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On an impulse last week I picked up some German Merkur and Herkules hops from the LHBS to use as flavoring and aroma hops in a pilsner, because I thought they might be an interesting twist. But now I'm not sure if they will really fit the style, or even the style of a "light lager", since they're described as primarily bittering with some dual-use on the hop reference sites I've found for merkur and a conference poster comparing them.

Has anyone had experience using them for their aroma? Or using them at all?

Both have an AA of around 13-14, which is high for flavoring and aroma schedules, but the labels claim they're good for all parts of the schedule for pilsners. I haven't experimented, but have noticed (and also been told) that you can get a fair amount of bitterness from even a 25 or 30 minute boil, despite conventional knowledge. Does it sound like I might get appropriate bitterness if I left out a bittering hop and threw one of them in around 30 minutes, and the other around 5? And more importantly, which one should be used for each step? I could just open them both and choose after smelling them on brew day, if no one has recommendations.

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Well, today is brew day and no one seems to know, so I guess I'll find out. I'll post an answer after it's ready in a few months. If anyone else has thoughts in the meantime, feel free to write in... –  Erik Kastman Apr 8 '12 at 14:42
    
Good luck! If it's not too late, you could try adding a bounty to the question to encourage answers. –  Mark McDonald Apr 11 '12 at 4:40
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2 Answers 2

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Just today I read the brief descriptions of Herkules and Hallertauer Merkur in Stan Hieronymus's "For the Love of Hops". FWIW, a summary:

Herkules is described as "smoothly bitter, a reminder that assessing cohumulone's role is complicated." No discussion of aroma, so I'd follow your nose with this one.

Hallertauer Merkur is described as "a bittering hop used primarily in pale lagers. Earthly, floral, spicy." This to me indicates it has enough aroma to suffice for late additions, although probably won't have the same profile as a classic Saazer or even Hallertauer Mittelfrüh.

With any hop, the advice I once received from an experienced commercial brewer was that if it smells good then you can probably brew something decent with it. So take a sniff, think about what you want from the hop, and if it works then throw a handful in late.

As an example, I grow a hop in my backyard that was bred for commercial release only as an ornamental, not a production plant. (Sunbeam, sometimes marketed as Golden; Saaz is a parent.) The hops' aroma is mild and slightly spicy. With the 2nd year's harvest I put about 2 ounces (dried) in at flameout of a golden ale recipe. It was one of the best beers I've ever made.

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Well, it looks like you have a few distinct questions here. I'll try to answer them from experience and will provide evidence where I can. 1.) Yes, you can get your bitterness from late additions. Consider the technique of "hop bursting." This is laid out well in Gordon Strong's Brewing Better Beer, though you could read about it here: Hop burst technique & bitterness calculation

2.) I'm not familiar with the hops you mention, but the best test is going to be tasting or smelling the hops to see if they are too harsh-- often people avoid high alpha hops because they tend to have a 'harshness' to them from the alpha and or beta acids, and a lack of hop oils. You could try to dry-hop some existing beer with them, making a hop tea, or even running them through an aero-press (though the latter will pull out some oils). It will eventually be a judgement call as to whether they taste like Noble hops or not. I've judged excellent Pilsners that were made with American varietals, but still tasted correct due to the terrior, variety, and other growing conditions.

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