So they said my beer would taste pretty bad and it was sure to go down the drain… not sure why I would even attempt this…

Well, you know the saying: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man…

… see, the thing is that this whole aged hops, beta-acid brewing thing started because of one fact… hops are one of the most estrogenic plants on earth…

… and while I’m still guzzling down IPAs, I wanted to look into ways I could minimize my estradiol intake through beer…

Most of the research I did has little to do with brewing so I won’t bore you with it… but a couple things stood out that pointed to German brewing practices and aging hops…

See it turns out that the estrogenic properties of hops diminish as hops age… so I was on the right path…

As hops age, alpha acids also decrease along with their bittering potential, but beta-acids oxidize and gain bittering potential…

I may be unreasonable if I left it at that…

… but I tapped the keg during the superbowl weekend… and I was surprised by the taste of the beer…

What many brewers said would happen didn’t…

They said the aged hops would give my beer a cheesy flavor… but I got none of that…

What I got instead was the signature of the German lagers and Czech Pilsners I drank during my last trip to Europe…

Something about the beers I drank there was different… and I couldn’t figure out exactly what…

It may have been an excuse to drink more, but I wanted to look at every aspect… was the malt flavor different? was it the water? was it the hops? decoction?

I’ve brewed lagers before trying to re-create this signature… played with water adjustments, decoction vs infusion mashing…

… but none of that seemed to get me closer…

Until I brewed with aged hops…

If you haven’t tried brewing with aged hops, then I strongly recommend you do…

Be sure to use low alpha acid hops, preferrably the noble type.

See the key thing to know is that alpha acids are the components of hops that may give off a cheese-like flavor when they age

… so we want to choose hops with low levels of AA%…

If you try to brew with aged hops that have high alpha acids, then you will get more of that cheesy flavor and it may indeed make your beer taste weird…

Keep in mind that when I say that, I’m talking about aging the hops for only 2 to 3 months so you can brew non lambic beers… you will read that you can age higher alpha acid hops, but you’ll probably have to age them for about 3 years because it’s likely the information is coming from lambic brewers… that falls into a category of its own…

By aging hops only a few months you can brew non-lambics since your hops maintain some of the aromatic properties of and you get bitterness from beta acids as opposed to alpha acids…

Remember when you age hops, AA% declines and oxidizes, but so do Beta Acids… AA% becomes useless, but Beta Acid % become useful…

As beta acids oxidize, their bittering potential increases… so we start to look at hops the opposite of how we look at them when we are selecting fresh hops…

What I looked for in hops when I thought about aging them and brewing a German lager was low levels of Alpha Acids and high levels of Beta Acids levels or BA%… we prefer hops with a low alpha to beta acid ratio like your noble hops that are 1 to 1…

The hops I used were Czech Saaz and had 2.4% alpha acids and 3.4 % beta acids… a ratio of 1:1.4

So the potential for a cheesy flavor to develop was minimized and the potential for bitterness from beta acids was maximized…

I’m still gathering data to see how using beta acids translates compared to using alpha acids… so I thank you for being a Brew Beer and Drink It Pro as part of the funds will go towards experimenting to get this data… (I will make Brew Beer and Drink It Pro available to Better Home Brew Formula Members who joined prior to January temporarily as my way of saying thank you for supporting my blog, but please know that without this I couldn’t keep the blog going…)

As it stands… aging 2 to 3 months gives you slightly higher bitterness… and it’s not so much more bitter, but it give beer a bit of a gentle harsh mouthfeel… not a bad harshness, but just different… I like it!

1 oz of aged hops would give you about the same bitterness as 1.5 – 2 oz of fresh hops…

To oxidize Beta Acids and gain bittering potential, you want to expose them to oxygen. Use whole hops because a greater area of the hop is exposed to oxygen…

To store these hops, take the opposite approach of storing fresh hops… don’t seal them, but expose them to oxygen and store them at higher temperatures… just be sure to keep them dry…

I personally store mine in the pantry in the garage inside of a brown paper bag… this keeps moisture away and the brown paper bag is permeable meaning it allows oxygen in… and we need oxygen to oxidize our Beta Acids…

Cheers!


    7 replies to "Adding Bitterness to Beer With Hop Beta Acids"

    • Mike

      Jorge —
      Your article on aging hops got me to thinking of what the reality is on storing hops in the freezer. I would think that there must be similarities but it just takes longer to occur. I usually buy 16 oz bags of pelletized hops and store them in the freezer pending future use. Thoughts on how long freezer hops maintain their character? I’ve heard one year, but I suspect it’s longer. However, I’ve never found any study, chart, etc that shows what happens or any rule of thumb for a maximum freezer stay.
      Regards,

      • jorgitoz

        @Mike Exactly… when I did this I just looked at the components that help oxidize hops and exposed the hops to that… the two most important is temperature and oxygen… I have some hops that have been in the freezer longer than a year so I may have some insight in the near future, but as of now, I don’t know how long you can store and not notice significant difference…

        All I know is that as long as they are packaged in an airtight, sealed package at below freezing temp, then you should be able to store them for a long time…

        Cheers!

    • Larry

      Hey there!

      Very interesting read, makes me think I should really give this a go. Can I ask, which German lagers and Czech pilsners did you come across that you have a hunch use dried hops? I am asking as perhaps there is one or two I could aim to clone…

      Cheers!

      • jorgitoz

        @Larry the original Budějovice (Budweis) and something as common as Paulaner’s premium Pils… but many of the German beers have a certain something… I call it a signature… it’s a combination of a sulfury smell with a different type of dryness… not sure if that makes sense 😉

        • Larry

          ok! Yeah, there is a sulfury type of flavour I get to, I usually attribute this to the yeast. Were you sure that your beer was fresh? As in, apart from ‘the signature’ you describe all other aspects were fresh? ie. old beer, old hop flavour etc etc.

    • Hold the Ellipsis

      Definitely an interesting topic, so thanks for delving into it. As a point of curiosity, is there (credible) research to show that the level of estradiols in hops can be detrimental in the quantity consumed in beer? Is there high bioavailability of estradiols in beer (i.e. can we readily absorb and use it). I’d be interested in links to any of that if you have it.

      One final note: you used an ellipsis 61 times in your article, and only 3 periods. I think that may be the inverse of standard grammar 😉

      • jorgitoz

        @HoldTheEllipsis… I will take your word that I used the ellipsis 61 times in that article, haha.

        I don’t have research that specific to beer consumption. Like I mentioned in the article, most of what I was reading had little to do with brewing or beer. It was more to do with testosterone production and other hormone stuff I was learning because of my thyroid issues.

        There are many things like this that no one researchs, so all we can do is observe and become the test subjects ourselves. I don’t think the level of estradiols in hops can be detrimental, but I believe in the compounding effect of things. One beer won’t do much, not even two or three. Drink hoppy beers everyday for a few years and who knows?? I sure don’t want to be the guinea pig for that.

        Most people’s health is in decline because the food they eat doesn’t kill them right away… but you eat bad food everyday, and the compounding effect of it will soon reveal itself.

        Again no research, but you can make simple observations and connect the dots. 😉

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