"Hedgerow" Hops

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JonB
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"Hedgerow" Hops

Post by JonB » Mon Jun 05, 2023 10:57 am

Hi all,

I've tried to put together a "classic" English bitter (or at least my interpretation of it), and I've found this with the last couple of attempts I am not getting the intended flavour profile from the hops.

Below is a basic outline of the recipe I have been working with/tweaking. Note that this is based on an efficienct of 85% (standard for me) and ~23L batches. Hops are whole cones because they work better in my system/process (pellets clog everything...)

The goal for me is a rich (but not cloying) malty sweetness with a balanced bitterness mixed with a Stone fruit/blackurrant/bramble/hedgerow flavour towards the end. Should be nice and drinkable but not too thin. There's a beer brewed by one of the smaller Lake District breweries I've had that really fits this bill I'm trying to replicate, think a slightly less bitter Reverand James but with more yeast-based fruity esters & more pronounced bramble flavours yet still really well balanced)

Malts:
Chevallier/Maris Otter [enough to get the ABV to about 4-4.5%]
Crystal Malt 150EBC [~13-14g/ finished volume litre; ~300g in 23L batch]

Hops:
Bittering addition @ 30 mins* [High AA English; Admiral/Challenger, enough to raise the total IBU to about 30-35]
Flavour addition @ 10 mins [~10g/l of something English]

*I do 30 minute boils as standard now and noticed no consequences of significance in any recipe beyond the reduced electric bill and fractionally larger bittering additions


For the Bittering addition I generally use whatever my local suppliers sell that has the highest AA as the bittering charge in almost all my recipes (normally UK Admiral @ 13.5%).

For the flavouring I have tried several different hops to get this right but they've never quite worked. I seem to get a noticeable herbal/woody/twiggy flavour instead of any sort of bramble/fruit flavours, even when supported with West Yorkshire Yeast (Wyeast 1469). I don't have this in any other beer that uses Admiral as the bittering charge, so I don't think it is these.

First Gold: This was more herbaly than "floral and orange marmalade," virtually no orange peel came through. It was OK but the earthyness clashed with the drinkability

Bramling Cross: I have used this before and got quite "sticky" flavours I wouldn't necessarily call "Blackcurrant" like the descriptors used suggest but I thought this would fit. This is what I used in latest incarnation, and I've got spicy/earthy/woody with no fruit at all. The beer starts with a nice malty sweetness and then this comes down like an anvil and overwhelms the pallete. It's perfectly drinkable, just far more woody/spicy than the sweet/fruity with a balanced bitterness I was shooting for.
[EDIT: it's almost a "dirty" taste, not like an infection but brieflt earthy to the point it jarrs with the rest of the beer]


I keep reading that certain English hops are supposed to contribute a strong "hedgerow/fruit/bramble character" but I've never managed to get this; I've had lovely floral character in golden beers from First Gold before that (whilst very nice) isn't what I'm looking for here; other English hops used for flavour I've found to be very woody or underwhelming/not perceptible. This is allegedly supposed to work with the stone-fruit esters from the English Yeast (of which the West Yorkshire I use is supposed to throw out in spades...).

Am I making the wrong choices here or is there something else going on?

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Re: "Hedgerow"-flavour hops

Post by Northern Brewer » Mon Jun 05, 2023 9:31 pm

JonB wrote:
Mon Jun 05, 2023 10:57 am
Malts:
Chevallier/Maris Otter [enough to get the ABV to about 4-4.5%]
Crystal Malt 150EBC [~13-14g/ finished volume litre; ~300g in 23L batch]

Hops:
Bittering addition @ 30 mins* [High AA English; Admiral/Challenger, enough to raise the total IBU to about 30-35]
Flavour addition @ 10 mins [~10g/l of something English]
First thing to say is that when people use the phrase "hedgerow hops" they mean those that grow with a dwarf habit as opposed to the usual tall ones, nothing to do with flavour....

Second thing is Chevallier tends to suck up bitterness, so you need more IBUs than normal when brewing a Chevallier-heavy recipe.

Third thing - English hops do experience considerable vintage variation in a way that New World hops don't really - a sunny July/August really brings out the citrus flavours, whereas a cloudy year makes them go earthy. But for instance the 2018 Bramling Cross blew off all her blackcurrant fruit in the sun and reverted to something more like her Golding mother. So in general (but probably not BX) 2022 hops should give you more of the fruitiness you are looking for.

