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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Dry Hopping Bottled Macro Lager

Yesterday I did something very cool with hops.

Hopdaemon Pete says that if you open a bottle conditioned beer, re-cap it straight away, let it rest over night and then drink it, the flavour is enhanced. The principle is the same as tapping a cask and exposing the beer inside to oxygen. For reasons I don't fully understand, drinking beer shortly after exposure to a little oxygen actually helps to improve the flavour.

When he told me this, it gave me an idea. Could you open a bottle of beer, add something and then recap it, without harming the flavour of the original beer? Could that something you add actually be a flavour which complements the beer and takes it in a new, possibly improved, direction?

Take something awesome, like a US hop, with all it's fresh, grassy, grapefruit aroma. Take something crap like "bland, tasteless, apathetic, liquid cardboard" (James Watt) and combine them. What you get is an Amarillo bottle-dry-hopped Carlsberg.

I bought two standard bottles of Carlsberg. One went into the freezer until it almost started to freeze, this moves as much of the CO2 into solution as possible, meaning that you save more of it when you open the bottle. Once open, the heat is on. In go five whole Amarillo hop cones followed by a new crown cap. The bottle is then periodically shaken over it's twenty four hour fridge-based lifespan.

Tonight I opened both bottles and tried them against each other. The hopped bottle was very lively indeed. The hops swell up and plug the neck of the bottle, giving the added bonus of the beer being filtered through hop before it meets glass. The downside being froth, a lot of froth. It could've been this that killed carbonation, but it was more likely the fact that the beer had been opened once already.

Carlsberg is a terrible beer. There's just nothing to it. There's no alcohol, no real hop bitterness or hop flavour. The nose is subdued, you get some bready malt and a sort of metallic tang, that's it. In the mouth it's watery and thin, it's about as forgettable as a beer gets. The bottle-dry-hopped version, on the other hand, is very different. The only accurate way to describe the aroma, would be to say that it wreaks of hop. Massive grassy, piney, citrus hop aroma that then moves into a slightly herbal, almost menthol character. Of course the body and flavour of the beer is largely unchanged, some of that hop aroma has bled through into the beer, but nothing more than that.

As I've alluded to, the carbonation had almost totally left the hopped version. This was a real shame because you need that lively effervescence to just pick the hop flavour up and move things on. Flat Carlsberg is flat Carlsberg, it doesn't matter how great the aroma is.

A cool experiment, and one I'd like to repeat. You might ask why, but why not? Ultimately the hopped version didn't quite work, but the concept of taking something so ordinary and making it into something a bit different and a bit special, is one I really like the idea of. I've got some ideas about saving the carbonation a bit more effectively. I won't go into it in this post, but it's based on some of the techniques that are used in Champagne production. In the mean time, if you've got some hops hanging around, why not have a go yourself?


Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

Carlsberg can be improved dramatically by the addition of blackcurrant squash, the cheaper the squash the better! Although even that was tired after a few weeks fuelling my first year of university...

Mark Dredge said...

Great experiment! Maybe some hop oils to carry in a little pack would be good? I joked to a few people the other day that I carry micro tea bags filled with a few of my favourite hops so that I can dip them into bland beers... not such a bad idea!!

I'm interested in Pete's suggestion. I might need to grab a couple of Skrim's to test it ;)

In my uni experience you need cider and blackcurrant to make Carlsberg better. Either that or drop some gin and tonic in it and make a G&T shandy!

Mark said...

Blackcurrant in cheap lager I could probably stretch to. G&T shandy, on the other hand, sounds completely wrong on ever scale! :P

Pocket hop oil ... now there's an idea!

It would be interesting to try Pete's trick on a bottle conditioned beer without adding anything. Do a side by side with one that hasn't been opened and see what differences there are.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

Michael Jackson used to tell the story about how in the pre-craft brewing days the late Bert Grant (Yakima Brewing Company) used to carry around hop oil with him so he could enliven whatever yellow beer he was drinking…

Mark said...

The idea of portable hop oil is a very cool one. I'm sure you could think up some interesting uses for it in cookery too.

Could it be used in a similar way to something like rose water or lavender? Hop oil and honeycomb ice cream, hop oil Turkish delight. Definitely potential there!

Anonymous said...

Hop oil in a “Mio like“ package sounds delicious.

Chi nguyễn said...

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Chi nguyễn said...

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thuốc đậu rồng chữa bệnh dạ dày .
Những triệu chứng bệnh viêm xoang .
Phương thuốc dân gian chữa bệnh dạ dày . Bệnh noi me day o tre em .