

dry hopping process

Dry hopping is the process of adding additional hops to a beer once it’s been brewed, but before it’s been bottle and carbonated. Usually dry hopping takes place as a part of secondary fermentation. This is an extra step that brewers may take to help add clarity and complexity to their beer, as well as dry hop it.

Once the primary fermentation has been completed and the sugary wort has been transformed alcoholic beer the brewer will transfer this uncarbonated beer to a second fermentation vessel, where the additional hops are added for dry hopping. Because hops must be boiled to release their bittering oils, dry hopping does in no way add to the flavor or bitterness of beer. What it does help with is the aroma, imparting a strong hop aroma that’s unlike anything which can come from normal hop additions. That might not seem like much, but remember our sense of smell is strongly connected to what we perceive as taste. That’s why nothing tastes good when you’re all stuffed up with a head cold–you can’t smell! After settling and mellowing out in the secondary fermentation, a beer will have continued to ferment slightly, aging it and  allowing additional hop aromas from the dry hopping to soak into the beer. The end result is a hoppy and aromatic brew that’s delicious.

Because of the strong hop aromas that dry hopping gives to a beer it’s not used for every style. It’s perfect though for West Coast style IPAs and Double IPAs, which frequently test the limits of how hoppy a beer can be. What do you think of the hop monster brews that some craft breweries make? Next time you try an especially hoppy beer let us know what you think about it by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.