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My parents spent some time in Germany recently and brought me back a bag of loose leaf hops as a gift / memento.

Here's the package. All I know is what's on it:

Hops from Germany

According to Google Translate, the label just says "Hop Blossoms" and something about the dose being 1 tea-spoon per cup. I have no idea what they are intended for, but it seems like maybe tea?

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to add them to my next batch of German style beer. I only have 25 grams (0.88 oz), so this is not going to be the entire hop quantity for a batch. However, I have a few concerns:

My concerns:

  • I have no idea what kind of hops these are. Does it matter or should I just chuck them in the boil?
  • Will improper storage of hops cause them to impart off-flavors? Or will the just be less potent? I put them in the freezer, but obviously the bag is not vacuum sealed, and they were at room temperature for who knows how long.
  • Is there any other possible concern? Is this possibly some translation issue and these aren't even the same kind of hops that are used for beer?
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Cool stuff and nice parents...best to move on to fresh hops though. –  brewchez Jun 1 '12 at 2:45
    
Those look like the debittered hops that a friend and I put into a lambic last weekend. –  baka Jun 1 '12 at 12:39
    
aren't debittered hops simply old hops - the debittering happens naturally as the alpha acids break down –  mdma Jun 2 '12 at 19:10
    
yes, but they're so old that they no longer have the overpowering aroma of cheese. –  baka Jun 3 '12 at 14:52
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Storage of hops does have an affect on their flavor. Ideally hops should be stored frozen in a nitrogen atmosphere or vacuum packed, and packaged with an oxygen barrier material.

These hops look like they've had none of that. They're normally a green color, with maybe a few tinges of yellow. These look quite yellow, which might indicate they've already begun staling.

Even so, you can still evaluate how they might taste in a beer. First, the aroma, check that is smells fresh, not cheezy. Then brew some hop tea using the directions on the packet. How this tastes will give you some idea of what flavors and aromas it will contribute if you used it in a beer.

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I think begun staling is an understatement. Good call. –  brewchez Jun 1 '12 at 2:45
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Heh, yes, that was a big understatement! I just looked again on a different lcd display - they're not even yellow, they're brown! I'm not sure I'd spend any time on this other than to learn what stale, oxidized hops smell like. –  mdma Jun 1 '12 at 12:25
    
Can you elaborate on how improperly stored hops would affect the flavor? There are several common beer problems that I'm aware of (too warm fermentation -> fruity flavors, oxidation -> stale flavor, infection -> sour or worse), but don't know what the ramification of old hops is. –  Henry Jackson Jun 2 '12 at 19:21
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@HenryJackson you may want to make this comment a separate question –  Nathan Koop Jun 4 '12 at 17:24
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  • Weigh-out a portion of the unknown hops and make a boiled "tea" with it.
  • If the tea tastes bad, throw away the hops.
  • If the tea tastes good, then make a tea with some hops of a known variety and known alpha acid content.
  • Dilute the known hop tea until the bitterness is about the same as the unknown tea.
  • Do the math to calculate the alpha acid of the unknown hop.

Based on what the unknown hop tastes like, you can substitute it into a recipe, and use your calculated alpha acid so you don't under or over bitter.

If you decide that bittering is not a good idea for the unknown hop, then you can make a non-boiled tea with it (but it will take a week). You can again compare with a known aroma hop and use that to scale your unknown hop into a recipe for late addition aroma/flavor.

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It's a nice idea in principle, but I have doubts that you can get a meaningful estimate. At the very least, both hop types should be boiled for the same length of time to get equal amounts of isomerization. I would also suggest making a tea with known hop variety even if the first tea tastes bad - hop tea of good hops can taste unpleasant if made to strong. –  mdma Jun 3 '12 at 15:19
    
Awesome can do attitude - of course someone adding unknown hops is going to be up for experimentation. The real shame will be if the beer turns out amazing and you want to try to replicate it. –  bmike Jun 3 '12 at 18:04
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