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I'm on my first try at a hop-forward beer. I tasted my gravity sample last night after about 7 days in primary, expecting a nose full of juicy Cascade, and just got flat bitterness.

Should I expect carbonation to bring out the hop aroma compounds more than what I'm tasting, or should I plan on dry hopping?

This is what I did, for a no-boil pale ale:

  • 1.5 gallons (ferm vessel is a 3-gal carboy)
  • 2 lbs light DME
  • 1 oz Cascade - 30 min @ 160F
  • 2/3 oz Cascade - 15 min @ 160F
  • US-05

EDIT: To anyone with a similar issue who finds this question in the future - I tasted another gravity sample about a week later and it was much improved. My guess is the young, yeasty "green" flavor was hiding the hoppy goodness, even at the level of perceived aroma. I ended up bottling without dry hopping, but we'll see how it turns out.

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Was the sample you tasted very very cold? Cold temperatures diminish the body's ability to perceive flavours.

I've never found carbonation effects the hop aroma in a hugely significant way.

An easy fix would be to add some cascade directly to the fermenter, leave for 3 days, then bottle. This gives lots of hop aroma as primary fermentation is finished (so delicate aromas are not being driven off with the excess CO2), and the beer is a relatively hostile environment to any microorganisms on the hops (high alcohol, very low O2, low pH). You might be able to leave the hops in for longer, but some types can give "grassy" flavours if left in for too long. So I'm hesitant to recommend "3-7 days" in case you decided to use Saaz (for example).

Of course if you normally put your beer in a keg, wait until it's finished, then use a hop-sock or tea-infuser full of hops directly in the keg.

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There is no real relationship between carbonation levels and perceived hop aroma on the palate, to the best of my knowledge. Two factors may be relevant: very high levels of carbonation interfere with flavor perception (the more bubbles on the tongue, the less you can taste) and carbon dioxide gas escaping from the beer glass will carry off some hop aroma, a significant portion of which will reach the nose.

That said, if you want more hop aroma, use more aroma hops. :) Dry hopping is good for aroma, hopping late in the boil or at flameout is good for flavor. Hops also improve head formation and retention.

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