The key to getting big hop aroma and flavour in your beer is putting in large additions of late hops. Done right you will get a huge smooth hop character to your beer. There is quite a difference between the characteristics of late hop additions and dry hop additions which I will explain below.
As a quick overview in brewing an all grain beer, malt is crushed and then mashed to extract the goodness. This extract (which brewers call wort) is then boiled, usually for at least 60 minutes but sometimes for a lot longer and the boiling needs to be done for a number of reasons including:
- sterilisation of the wort
- isomerisation of the hop oils (this gives beer the bitterness)
- protein denaturation and enzyme inactivation
- protein coagulation
- formation of colour and flavour compounds
- removal of unwanted flavour volitiles
- concentration by evaporation
Late hopping is the addition of hops late in the boil and is considered as any addition of hops with less than 30 minutes of boiling. Boiling the hops causes the hop oils to isomerise and turn bitter, so the later in the boil (right up to flame out or 0 minutes) you add the hops the more hop flavour and aroma is preserved. If you use good brewing software then it should have a calculation that will give you an indication of how much bittering your late hop additions are adding to your beer.
Dry hopping is adding the hops to the fermentor, and is a great technique for getting hop flavours in a beer as well. Hop flavours from dry hopping are often characterised as more resiny and grassy while late hops are characterised as more floral and fragrant. Late hopping gives a very clean finish where dry hopping tends to cling to the palate a lot more. It will depend on which characteristics you are looking for as to which hopping techniques you will want to use, but if you want a whole bunch of smooth hop flavour and aroma then large late hop additions will give you the bucket load of hop flavour and aroma you are looking for.
When starting to brew it is generally thought that you have to add the 60 minute hops for bittering and late hops are only flavour and aroma. It turns out that the late hops can also add bittering depending on where you add them. It is possible to get sufficient bittering out of late hopping additions to almost remove the 60 minute bittering hops totally. Done right this can create a superb beer. My first brew of Caspa was entirely late hopped with no bittering additions and I have done some tasting notes for it here. I have done a few other brews with minimal bittering hop additions and have been very pleased with the results.
For home brewers with basic gear the late hopping will consist of adding the hops to the boil pot. There are other ways to add late hops including whirlpool additions or hopbacks. You can use the whole hop flowers, or hop pellets. Many people find the hop pellets easier to use as the pellets disperse easily in the wort and do not clog up lines and pumps. The hop oils in the pellets are usually more easily available than from the flowers as well.
You want to select your late addition hops based on their flavour and aromatic qualities. Varieties such as Cascade, Centennial, Styrian Golding and Fuggle are often used. There are many more suitable varieties and it will depend on which exact hop flavours and aromas you are looking for. The current American hop shortage will have a toll on some of the craft beers that use these hops like I mention here.
For a time brewers found late hopping to be wasteful of hops because late hopping uses much more hops than if they are added during bittering. Thankfully the craft brewers ignored this idea as they wanted the wonderful aroma and flavour in their beers. Having large amounts of hop oils present in the beer can make the beer less stable to storage over time. The hop aroma and flavours also decrease over time. For these reasons late hopped beers are best consumed fresh.
I for one am very thankful that the craft brewers decided that late hopping was a good thing!