Matt and I are always curious to find out about hops. Since we produce whole cone hops, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company are known for brewing with whole cone hops, we put the questions to SNBC lead brewer, Dean Baxman. Dean has been making delicious beers, including Sierra Nevada's flagship brew, the Pale Ale for the past 24 years! He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to making craft beers.
Below is our exchange with Dean, we hope this inspires you to experiment with whole cone hops!
Meyerhof Farm: What hops are you excited about right now?
Dean Baxman: Citra, El Dorado and Mosaic hops are hot right now.
MF: What are the challenges you found and the rewards with brewing with whole cones?
DB: Some challenges brewing with whole cone hops can be their breaking up and weighing out the hops for use, is a dirty and physical job. Also, maintaining the equipment used to add, steep and remove the full cone hops can be challenging.
However, the rewards are the flavor and aroma are greatly improved using full cone hops over pellets. This is just my opinion.
MF: How can home brewers who are used to pellets, get their feet wet using whole cones, without investing in equipment?
DB: The use of dry hop bags (socks) towards the end of boil and in the fermenter (primary fermentation) can be useful.
Using these socks can make the hops easy to add and clean up.
MF: What are your thoughts on Cyro hops?
DB: Cryo hops are becoming more and more popular. Hotside utilization(boil) can contribute to bitterness and aroma characteristics. Coldside utilization can improve taste and aroma characteristics. Very expensive.
We want to thank Dean and SNBC for allowing us to ask these questions and learn from his expertise. At this year's Wet Hop Harvest Fest (August 17th-18th), we will have hop socks available and a demonstration of making hop hash (cryo hops). We hope to see you there!
The Hop Yard
We are trying an experimental way to growing hops, the side trellis design. We retrieved old heart wood pine trunks that had been burned out by a fire in 2005, from a friends property, and drove those into the ground at an incline. We planted our plants closer than traditional hop yards, due to the short trellising feature of creating hedges of hops. We will see how this works out. All of the studies that we have read, which aren't many, seem to tell a story of moderate success growing hops in this fashion. We will keep you posted here on how well this works.