Before refrigeration existed, brewers would toss hops in a barrel of beer before shipping it off to the pub. The antibacterial qualities in the hops helped keep the beer fresh, and as an added bonus, they lent a big dose of hop aroma and flavour to the beer.
The technique is called dry-hopping and today it’s not used as much for preservation — it’s used to ramp up that delicious hoppiness. Here’s our quick guide that’ll get you acquainted with the technique, and what to expect next time you try a dry-hopped beer.
The dry-hopping process
Just about every beer includes hops somewhere in the brewing process. And just about every brewer adds those hops towards the beginning, during the boiling of the wort (the water the malt was soaked in).
Hops offset the sweetness of the malt and add a pleasant bitterness along with some unique hoppy flavours. Hops give beer its piney, citrusy, floral (and many other) aromas. After boiling, the beer (now carrying all the delicious benefits of hops) is then cooled before yeast is added and fermentation begins.
When a brewer adds more hops after that fermentation starts, it’s called dry-hopping.
Dry-hopping usually happens closer to the end of the fermentation stage, and the hops can be added during primary fermentation or secondary fermentation (when the beer is moved to a bottle, cask or other vessel to ferment again). Just about every double IPA is dry-hopped, as are many pale ales. Some lagers, pilsners, and stouts also get the dry-hop treatment.
What does dry-hop beer taste like?
The bittering compound in hops, called alpha acids, have to be boiled to be released. When hops are added through dry-hopping, they keep their bitterness to themselves and instead just add those hoppy aromas we’re all so keen for.
The effects of dry-hopping are probably most noticeable in your beer’s intense aroma. If a mate opens a beer and you catch a whiff of pineapple-y, resiny, and/or dank aromas from across the room, that beer is probably dry-hopped.
Dry-hopped beers are (no shocker) hoppier and will have a more intense showing of the hop characteristics from whichever hops the brewer used — zesty passionfruit flavour from Galaxy hops, a floral lemon from Centennial hops, or maybe a spicy pine from Chinook hops. Adding that extra hop dose can also impart what’s known as “hop haze.” The essential oils in hops are volatile and mostly burn off during the boil. When hops are added after the boil, the oils will often make their way to the final beer, giving your pint a touch of cloudiness.
Is dry-hopping the same as dry hops?
Nope. While dry-hopping is a process, dry hops or dried hops are exactly what they sound like: hops that have been dried. The vast majority of beer uses hops that have been harvested and then dried, helping them last much longer and making them suitable for shipping around the world. Fresh hops, those that haven’t been dried, are also known as wet hops.
So, can you dry-hop with wet hops?
Surprisingly, yes! Some brewers (it helps to have your brewery located near a hop farm) will add fresh, or wet hops, both to the boil and even when dry-hopping. Dry-hopping with wet hops — seems a contradiction — can add a delicate, plant-like flavour and will often express different aromas than the dried versions of the same hops.
Ready to try some dry-hopped beers for yourself?
The five best dry-hopped beers
Mornington IPA is an American hopped India Pale Ale. Light orange-tinted amber in colour, this heavily hopped ale delivers rich stone-fruit aromas of peach and apricots. An initially sweet malty palate opens up to a fruity hop flavour and rising bitterness that will satisfy the bitter beer drinker.