Dry Hopping Sour and Wild Beer

Hops for experimenting dry hopping sour beer.

Hops for experimenting dry hopping sour beer.

Having experimented with dry hopping sour and wild beer this past summer (as well as actually dry hopping a batch), I thought it would be a great idea to document some findings based on our experiments.  The results were surprising to me as some of my favorite hops didn’t work as well as I expected.

To begin I should explain the base beer.  The base beer is what I call a “Belgian Blonde”, although the name is a bit misleading.  It’s basically a medium strength American blonde ale, but uses Belgian yeast.  You can read the recipe here.  This beer was fermented, then aged in a freshly emptied 65 gallon Chardonnay barrel for 2 years.  The base beer imparts flavors of oak, vanilla, Chardonnay and a clean sourness.  A full review of the beer can be read here.

We opted to test  out 4 different varieties of hops, then also mixed and matched with different blends to find the right combination of hops for our base beer.  We selected the hops based on our taste preferences when using them with IPA’s and Pale Ales.  We tried the following varieties:

French pressing hops in our sour beer.

French pressing hops in our sour beer.

  • Amarillo
  • Citra
  • Huell Melon
  • Nelson Sauvin

To test out the hops we added an ounce of each variety into a Muslin bag then into a french press with about 32 oz of sour beer that we pulled from our barrel.  The hops were immersed for about 10 minutes and then pressed.  There were 3 of us tasting so we split the 32 oz into 3 tasting glasses and labeled them.

The 3 or us tasted each one and gave our input.  Based on the initial taste we ranked them in the following order:

  1. Huell Melon – This offered a nice soft melon and citrus character.
  2. Amarillo – We got notes of peach, citrus, and some other funky character that wasn’t quite as pleasant.
  3. Citra – Some citrus character, but also an unpleasant funkiness that didn’t work with the base beer.
  4. Nelson Sauvin – Mostly just an unpleasant funky character that didn’t work with the base beer.

We then did 50/50 blends of each the hop varieties with one another, followed by 75/25 blends.  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any combination with Citra or Nelson Sauvin that worked with our base beer, despite loving the hops in other styles.  They just didn’t mesh well with the barrel character of the base beer.

We enjoyed the Amarillo character, but too much of it lended that funky flavor we found in the Citra and Nelson sauvin.  In order to still get some of that character, our ideal blend ended up being 1 part Amarillo to 3 parts Huell Melon.  We translated that directly to ounces e.g. 1 oz Amarillo, 3 oz Huell Melon.

We dry hopped the sour beer for about 2 weeks before bottling and conditioning. Stay tuned for a post in the near future on the tasting of said beer.

Dry hopped sour samples

Dry hopped sour samples

Huell Melon and Amarillo Dry Hopped Sour Blonde Ale

Huell Melon and Amarillo Dry Hopped Sour Blonde Ale