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Adventures in Homebrewing and All Things Hoppy

My First Wet Hop Adventure

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As this is the first Autumn that I’m growing hops and brewing, I decided to go for a fresh (a.k.a. “wet”) hop beer.  And what better candidate for a fresh hop beer is there than the trusty IPA?

I love hoppy beers, but my wife doesn’t like them super hoppy, and as the two of us will be drinking most of this stuff, I thought I’d go for a nice even-keel IPA as a base design.  I therefore found a recipe for a clone of Lagunitas IPA — a beer we both enjoy.  I’ve found that there’s a lot of shooting from the hip when it comes to using fresh hops, which is another reason I started with a fairly mellow, balanced specimen of American IPA.  This will allow me more latitude for erring on the side of too many hops rather than not enough.

Because fresh hops (hops that are used straight off the vine and have not been dried) weigh more than dry ones due to water content in the hop cone, more hops are needed by weight to make up for this (and still get the same alpha acid contribution for your beer).  Opinions vary in the brewing community, but five times the wet hops by weight seems to be a safe middle ground for this correction factor.

Also, I’m not using the same hops that Lagunitas uses.  I have Nugget and Saaz.  Saaz, a more delicate noble hop known for excellent aroma and flavor, is what I’ll use primarily.  I like the idea of using Saaz because of its sought-after characteristics.  Low-acid hops like Saaz aren’t often used so exclusively in beer, partly because more of them are required, and the beer therefore costs more to produce.  However, I have way more hops than I’ll be able to take advantage of, even with vacuum-sealing and storing some of them.  I’ll use the (higher alpha) Nugget for my full-boil bittering hops only, mostly because they were harvested earlier and have had a chance to be dried, and fresh (wet) hops are not good for full-boil utilization (long boils of fresh hops result in grassy, planty flavors).

So, I have to account for 1) different hops and 2) wet hops as opposed to dry.  Thus, I have to make two corrections.  What I did was convert all hop quantities in the recipe to their equivalent AAU units.  Then, estimating the alpha acids of my hops (based on average ranges), I determined how much of that hop (dry) would be needed instead.  Then I multiplied by five to determine wet hop quantity.

My recipe is converted and ready to go, and so are my fresh Saaz hops.  The unfortunate thing is that it’s looking like it might rain, which will complicate my wet hop weight situation.  I’ve got to pull these hops and brew in the next couple of days, so hopefully things dry up soon.

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