I recently acquired a pound of wild hops from the Seattle area of Washington state, courtesy of a generous friend who found them on his property. The plus side of wild hops is that they have a definite “cool” factor. The negative side is that wild hops are indeed wild (or naturalized, if they are “feral” versions of cultivated hops)–you have no real published guidelines to constrain expectations for aroma, flavor, and bittering properties. It’s all lab analysis and careful sensory evaluation. In other words–a grand opportunity for a motivated homebrewer.
My first order of business was to figure out the chemistry of these things, particularly alpha acids. Because I had a good quantity of the hops, I didn’t mind sending them off for analysis. My go-to place has been BrewLaboratory; they are relatively inexpensive, fast, and supportive of homebrewers. They use HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography), and their turn-around time has been less than 2 or 3 days from receipt of the sample.
I was pleasantly surprised by the alpha acid values–5.8%! Beta acids clocked in at 3.2% and cohumulone at 30%.
The analysis nicely covered the basic chemistry, but what about the more complex aromas and flavors? When rubbing the hops between my palms, I noted a dominant, very perfume-like aroma! Behind that is a bit of vegetal/allium aroma. To help formalize my thinking on the matter, I roughed out the hop profile using spider diagrams. There are two slightly different formats that I found in my research, included below. Each breaks out the aroma descriptors slightly differently–for instance, one specifically has an “onion/garlic” category, whereas in the other that is lumped in with “vegetal”.
With nearly a pound of thoroughly analyzed wild hops in hand, I wanted to put together a nice and simple batch of beer to highlight their flavor and aroma. After consulting with some friends, I settled on an American pale ale. The goal was for something that was clean and not overly malty, to let the hops shine. Because I didn’t want to commit to five gallons of beer for the first round on these hops, I settled on a 3 gallon batch, which will fit into a 2.5 gallon keg that I have on-hand.
The weather is turning cool, and I didn’t want to deal with the thermal loss of brew-in-a-bag. So, I also elected to do a full-volume, no-sparge mash in my mash tun.
Wild Times Pale Ale
- 5.5 lbs. California Select 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
- 0.5 lb. 10°L caramel malt (Briess)
- 0.25 oz. Galena hop pellets (13.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1.5 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 10 minute boil
- 1.5 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 1 minute boil
- 1 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 5 minute whirlpool
- 0.5 tablet WhirlFloc, 10 minute boil
- 1 pkg. Safale American dry yeast (US-05)
- 1.5 oz. Washington wild hops (5.8% alpha, 3.2% beta), 10 day dry-hop
- 152° mash, no sparge, 60 minutes
- 1.051 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.2% abv, 43 IBU, 4 SRM, 3 gallons into the fermenter
- I mashed in with 5.3 gallons of water at 168.8°, to hit a mash temperature of 152.4°. The mash was down to 149.5° after 25 minutes and down to 147° after 50 minutes.
- After 60 minutes, I drained the mash tun. I collected 4.5 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.036, for 74% efficiency. Not too bad!
- I started the boil, and added the hops per the recipe specifications.
- After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame, added the whirlpool hops, and chilled the beer down to 76°.
- I transferred the beer to the fermenter while aerating, and pitched the yeast. I’ll be fermenting this at 68°.
- Starting gravity was 1.046, a bit less than expected. However, I am not surprised because I kept a gentle touch on the flame to avoid overboiling with the smaller volume of wort.
- I brewed this beer on 21 November 2016.