Group Brew Project Showcasing Unique and Exotic Hops

NHC LogoWith the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference (NHC) being held right up I-95 from Baltimore in Philadelphia, it provided CSI club members who have never been to a national conference with an excellent opportunity to attend one.  In fact, CSI had around 20 members register to attend the event.

In the months leading up to the NHC, as we met to discuss CSI’s presence at the NHC, it became apparent that it would be both fun and educational to come up with a series of single hopped beers featuring rare and exotic hops to serve at club night.  The goal was to allow those tasting the beers the opportunity to really pick up on the characteristics of each hop variety.  It also provided a chance to those in the club who primarily brew with malt extract, to team up with an all-grain brewer, giving them the chance to try out the process.

First, we wanted to come up with a malt bill that provided for a solid drinking base, but did not overpower the hops.  So we went to the club’s resident IPA expert, Matt Barra, for a recommendation.  He brought a very simple, but enjoyable malt bill that he had used several times before.  The malt bill for a 5 gallon batch was:

  • 8 pounds of Pale Malt (UK)
  • 4 pounds of Vienna
  • 8 ounces of Victory
  • 8 ounces of Crystal 80L

Next we needed to find some hops.  We remembered back to the January 2013 club meeting when CSI member Mike Pietropaoli brought an IPA to the meeting that featured Caliente hops.  Prior to that meeting, no one in the club had ever heard of Caliente hops, let alone used them.  The hop profile in the beer was so unique and enjoyable, members immediately started asking where he found this variety.  Mike pointed us all to YakimaValleyHops.com.

Yakima Valley HopsFor those brewers who have not been to YakimaValleyHops.com, you are severely missing out.  YVH is a legit hops super store.  In fact, I’d argue that there isn’t a shop out there with a larger variety.  At any given time, they probably have around 40 varieties of domestic hops and around 30 varieties of imported hops to choose from.  This provided us with an amazing selection of hop varieties to choose from for our project.  After printing up the current stock and reviewing the hop profiles with the club members, we ended up settling on buying a half pound of each of the following varieties for our group brew project:

  • Bravo
  • Caliente
  • Calypso
  • Comet
  • Falconer’s Flight
  • Millenium
  • Sorachi Ace
  • Super Galena

Note:  I was late on putting the hops orders in and the good folks at YVH were more than accommodating in making sure the hops were in my hand in time for the brew session.  Thanks sooooo much to the staff there.  Talk about tip top customer service!!!

Additionally, we had some brewers with Simcoe and homebrown Cascade hops on hand, so they used those for the group brew.

Members of the club got together on Saturday, April 6th in the parking lot behind Maryland Homebrew in Columbia, MD to take part in a group brew.  The rules were simple.  Everyone uses the same malt bill (along with some help from the MDHB staff, we measured the portions out and milled the grains the night before) but we left it up to the brewer to decide how to best use their half pound of hops.  No other hop varieties other than the single hop could be used.  Brewers could use as much of the half pound as they wanted and make their hop additions whenever they wanted during the brew session.  For example, I ended up adding an ounce at 60 minutes, half an ounce every 10 minutes during the boil, and then another ounce at flameout.

In order to serve all of these beers at the Club Night, I built a 9-tap draft box for the club out of spare wood that I had left over from previous woodworking projects.  That way attendees could go down the line and try up to 9 of these beers in a row, allowing them to compare and contrast the characteristics of each hop.  The draft box turned out awesome and is a nice piece for the club to have and use for years to come.

Draft Box

Feedback on the beers and the project from attendees at the NHC was awesome!  On top of many people just swinging by to try all the different beers and enjoying learning about hops they’ve never tried or heard of, in talking about our project with attendees, I had more than one person come up to me and say they wanted to try something like this with their homebrew club.  It is so exciting that our project inspired other clubs to try something similar.

Pouring Beer at NHC

The point of this post is to encourage CSI members and members of other clubs to organize and try a group project like this or something similar.  Below you will find a few other ideas that may be worth trying with your friends or you club, but however, I encourage you to think outside the box, and experiment on an aspect of homebrew that interests you or that you would like to know more about.

  • Large batch of homebrew using the same malt, hops, and yeast, portioned off and fermented at different temperatures.
  • Large batch of homebrew using the same malt and hops, but using different yeasts.
  • Several separate batches of homebrew using different base malts, but the same specialty malts, hops and yeast.
  • Several separate batches of homebrew using the same malt, hops, and yeast, but using different mashing temperatures.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to talk to you about setting up a project like this for you and your friends.  The sky is the limit here and the end result is a lot of fun and extremely educational.  Cheers!

-Brent

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