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Learning Lab: Hops Aroma and Flavor

Learn how to work with mini- batches to supercharge your progress toward becoming a better brewer. This column examines how you can use 1 gallon (3.8 liter) mini-batches to explore hops aroma and flavor.

Jester Goldman Jan 5, 2019 - 12 min read

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One of the best parts of homebrewing is the desire to push further, to always improve, and to understand not only how ingredients come together and work together but the science that ties it all together. Every batch you brew builds your confidence and extends your knowledge, especially as you branch out to explore your own recipes or fine-tune an earlier one. Unfortunately, with each batch taking at least three or four weeks, the learning process can seem awfully slow.

In my career as a homebrewer, I’ve found that the best way to gain that experience more quickly is with a scaled-down experiment. It starts with a mini-batch of a baseline-beer recipe that provides a simple canvas for variations on a theme. The key is to resist the urge to tackle everything at once. Instead, focus on one aspect of brewing at a time to maximize your learning. A great place to start is getting to know your ingredients better because they provide the foundation of your beer. There’s plenty to learn about malt and yeast, but this issue, let’s look at how we can explore hops aroma and flavor by focusing each of our mini-batches on a single target hops variety.

To maximize both aroma and flavor, each 1 gallon (3.8 l) mini-batch will get a dose of the selected hops at flameout, followed by dry hopping once primary fermentation settles out. Over the course of a day or two, it’s easy to start four or five of these small batches. When they’re done, you’ll have a perfect tasting kit to showcase the hops varieties you’ve chosen.

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