October 18, 2017 | The Rare Barrel
Dry-hopped! Changing process leads to bottling
Here at The Rare Barrel, our process for dry hopping has changed significantly over the last few years. In the beginning we added the hops directly into each of the barrels of the blend and let the beer sit on the hops for two weeks. We then shifted to racking the full blend into a conical tank and adding the hops to the tank as most breweries would typically dry-hop a beer however, we were not ever completely satisfied with the hop expression resulting from this process.We felt there had to be a different way to extract better hop aroma and flavor. With this in mind, we were curious if there was an effect from the lower pH of these beers compared to that of clean hoppy beers, so we decided to alter our process again.
Our cellar is full of barrels with a range of characteristics, including higher and lower pHs, so to to see if we could get better character from dry-hopping beers with a higher pH (less sour), we tried out dry-hopping two barrels with pH readings around 4.0pH with the total amount of hops for a four oak barrel blend. After about a week we racked in two, more assertively sour barrels, bringing the pH of the blend down to around 3.5pH.
This first beer trialing this new process was our 2017 blend of Tangerang! a collaboration beer with Cellarmaker Brewing that we make every year for San Francisco Beer Week. We were very happy with the results of this blend, so we began discussing bottling a beer produced with this new process, we even test bottled about a case of this year’s blend of Tangerang! Early on we had some concern that the hop character would fade before the beer was ready to be released due to our bottle conditioning process. We currently re-ferment in the bottle with a wine yeast which we give at least 8 weeks to complete before release. After test bottling this blend of Tangerang! (and enjoying many hoppy mixed culture beers from other breweries) we are now more confident that the brettanomyces in our mixed cultures will preserve and enhance the hop character over time.
Due to their early success, we are excited to track the development of these bottles over time. It has been very interesting to compare how bottle conditioned hop character transforms with age when compared to force carbonated kegs. We will still continue to fine tune our process, in search of the best dry-hopped sour beer, but we can’t wait to release bottles of what we have been working on.
Inventory & Barrel Manager
@ Oct 19, 2017 at 4:41 PM
I've been playing around a lot with this too at our brewery. We naturally condition our kegs as well as bottles and everything is Brett forward. I have a theory regarding Brett breaking down some of the hop compounds like Thiols into their elemental forms including sulphur and whatnot. Great read. Cool to see others are playing with ways to maintain hop characteristics through natural conditioning.