Hop Sensory Analysis - Part 2
There are a number of ways to do just about anything.
A couple of weeks ago I put up a blog post on how to do a basic sensory analysis of hops. If you haven’t checked that post out, you can read it here (https://hopofthemonthclub.com/blogs/news/hop-sensory-analysis-in-5-easy-steps).
This post offers three additional methods to evaluate hops. Which method you use is ultimately up to you.
I recently spoke with Megan Twomey at Roy Farms in Moxee, Washington about how she evaluates hops at the farm and for her work with the Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy, better known as the ADHA.
Her preference is to use dried, whole cone hops for a sensory analysis. She will do a quick rub between two fingers, take a sniff and then clear her palate. She will then do a harder rub and smell the hops again. The second inhalation builds off the quick impressions from the first, which gives your brain a chance to start working. The second inhalation should also give you a much better evaluation of the hops.
She isn’t partial to the hop teas as described my earlier post, simply because they are very bitter and tend to quickly overwhelm your palate and ability to keep evaluating hops.
Even so, she finds that 10 is about the max before people need to reset for a bit. She bases that number not only on her own experience, but on her experience leading hundreds of brewers through annual hop evaluations.
Megan also described a method that some colleagues use, which also works best with dried lead hops.
- Take a bottle or can of a base international light lager- the more neutral the better- and let it come up to room temperature.
- Add some dried hop leaves to a French Press and then fill with your room temperature beer.
- Allow the hops to steep in the beer for 15 minutes, then press the plunger on the French Press down and pour samples into tasting cups.
- Evaluate the smell and taste of the beer with your hops.
- Tip: If you have an extra bottle or can on hand, allow it to come up to room temperature as well and pour at the same time into a glass. Use this as your baseline.
Since most brewers encounter hops as pellets, and not everyone can make it to a hopyard at harvest to get the chance to check out wet or freshly dried hops, I have one more method for you. This comes from Mill95 in Idaho.
They recommend taking an ounce of hop pellets, and grinding them to a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder. Be sure to clean your grinding equipment thoroughly before and after you grind your hops.
Once you have your hop powder, add 5 cups of room temperature water.
Stir your hop water gently, then cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
Use the hop water as an aroma sample only- it will be extremely bitter. Record your impressions. Bonus points for keeping your notes near your brewing journal so that you can compare them to a beer brewed with the same hops.
If you have a digital scale, measure out 0.2 oz hops per cup of room temperature water. Use the remainder of your hop pellets to a rub while you wait for the hops in water to steep, or set them aside in an airtight container stored in your freezer for your next brew day (which hopefully isn’t too far away).