Earlier this year I heard about a technique that could supplement -- or possibly replace -- dry hopping as the best way for adding hop aroma to a beer. The technique is the hop stand, and I heard about it from Kristen England, who explained it in an earlier post on the Northern Brewer forums
The idea is simple -- after adding your 0-minute hop addition, turn off your burner, cover your kettle and let it sit for 60 to 80 minutes. The wort will stay hot, extracting oils from the hops. But since the wort is not boiling, very little bitterness is extracted. Apparently bitterness is extracted through a combination of heat and agitation; since the hops aren't being agitated, no bitterness. And you also won't lose hop aroma, which can boil off when added to wort earlier in the brewing process.
Because of this increase in hop aroma and flavor, you can tweak your recipe to consolidate all the 20, 15, 10, etc. hop additions into one big 0-minute addition. And, in theory, you can also skip dry hopping. In his forum post Kristen says that he still dry hops. But when we talked about the technique earlier this year, he suggested it as a replacement for dry hopping.
Kristen was enthusiastic about the technique, which he said was commonly used in European breweries. But the only information I could find about it online all traced back to Kristen. It's possible that the technique is called something other than 'hop stand', which is why I'm having trouble tracking down details.
It certainly sounds too good to be true. While I love dry hopped beers, making them has its drawbacks. Dry hopping takes a week or two, extending the time between brew day and a finished beer. And if you dry hop with whole hops -- which I do -- then you'll lose some beer to the hops. If you dry hop heavily, then you'll lose a lot of beer.
If there really is a technique that gave my beer dry-hopped characteristics without all these drawbacks, then I want to use it. But it sounds too good to be true, especially when the only information I can find about it all traces back to one man. Kristen is a highly-respected brewer and judge, so I have no reason to doubt his word. But he's also on record saying, 'Don't trust some guy on the internet, test it yourself,' which is very true. So, I decided to experiment with the hop stand technique over the course of several batches.
My first experiment was The Simarillo Sociable, an American Session Ale that is defined by its hop aroma and flavor. Since I didn't know what to expect from the hop stand, I was cautious and only used 2 ounces of hops. In the non-hop-stand recipe I would use 3.5 ounces for aroma and dry-hop additions. I didn't want to over-bitter the beer, and I knew that I could always dry hop if the beer needed additional hop character.
My fear was unjustified. I certainly didn't over-bitter the beer. I also didn't add much in the way of aroma or flavor! The hop character of this batch is very muted and soon the whole thing will be off for a week of dry hopping.
So, experiment #1 was not a success. I've already brewed experiment #2, so I can't apply the lessons I've learned here to that batch. But when I get around to experiment #3 I'll increase the size of the flameout addition; I think it needs to be as big, if not larger, than the aroma + dry hop addition would be normally.