Fresh hop lager recipe & notes - Brain Sparging on Brewing


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July 7, 2021

Fresh hop lager recipe & notes

It's hop harvest time which for me means it's time to use up my meager hop harvest to make another fresh hop beer. I know fresh hop beers can be polarizing and their brief early 2010s moment in the spotlight has long since passed but I enjoy these beers, even if they are a loving reminder that not all hoppy beers have to be haze bombs. Fresh hop beers continue to have a stronghold in the Pacific northwest but there's no reason why us homebrewers cannot share in the delight of these delicate hopped beers. 

Note: I wrote this post last September when it actually was hop harvest time and burned through the beer without making tasting notes. The beer overall turned out ok despite letting the hops live on the bines longer than I should have. 

How my poor gardening skills helped unintentionally craft this year's fresh hop beer

As a recap (because nobody cares about the hops I grow) I am growing classic American varieties Cascade, Chinook, Mount Hood and Sterling. The sterling has been lazy about its growth and this year the chinooks went from almost ready to overly dried out in a few days this week which means my 2020 fresh hopped beer is going to be primarily cascade and mount hood. I think growing them in barrels instead of the ground has proven a not great solution in hot and dry Denver summers so I am going to sink the barrels mostly into the ground this winter to get the benefit of limiting their spread but give them a cooler root system. I am also going to tie them into my garden irrigation so they don't have to rely on hand watering every day. 

Now that you are sufficiently bored with my gardening woes let me point out the recipe-relevant issue that I have mostly cascade and mount hood to work with. Mount hood is a noble hop substitute so I'm taking the easy route with this year's beer and opting for a fresh hop lager. Cascade and mount hood hops represent one of the oldest craft beer hop combos but I don't think I have enough hops in total to do a good job with a pale ale. Instead I'll let the hops off easy this year and do something a little milder in hop character and let mount hood flex its delicate hoppiness. 

Let's talk about this fresh hop homebrew recipe

So I want to make this a less style-focused beer and call it a craft lager. American hops, even those old school attempts at noble hops, miss their mark duplicating their ancient cousins so let's not pretend mount hood makes a German pilsner as well as hallertau. Instead, let's craft (get it) a separate space for delicious beers inspired by old world lagers but with their own character. Let's also not make them second rate comparisons by trying to force them to be their old world models. Instead, let's celebrate these hops for what they are and put them into beers that showcase their strengths, not their shortfalls. Craft lager is a nice catchall for these beers. That loops in IPLs and new world hopped lagers but why not as well lagers built around the classic American hops. It's not the best term for those beers but at least it frees them from the constraints of competing with old world beers. 

I plucked all the available hops from the bines which, unfortunately were not in the best shape but still smell good. The final blend weighs in at just over three ounces which is not bad considering how much of the hop content is extremely dry. My rough guess here is that this is closer to two ounces of dried hops so an alright amount to add to this beer. 

For this recipe I kept the recipe simple with pils malt to keep the beer crisp and let the hops do the heavy lifting providing flavor. Because I'm keeping this American I want a punchy hop character so I'll add some dried mount hood at the end of the boil and let all the fresh hops arrive at whirlpool to keep all the delicate character intact. Round this beer off with a fermentation care of Inland Island 1171 (Andechs's lager strain). 

Fresh hopped lager recipe

Batch Size: 3 gallons       
Est. ABV: 5.2%       
Est. IBU 37       
Est. OG: 1.046       
Est. FG: 1.012       
Est. SRM: 3.9       
Expected Efficiency: 72%       
Grain BillPounds Ounces SRM Pct. Grist
Pilsner malt6 0 2 100.00%
Water Profileppm      
Bru'n Water Yellow Bitter       
PH: 5.5       
Water Additions    Mash Sparge
Gypsum    0.8g 1.2g
Epsom Salt    0.8g 1.1g
Canning Salt       
Baking Soda    0.2g  
Calcium Chloride    0.7g 1.0g
Pickling Lime       
Lactic Acid    .4ml  
Mash ScheduleStep Temp.   Step Time  
Single Infusion Batch Sparge       
Mash volume: 7.5qt       
Sparge volume: 2.8 gal       
Infuse 7.5qt at 167F152   60  
Sparge 2.8 gal180      
Boil ScheduleVolume Unit Time IBU
60 minute boil       
Cascade [5.5%]1 oz 60 37
Mt. Hood [6%]1 oz 0 0
Irish moss0.25 tsp 5 0
Fermentation Schedule# Days Temp.    
Yeast: Inland Island INIS-711 Monks Lager       
1.5l starter       
Pitch at 50F1 50    
Free rise to 54F and hold until 1.010? 52    
Free rise to 65F for diacetyl rest7 65    
Reduce temperature to 36F3 36    
Lager30 36    
Keg at 2.3 vol       


Fresh hop lager brewday and fermentation notes

Brewed 9.7.20.

First runnings gravity: 1.092
Preboil fermentation gravity: 1.050
Preboil volume: 4.1 gal
Mash efficiency: 94%

Postboil gravity: 1.050
Postboil volume: 3.5
Brewhouse efficiency: 80%

I'm not sure how I extracted that much wort from this batch given how much hop matter went into the kettle. I should be closer to 2.5 gallons instead of 3.5 gallons but I guess I extracted more from the mash and sparge than I calculated. Oh well?

Pitched yeast at the end of the brew day and by the morning the airlock was happily bubbling away.

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