Ask the Expert: The Aromas of Tropical Hops | Craft Beer & Brewing

Ask the Expert: The Aromas of Tropical Hops

Homebrew expert Brad Smith, author of the Beersmith homebrewing software and the voice behind the Beersmith podcast, answers a question on how to get tropic fruit flavors and aromas into your beer through hops.

Brad Smith 9 months ago

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A Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine reader recently asked us the following question:

Some of the new IPAs have tropical, fruity flavors from the hops. How can I get those flavors in my beer?

There are a few ways to get those flavors into your beer. One is by careful hops selection, particularly for whirlpool and dry hopping. My favorite varieties for promoting tropical flavors are many of the New Zealand and Australian varieties such as Motueka, Pacific Jade, Galaxy, and Nelson Sauvin. Unfortunately, some of these hops are in short supply. Many U.S. hops—including Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Simcoe—also have fruity or citrusy finishes.

The key to bringing out these aromas and flavors is to use substantial quantities in the whirlpool (or post-boil steep) as well as at dry hopping rather than in the boil. Most of the fruity, tropical, and citrus aromas are derived from aromatic hops oils, which by their very nature are volatile and don’t like to stay in solution. So boiling them will erase most of the oils you are trying to get.

There is also a cutting-edge method many breweries have been experimenting with to add tropical flavors during fermentation—a technique I recently discussed with Randy Mosher on my podcast. This involves dry hopping during active fermentation, usually with hops that are high in compounds such as geraniol. The hops are added shortly after peak krausen, while the yeast cells are still active. You don’t want to add them too early, or the CO2 coming off the fermentation will remove a lot of the aroma compounds. Adding hops during active fermentation encourages a number of bio-transformations that enhance fruity, tropical-aroma compounds from the hops and produce great results in fruity IPAs as well as New England–style IPAs.

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