2012 New York Wet Hop Amber Ale

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I had the opportunity to brew a wet hop beer this year using locally grown hops from Long Island, NY.  Brooklyn Homebrew received the hops from Farm to Pint just a few hours after picking.  Benjamin (the owner of Brooklyn Homebrew) and I brewed an American amber ale to highlight the wet hops.

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Yeah, the wort is actually in there somewhere.

The brew day was a bit unusual because of the large amount of hops.  We used over two pounds of whole cones in the boil.  Most brewers only get to do this once a year so we weren’t quite prepared for so much vegetable matter.  They absorbed more wort than we had anticipated, even after increasing our pre-boil volume to compensate.  Because we didn’t know the alpha acid content of the fresh hops, we decided to bitter at 60 mins. using processed whole leaf hops with a known alpha acid to make sure we had sufficient bitterness to back up the substantial malt backbone that included 2 pounds of Munich and 1.25 pounds of Crystal 20L.

After fermentation was complete, there was very little hop aroma coming from the carboy and hydrometer sample.  This was surprising because of the quantity of hops used.  We split the keg and I decided to dry-hop my half with some of my dried home grown Cascade and Columbus hops to boost the aroma.  Here are the tasting notes on my half of keg.

Appearance: Cloudy and hazy, most likely from the whole leaf keg-hopping.  Amber colored with orange highlights.

Aroma: Initially this beer had very little in the way of hop aroma even with (seemingly) a ton of delicious fresh hops.  All you could smell going into the keg was sweet malt and alcohol, not very promising.  Dry-hopped in the keg with one ounce each Cascade and Columbus, both home grown, dried, vacuum-sealed, and stored in the freezer.  The keg hops brought out delicious strawberry, hay, and fresh cut grass that only lasted a few days.  Bubblegum is also present I think as a combination of the mixed berry and sweet malt flavors.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Too much crystal malt, cloying sweetness that is not balanced by wet hop flavor.  Makes this beer hard to drink.  Only positive aspect is the nice biscuit note from the Munich malt.

Overall:  Definitely too much crystal malt, but I’m not sure where we went wrong as far as hop aroma/flavor.  The hops smelled great when they arrived in the crate but we were unable to get that character into the glass.  It’s possible that we didn’t use enough hops, but after listening to Sunday Session with Steve Dresler from Sierra Nevada about wet hop beers, our ratio of 8 oz. wet for every 1 oz. of dry hops (we would have used in a normal batch) was very similar to his ratio.  Next season, I’ll dial back the crystal malt quite a bit.   I may even make it a pale ale and increase the quantity of fresh hops towards the end of the boil to capture that great aroma.

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Looks great, tastes meh. 

9 lb (70.6%) Standard 2-Row; Rahr – added during mash
.5 lb (3.9%) White Wheat; Rahr – added during mash
2 lb (15.7%) Munich TYPE I; Weyermann – added during mash
1.25 lb (9.8%) Organic Caramel Malt 20L; Briess – added during mash
19 g (2.1%) Columbus whole leaf  – added during boil, boiled 60 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 20.0 m
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 20.0 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 15.0 m
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 15.0 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 5.0 m
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil, boiled 5.0 m
2 oz (6.1%) Chinook Wet Hop – added during boil
6 oz (18.4%) Cascade Wet Hop – added during boil
1.0 ea WYeast 1272 American Ale II™
1 oz Cascade Dry Hop – added to keg
1 oz Columbus Dry Hop – added to keg
Chalk: 4 grams in the Mash
mash pH: 5.68
Gypsum: 5 grams in the Boil
Actual IBU’s should be around 45, since the bulk of the hop additions were “wet”
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