Friday, December 11, 2009

Dry Hopped Flanders Red Tasting

It is rare that you taste a beer that combines sourness with hoppiness well. The general issue is that when you sour a hoppy beer the hops fade by the time the microbes do their work. There are a few notable exceptions, like the amazingly drinkable Cantillon Cuvee des Champions, El Rojo Diablo from Bullfrog, and New Belgium Le Terroir, their secret?  A minimally hopped beer that is dry hopped after it has time to age/sour. This is a great technique because it allows you to add a fresh hop flavor to a beer that has already had plenty of time to mature.

The problem is that if you dry hop a whole batch of homebrewed sour you'll either have to drink it quickly (the horror) or keep drinking as the hops fade and oxidize (the real horror).  A few years back I played around with a way to get around this when I bottle hopped some of my Mo Betta' Bretta clone. The results were good enough that I thought I would give it another whirl with the wine barrel Flanders red we bottled a few weeks back. I opted for four hop cones in each bottle (which sounds like a lot when you consider that it is equivalent to ~200 hop cones in a 5 gallon batch), one cone each Simcoe and Amarillo and two home grown Cascades.

The only real draw back from this method is that the beer will start to foam when you open it, so be prepared with an over-sized glass and some sort of strainer when serving.

Dry Hopped Flanders Red

Appearance - Slightly murky, ruddy brown/red (what do you expect from all those nucleation sites). This bottle didn't gush nearly as badly as some of my other ones have.  The off white head pours pretty big, and sticks around for a good while.

Aroma - Big citrus (grapefruit especially) from the hops mingling with the fruitiness and funk from the bugs. At 6 weeks in the bottle (and on the hops) the hop aroma is just as fresh and alive as it was a month ago when I drank the first bottle (this one is my last).  The hops do cover up some of the subtle barrel/fermentation notes, but the added complexity is well worth the price.

Flavor - The hops almost seem to temper the sourness compared to the non-dry-hopped version (tasting soon). Big citrus remains with a touch of red wine fruitiness. No big funky flavors, but some hints of damp basement peak through from time to time.  The balance is the most striking thing to me, there is still enough malt and just a touch of sweetness to support the sourness, without being overly sweet like so many commercial Flanders Reds.

Mouthfeel - Still has a bit of heft to the body despite the Brettanomyces activity, but it is far from being a thick beer. Some of the carbonation was knocked out by straining the beer to remove the hops, but it is still adequately prickly.

Drinkability/Notes - Something about the combination is so quenching, but at the same time draws you back for another sip. This is one of those beers that no matter how slow I try to drink it I end up finishing my glass faster than I should. This might just be the best beer I have ever had a hand in brewed (I am now tempted to shove hop cones into some of the already carbonated bottles, but that could make quite a mess).


Ryan said...

Ha you know your blog has reached a pinnacle when you start getting spam comments ;)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yeah, I've been getting them for awhile, mostly on older posts, annoying, but not worth restricting them since there are plenty of legitimate "Anonymous" comments.

Mike Persinger said...

Hi Michael, (We've emailed once before) You mention "The only real draw back from this method is that the beer will start to foam when you open it..."
Do you have any references or further explanation about why this happens due to the dry-hopping, and how to distinguish this from 'infection' (aside from off-flavors).

Our homebrew club is set to fill a barrel with a Flanders Red next weekend, so I'll be keeping dry-hopping in mind for some of my share.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The hops provide nucleation sites (that is places for CO2 bubbles to form), this is the same concept behind the Mentos and Diet Coke internet sensation a couple years back (see: ). The beer doesn't have more carbonation than the non-dry hopped version, it just comes out of solution much faster.

Scott said...

The bottle we shared was fantastic. It really added another dimension to an already great beer. I'm going bottle a few off the keg of Flanders and add a combo of Citra and Amarillo. Should be interesting to compare.

JC Tetreault said...

Congrats Mike, easily one of the best beers I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy. The interplay with the fresh hop aromatics, array of organic acids, barrel aged malts...just layer upon layer, all in wonderful balance. I could have downed several, and still wanted more.

GuitarLord5000 said...

Hey Mike,

Ever thought of using the hopshot for 'dryhopping' bottles?
It's made from a blend of hops, so you really couldn't dial in a specific flavor, but at least you wouldn't end up with a hop cone mess in your beer. I've used the hopshot in a couple beers I've brewed (not in the bottle), and it has a pretty nice flavor. Might be worth the try.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm going to pick a few up in the fall to do a DIPA, I'll certainly try to use a touch as a "dry hop" but in general I do like being able to get a specific variety for aroma additions (using it for bitttering doesn’t concern me as much).

jaymo said...

In case you didn't notice, dry hopping Flanders is being discussed a bit over on BBB, in case you have any observations to toss into the ring.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I saw that, but it sounded like they were just talking about using aged hops on to prevent oxygen from getting into the beer.