Saturday, 24 October 2009

I can't put that many hops in

It's been said to me a couple of times. "I can't put that many hops in." By brewers when we've been discussing recreating old brews. I don't know. I thought this was supposed to be the age of heavy hopping.

You're doubtless fed up with reports of my ferreting around in brewing records. I would be. But that isn't going to stop me. Otherwise I might have to come up with some new ideas. And I'm way too old for that. Anyway, my current ferreting has a goal. Or two. One is gathering information on hopping rates.

I'm assembling a table to contain all the info. So far it's got 1,421 entries. Still a long way to go. The beer with the most hops isn't a surprise. At least not to me. Barclay Perkins IBSt. That's Russian Stout to you and me. When I gave Menno the recipe for the 1850 version, his response was "I can't put that many hops in." He calculated the IBU's at something over 250. Just as well I hadn't used the 1855 version. That had even more hops. A full 10.12 pounds per 36 gallon barrel. The 1850 recipe only had 9.31 pounds.

The quantities of hops used are terrifying. Barclay Perkins used tons. Literally. In some brews, more than two tons. That's right, two tons of hops. I can't imagine what two tons of hops look like.

Did I mention my secret projects? Obviously not, otherwise they wouldn't be secret, would they? Can't have you knowing everything I'm up to. That would be scary. Even I'm not aware of everything.

One of my now-not-quite-secret projects involves brewing an old beer. "I can't put that many hops in." Was the initial response of the brewer. Admittedly, I had cocked up the hopping rate. I'd given it as 8 pounds a barrel rather than the 4.3 it should have been. The brewer thought the lower figure was still a lot.

Those crazy Victorians, eh? The beer in question wasn't even particularly hoppy. By Victorian standards. It comes 213th in my list of 1,421 beers.


Bailey said...

Extreme Victoriana.

mrbowenz said...

I am a believer, as a historical re-enactor of a 1820'-1830's brewer, I was amazed at how hops were added and used, foolish are the modern schools that think they invented hopped up beers and styles. I have been in almost arguments with some of today’s brewers, who proclaim quite the opposite. Like fashion, we hardly ever come up with something new, we simply rehash what’s old , and make it new again .

Unknown said...

Do we know what the alpha acid content was? These amounts might not be crazy if the hops were old low content hops and the beer was high gravity.

Mind you, around 1.5kg of hops per hl sounds good to me. Double that sounds excellent.

Lars Marius Garshol said...

"The quantities of hops used are terrifying."

Does this imply that hop quality or alpha/beta acid levels were lower in the 19th century than they are now? Or does it really mean that these beers were as extreme as they seem?

Tim said...

Lars and Dave already asked my first question, but I'd also like to know about the other factors that affect hoppiness.

How old were the hops? Were the hops being used in multiple brews? What were typical boiling times?

Gary Gillman said...

One factor to bear mind is that unlike today's extreme brewers, the 19th century brewers intended their highly hopped beers to be consumed after a period of lengthy storage or shipment. The beers were meant to age, this in a time before mechanical refrigeration... You can find numerous commentaries that hop character dropped out quite a bit when the beers were ready to drink.

Did this mean Imperial stout wasn't fairly bitter when consumed after its storage or shipment time? No, but if it was, say, half as bitter as when bottled, that sheds some light on the immense quantities of hops used in the brewing.


Lager Bore said...

Mr. Dave hits the nail on the head. Alpha acid content makes all the differfence. Today's varieties might be 13-16% AA; a generation ago this would be unheard of. Closer to 3-6% depending on variety.

Ron Pattinson said...

Who knows what the alpha acid content was of 19th century hops. I'm sure lower than today. Goldings and Fuggles are the best modern equivalent.

The really heavily-hopped beers - like Russian Stout - usually had fresh hops. But would have spent a year or two maturing in vats.

Not all beers were stored for long periods. Styles like AK would have been served fresh.

To be honest, the hoppiest tasting beers in the 19th century were probably Pale Ales. Truman's had 3 or 4 pounds of hops per barrel.

The heavily-hopped beers had all fresh hops. They were sometimes re-used in other beers.

Typical boiling times? Take your pick. Depends on the beer and where and when it was brewed. Mostly 90 to 120 minutes.

Oh, and I forgot to mention dry-hopping. 6-12 oz per barrel for Pale Ales, 8-16 oz for Strong Ales.

