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There are some very helpful descriptions I've found of people describing the taste of various hops, but I've found that my personal taste can be quite different.

I'd like to be able to isolate the aroma and flavor of a particular hop, without brewing a separate or even half batch for each one. Has anyone tried something like this?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The only way to train your palate is through practice. You can read about, theorize upon, meditate over taste descriptions, but to really get to know them, you have to practice. You can learn the aroma of the different hops by smelling some in your hands repeatedly until you can blindly identify each one. That's a helpful practice, but to really get to know how they affect beer, you have to drink.

You can buy different commercial beers, but that's not ideal because single-hop brews aren't very common, especially among hop-forward beer. Also, commercial beers are designed to give an overall experience, so the malt character will tend to be strong. And you won't be able to find several brews where the only variable is the flavor/aroma hop used.

No, the best thing you can do is brew small test batches where the only variable is the hops. What I plan to do is mash up 5 gallons of 1.040 pale ale wort, then brew five 1 gallon batches, using the same bittering hop in all of them, but changing the flavor/aroma hop across each one. Of course, this requires five 1-gallon jugs to ferment in, but it should prove to be a fun and informative experiment.

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Agree that tasting commercial examples and brewing single hop beers are the best ways. Hop tea is such vile stuff that it really doesn't give you much idea of how hops will behave in a beer. –  Denny Conn Feb 24 '11 at 15:47
    
I totally agree with how you put this. You've got me thinking, I had completely forgotten about fermenting in growlers which I have a bunch of (I usually only think of bottling in them). –  Mlusby Feb 24 '11 at 15:53
    
@Denny, yeah I forgot to mention hop tea. I made some for the first time recently (in an attempt to save the flavor/aroma from my bittering hops). I think it worked well for the beer, but the little taste I took of the tea was pretty harsh. Interesting - hop tea has little aroma, but wallops of flavor. –  JackSmith Feb 24 '11 at 16:09
    
I have been doing this and using magnum as a bittering hop. Then "overdoing" it with my desired flavor hop with an addition at 20min and flameout. Hop teas while convenient just weren't teaching me anything. –  brewchez Feb 24 '11 at 16:44
    
brewchez, do you mean you've been making the whole batch with one hop as flavor and finishing, strong in order to learn its effect? –  Mlusby Feb 24 '11 at 21:22

You could try to just make a hop tea, either using a coffee press or just stirring it into the boiling water and letting the hops settle out. I think that should give you a good idea of the hop's aroma and flavor without any other hops or malts covering it up.

Alternatively, just boil 2 quarts of water and add your hops. After 10 minutes, pour off a quart, which would give you an idea of the aroma and flavor. Boil the rest for another 50 minutes to see how much bitterness they would contribute.

Using these two methods you get to experience the hops alone, no malt or yeast characteristics to get in the way and confuse your palate.

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Hop tea is probably the best way to isolate the flavors from individual hops without any distractions of malts, esters, or any other flavors that would come from a beer's other components. –  travis Feb 25 '11 at 16:51

If you're interested in isolating the hops, brew a mild tea of a couple of pellets and let your nose and taste buds dig into it. Use a tea ball for the hops or a small bit of cheesecloth to ensure you're not picking shredded hops out of your teeth. ;)

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What basically I do, is to buy those hops or buy a beer with those hops, make my own notes on what I smell and taste and then I surf the internet for facts, like for Warrior hops for example:

http://www.brew-dudes.com/warrior-hops/577

And then also read some reviews from Beeradvocate. Also I consult this with my friends.

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