The picture above is not the Devon and Cornwall constabulary’s latest drugs haul, it’s the bags of 47 of the hops for my 50 hop IPA. The others came from bails or fresh packs and I had already wasted enough time getting this lot together!
Yes it’s here, the sexiest beer on the blog so far. Hops have always been the stars of the beer show and these days they have been elevated to a saintly status. The hop itself has been improved by selective breeding and other cutting edge biotechnological techniques. Mr Fuggle (if he ever really had anything to do with the advancement of hop cultivation) probably wouldn’t have dreamt that one day we would get to the likes of Apollo and Summit.
The development of hops has been driven by the richer (bigger) side of the brewing industry and as a result those involved have striven for higher and higher levels of alpha acid (a groups of compounds in part responsible for bitterness in beer). When first used, hops would have had an alpha acid level of around 4% max. These days modern varieties are closer to 20%, the hop equivalent to the Belgian Blue cow. This is great news for big brewers who buy the hops, get someone to chemically remove the alpha acids as a green gloop and then add this to their beers. They can buy 5 times fewer hops and get the same amount of green gloop! Why turn the hops into green gloop you ask? We buy about 30,000kg of whole hops per year. To make the same volume of beer that Sharp’s make in a year InBev would use about 500kg of green gloop (the beer would be vastly different). I’m digressing again.
As a wonderful coincidence the genes coding for compounds responsible for citrus, fruity and floral hop aromas have been carried through the breeding process with the alpha acid genes meaning that these beefcake hops also have stunning aromas. The brewer’s palette now has a much broader spectrum of colour when it comes to the contribution of the hop. Without modern hop varieties craft brewers would be castrated with regard to making hophead-friendly beers and the citrus and fruity notes which are common place these days would be unheard of.
50 hop IPA (sorry I didn’t get to 52) is a fun experiment. Brewers will no doubt question the logic behind putting the namby pamby noble hops into the ring with these steroid-fuelled monsters. What possible contribution can Hersbrucker make in amongst Centennial, Simcoe and Sorachi Ace? Probably none but you can seldom pick out all the instruments in an orchestra.
Getting the hops into the beer on this scale posed a bit of problem. 50 handfuls of hops into 60 litres of wort doesn’t go easily. I got around this by doing a standard boil with 15 (lower alpha) varieties then straining them out. I then brought the wort back to boil and added 30 more for long enough to get them wet before stopping the boil and steeping them for 2 hours. I will add 5 varieties in a tea bag to the cask.
Half the batch will be bottled with a hop cone in each bottle. I have chosen Bobek for this as it has a nice little cone which should easily fit into the neck of the bottle.
In the words of Pop from the League of Gentlemen, "Something happen today... ...something good!"
Malt: Pale Ale, Crystal, Roasted Barley
1. Sorachi Ace
4. Green Bullet
26. Brewers Gold
31. Mount Hood
33. First Gold
34. Bramling Cross
47. Northern Brewer