Bill in Oregon said...

Interestingly, when I was trying to figure out some of these hopping rates, Kristen told me that many of the beers in this period seem to be hopped at .9 to 1.25 IBU per gravity point, so a 1.065 beer was 58-81 IBU's. And there is specific info that hops were stored compressed and cold so the storage was not as bad as we may suspect. Even if we assume the alpha was lower, the hopping rates are definitely up there and most of these beers were likely more bitter than I had assumed.

Lager Bore said...

Today's higher alpha acid hops I suspect are at least in part the result of economics pure and simple, for the farmer all the way up to the conglomerate brewery. It does seem clear that hopping rates have declined massively over the years, more than just due to crafting ales that resemble lagers to appeal to "the modern palate," or whatever the beer men must have said in the sixties or whenever.

Gary Gillman said...

Not all bitter beers were stored or for very long, but the ones that were not would have received the least hopping - or at least, hopping for bitterness as opposed to flavour (which brings in another variable).

I have read (first in Martyn Cornell's books) that around 1900, hopping in the pale ales dropped to about 2 lbs per barrel on average, which is more or less, say, where the Fuller pales are today. (The Fuller's estimate seemed arguable to me from doing a quick calculation based on its daily output and hop usage stated on its website.

So anything double that would have been pretty sturdy, not to mention at 5-6 lbs/barrel for IPA. But if we knock off something for yearlings and possibly lower aa levels, maybe they were half again as bitter as, say, London Pride - certainly impressive but something drinkers could accustom to. Ron, you indicated Barnsley Bitter of the early 1970's reminded you of some well-hopped U.S. micro beers of today...

My take is, these beers were more bitter than today's, considerably so, but it is something that would not be shocking by today's standards and something many craft beer fans could readily twig to.

Finally, even at the upper ranges of ABV and storage, the beers were often fairly malty, and big malt can take a lot of hops - another factor.


Gary Gillman said...

Does this help at all, especially the discussion at the end of paragraph 78?


Barm said...

I imagine there is a practical upper limit where the hops would soak up such a high proportion of the wort as to make the beer not worth brewing, even if you use a hop press to retrieve some of it.

Kristen England said...

After reading and research, most goldings-type hops would have an AA% of around 4.5% or so. Germans a little lower at maybe 4% and the Americans at 6%. There are a bunch of old sources indicating numbers close. Refrigeration was widespread, pressing the hops tighly would very much limit the amount of oxygen. The most important thing to consider is the rate at which these hops would lose their AA%. A set poundage of hops is great but if they are crap then its a different story.

What most people seem to be missing is that they are confusing bitterness with 'hoppyness'. Lets say we made two beers with todays hops. Lets use a high alpha acid hop like Summit at 18% and a lower alpha acid hop like East Kent goldings. I use these examples b/c I just did this very thing. At the same BU count, the EKG beer is MUCH hoppier...eventhough its got the same bitters.

Additionally, there was a very common theory for these older type beers in that there was very little actual 'late' hopping. Most common I've found is that a dose at the start, a dose at 30 min out and then nothing. The use of dry hopping was much much more prevalent then is used today. Each brewery had their own way of doing things. So places had a single addition, some had two.

To Gary's point about extended aging hoppy beers...I don't think thats true in 90% of cases. Only in rare cases were beers aged for extended periods of time. Most of the very hoppy beers were the traditional IPAs that were of 'normal' gravity. The Burton beers were extremely hoppy and weren't aged that long. As Ron said, lots of hoppy beers were consumed shorly after being casked.

Gary Gillman said...

Much 19th century reportage confirm that pale ale intended for India was more highly hopped than domestic pale ale. One source states twice as much hopped. Beers took time to get to India. They were hopped more because of the delay, because it was felt the hopping would help them survive the trip. Same thing for October beers, whence the style originates apparently. This is in my view a reflection of Combrune's advice to hop in relation to storage time.

Does this mean bitter beers were not sold in some cases after a short storage period? No, but that is something different: people acquired the taste for bitter beer; still, I have to assume that a AK had less hops than a brewers' best pale and IPAs.

My reading suggests that the original Burton ales were not bitter at all, but rather were strong and sweet. When Burton started making pale ale, all that changed. That is why the Bass brewer spat out the London pale ale (Hodgson's) when he first tasted it, it was much more bitter than he was used to.