But I think your big problem is that you're boiling off all the flavours you are looking for. By definition, things you can smell are relatively volatile, so you don't want to boil them. I'd move most of your flavour addition to a whirlpool addition at 70-80C, and maybe have a bit of a dry hop as well - 10g/l is very generous by bitter standards as a total addition, let alone just in the copper. It's really noticeable with BX just how much it changes depending on when you add it - I have an anglo-Trappisty beer at the moment which has a moment of pure Ribena in the finish, it's a bit much to be honest. I really like BX, but I have learnt to have it as a supporting member of the cast rather than as a solo act.

I suspect you might enjoy Endeavour which is a hedgerow hop in the dwarf sense which is the result of a cross between Cascade and a dwarf son of Target.

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JonB
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Re: "Hedgerow" Hops

Post by JonB » Tue Jun 06, 2023 11:21 am

Thanks for the info.

The bitterness on this one was actually OK, it's a little under what I was hoping for but easily tweakable next time.

When I said "hedgerow" hops I perhaps should have been clearer in that I meant hops with a strong bramble/berry/blackcurrant component (which I was led to believe Bramling Cross very much falls into). I was led to believe this is a common trait for classic "English hops" to impart these flavours, but some were obviously better than others

I have changed my process in the last 4-5 brews, I used to do a 30-minute hopstand @ 65 degrees for whirlpooling. I have subsequenly read a couple of articles that suggest the main reason homebrewers do this is to copy of industry practice but taking into account that it takes commercial brewers ~30 mins to cool all that beer and we can do it in <10 at home; it was suggested another way to replicate this was to throw these "whirlpool" hops in as a 10-minute addition and you'd more or less get the same impact as a commercial whirlpool. I've found that on the brews I've tried this I actually had a much stronger aroma prior to fermentation than with convential homebrew whirlpooling (and gained back a good half an hour of my day).

I've re-brewed a couple of recipes recently where I've domoved the whirlpool addition (with a slight mass reduction of maybe 10-20%) to 10mins and rapid chilled at flameout, I wasn't able to do a proper blind taste test but to me there was no tangible difference in terms of aroma/flavour in the end beer, and this approach does seem to use less hop matter and time...

If the blackcurrant elements are that volatile though, I might try and move this to 5 mins or a straight dry-hop? What really surprised me was how strong/aggressive the woody/herbal/earthy component was in this beer (almost completely overpowering the malt flavour, and almost tasted "dirty"), yet from what I have been able to find (even in Hieronymous's book) Bramling Cross is supposed to contribute "Spicy/Blackcurrant" but has defininitey contributed neither here. These were either 2021 or 2022, will have to check the freezer but I'm leaning towards the former.

The last time I brewed this beer I used Maris otter for the base and First Gold for the flavouring (with a few less IBUs), this flavour did not manifest itself in any way and I found there was maybe a bit of orange floral on the nose/flavour if you dug around for it, and it faded after about 2 sips; no woody/earthy/herbal component at all. This was brewed with ~50% of the flavour at 10 mins and the rest in a 30-minute 65 degree hopstand; I've actually got more flavour/aroma in this new batch (all in 10 mins) but the problem is the flavour/armona not what I was expecting at all...

Looking up Endeavour, it does look interesting but the citrus component worries me. I really want a "bramble jam"/berry/plums contribution rather than American-esque citrus, am I overthinking this?
https://www.britishhops.org.uk/varieties/endeavour/

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Re: "Hedgerow" Hops

Post by clarets7 » Tue Jun 06, 2023 12:55 pm

Less is more sometimes - 10g/L is way over the top to my taste.
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Re: "Hedgerow" Hops

Post by Northern Brewer » Tue Jun 06, 2023 11:36 pm

I happened to come across this recipe from Crisp and thought of you, with Admiral, BX and Endeavour....

https://crispmalt.com/recipes/homebrew-best-bitter/

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Re: "Hedgerow" Hops

Post by Gnorphy » Mon Nov 13, 2023 12:28 am

Brewers gold has a nice blackcurrant, (slight bramble) note. Works excellent as a late addition in a porter in my opinion.

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