When it comes to beer, flavor reigns supreme. Whether it’s super hoppy IPAs or fruity sours, we all have our go-to brews that light up our taste buds. And we buy 6-pack after 6-pack because, well, they’re just that good, and we can’t get enough.
Ingredients are of course credited as a major part of a beer’s flavor profile — that’s how we get our fruity ales or our rich, chocolatey stouts — but it’s oftentimes the brewing process where the magic happens.
Here at Hi-Wire, when we want some of our beers to have an extra punch of flavor, we use a technique called dry hopping for a super hoppy boost. If you don’t know what that is, gather round, because we’ve got some things to share! And if you’re an IPA enthusiast, chances are you’ve already tasted the deliciousness of this brewing technique — even if you didn’t know it.
What is dry hopping?
It all starts with the hops.
This brewing technique is all about timing. Normally, dry hopping always occurs in fermentation tanks to amplify aromas and flavors without pulling out more bitterness from the hops.
Lupulin, the teeny tiny glands inside of hop cones, holds the key to resins and essential oils that contribute to the flavor, aroma, and bitterness of our beloved IPAs and other hop-forward beers. However, resins and oils are sensitive and respond differently to heat, so most brewers tend to be particular about when they decide to add hops in. Also, a lot of these resins are not water soluble, so by adding them into the fermentation tank, we get alcohol as a result. And resins are alcohol soluble, so we get more of the flavors and bitterness we love.
To bring out the hops’ bitter qualities, brewers will add them during the kettle boil — AKA the “hot side” of brewing — so resins dissolve. But for the essential oils in hops, a long boil is a no-go, because these oils are fickle and can be easily lost. When it comes to brewing an IPA, this can be a major problem since the oils are responsible for providing those iconic big hop aromas. Dry hopping loves the “cold side” of brewing — the point in the process when ales and lagers are transferred from kettles to fermentation tanks.
The first dry hop
As popular as dry hopped beer is in the modern craft brew world, this technique surprisingly has old roots. That’s right, it originated centuries ago in Britain.
Dry hopping, back then, referred to the addition of whole hop cones (praised for their antibacterial qualities) to the cask of matured beer to help preserve it on long journeys across the ocean. And since there was no refrigeration, this was a game changer.
Fast forward to the 1980s and you see a new wave of craft brewers in the US adopting dry hopping as a way to maximize the flavor and hop character of their beer. Now, you’ll find almost all kinds of beer being dry hopped, from light Pilsners and hoppy IPAs to rich stouts.
Dry hopping: The Hi-Wire Brewing way
Here at Hi-Wire, we LOVE our dry-hopped beers, and it’s all thanks to the strategic methods of our ingenious beer brewers.
Dry hopping can happen at a variety of times during the brew process. For our beers, we like to dry hop two different ways. One of our techniques is to do two dry hops — one after the beer has fermented for 48 hours and one at the very end of fermentation. Other times, we’ll do just one dry hop at the end of fermentation.
Both dry hops bring different flavors to the table. At the 48 hour mark, we get more of a juicy, fruity flavor from the hops, but when we dry hop at the end of fermentation, we get more of a piney flavor in our beer.
Keep in mind, the dry hopping method isn’t a one size fits all — there are several ways to go about it. You’ll see some craft brewers recirculate hops so they’re mixed into the whole tank, which we do for some of our beers too. But we’re also big fans of throwing hops in the top of the tank for some really exceptional flavor.
3 Hi-Wire Dry Hopped Beer Favorites
The most classic example of a dry hopped beer (as you might have guessed) is of course the IPA. But hoppy lagers are delicious too and a great style of beer to dry hop. After all, lagers are already a fan favorite so why not take it up a notch with a hoppy boost? If you haven’t tried one, we highly recommend!
We’ve put together a roundup of some of our most popular dry hopped Hi-Wire brews. Grab one the next time you’re visiting one of our taprooms or snag a 6-pack from the grocery store to share with friends. Cheers!
#1. Zebra Slime
This is a special IPA; our first ever canned at our downtown brewery in Asheville. We pulled no punches by utilizing British ale yeast from Omega with extreme hop additions of Nelson Sauvin and an exciting newer product in ‘Frozen Fresh Citra’. So get to sippin’ and enjoy some extreme fruitiness with intense citrus, crushed gooseberries, smooth floral, and white grape hop flavors.
#2. Hi-Pitch – Western North Carolina IPA. I love that beer and drink the hell out of it.
A brewers’ favorite! This balanced Western North Carolina IPA has bright citrus and tropical fruit aromas. Expect big grapefruit, tangerine and subtle melon flavors from the chorus of Mosaic & Centennial hops to balance out the malt in this dank & drinkable ale.
#3. Low-Pitch Hazy IPA
This easy-drinking hazy IPA packs a bright citrus hop punch without all the bitterness. Juicy American hops and a light malt bill make Lo-Pitch the perfect pairing for sandy shores, mountain tops, or backyard hangs — a beer for any adventure.