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Generalisations about beer culture homebrewing

Late Addition Teabags

When trying to explain how the approach to using hops in beer has changed in the last 30 years we’ve frequently resorted to an analogy: brewing a cup of tea.

Traditionally, British brewing has used hops primarily for bitterness. Just look at some of the recipes Ron Pattinson has shared over the years, on his website and his splendid book: in most, the last hops are added no later than 30 minutes before the end of the boil. (We’ll get on to dry-hopping in a moment.)

In recent years, some trendy beers have tended to move the hop addition later and later in the brewing process — fifteen minutes from the end, ten minutes, five minutes, one minute, or even at the exact moment the boil stops. Sometimes that’s in addition to a base layer of bittering hops, but increasingly not.

Dry-hopping — the traditional method of adding hops to cool beer during fermentation, conditioning or storage — has also become more popular, and more extreme.

(You can read about all of this in more detail in another excellent book, Stan Hieronymus’s For the Love of Hops.)

Anyway, here’s that analogy: we’ve explained this to curious people as the difference between (a) making your morning cuppa by stewing a single tea-bag for ten minutes, or (b) by dipping in ten but only for twenty seconds.

(We sort of tested this at breakfast today, stewing one bag for five minutes versus five for 30 seconds: the stewed tea was more bitter and sort of drying, while the five bagger was slightly more flowery, but not hugely so. Which brings us to…)

You can further extend the analogy: instead of stewing Red Label, you’re dipping a mix of five different exotic teas, most of which your Nan would have turned up her nose at.

Now, of course, you could pick holes in this analogy (and most analogies in general) but the point is, it’s a useful bit of rhetoric: when you’re talking to people who don’t really have any idea how beer is made, this can help switch on the little light-bulb.

6 replies on “Late Addition Teabags”

I’m a big Earl Grey drinker (what can I say I have a citrus problem) and if I want a heavy, tannic cup of tea I’ll stew the bag for five minutes. If it’s late and I’m up writing I’ll give it 30 seconds for a much brighter, citrus forward cuppa.

And yet I’ve never thought about it in the context of hop additions – and now I have. So thanks!

Maybe — can’t claim great knowledge there, I’m afraid. Feel free to educate us!

From what we’ve read at Ron’s, though, it doesn’t seem to have been a universal practice (someone will correct us if we’re wrong) and,. where it did occur, was about extracting ‘fine’ hop character which we’ve tended to assume means something quite subtle rather than ‘in-your-face’.

Ha. Yes.

Herbs or onions in cooking might work, though: stewed long for depth but added fresh at the end for colour/freshness/pop.

Your analogy is very good, and apt here (Canada anyway) as tea-drinking is still quite prevalent here and has received a fillip with the influx of Asian and other communities to large cities.

It is a mistake of brewers, IMO, to lessen hop bitterness and heighten aroma. Aroma is dispensable, as the history of English pale ale shows; hop bitterness is not. Too many flabby IPAs are being made now which are weak-tasting for this reason.

Gary

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