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SteveG
04/30/09 10:05 AM  
Aging hops
I mentioned this in a thread below, got no nibbles. I'll try again.

I am wondering if there is real validity to the notion of aging hops to make lambics. The reason as I have always understood it was lots of aged hops are added so you get their preservation benefits without their flavor.

But Cantillon has made beer with fresh hops. And the brewery aging is only 3 years. Friday I had an old bottle of Palm with a BBB guy, it was a bottle style I'd not seen in a decade, the label was deteriorating and I did not recognize the imagery. No way it was less than 15 years old. I'm not a fan of Palm, this bottle was actually the most enjoyable one I'd ever had!! Though to be fair, it was clearly not what the brewer intended to make. But it had not spoiled.

Anyway, beers in the lambic alcohol range can certainly last well over 3 years. And what about all that acid, doesn't it help? Throw in there the presence of bugs for whom conditioning is a real marathon then ask, are the cheesey, old bay smelling hops really important here?

Mike T
04/30/09 10:56 AM  
Re: Aging hops
My personal feeling is that the mountain of aged hops would be an important part of making a true spontaneous lambic to keep the thermophilic microbes down during the “natural” cooling until the bugs we like get their act together.

If you are brewing a (p)lambic the way I do (sterile, chill, inoculate etc…) I don’t see any reason not to just throw in some low AA hop for ~10 IBUs. If it works fine for every other type of sour beer, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for Lambics.

SteveG
04/30/09 12:17 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Wow, "thermophilic microbes". That's a new one on me, I need to google that. Interesting answer Mike, what do they do?
tankdeer
04/30/09 12:48 PM  
Re: Aging hops
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermophile

My understanding is pretty much spot on with Mike's. The addition of aged hops was traditionally to get the preservative benefits without the bitterness/flavor. As hops age the aromatic oils volatilize as do alpha acids but I believe that the beta acids are much more, "robust" shall we say. Since beta acids are nowhere near as bitter as alpha, you can add tons to the beer without affecting flavor too much, but still discourage some of the "bad" bugs from taking up residence in your fresh lambic wort.

That was at least how I've understood it over the last couple years of reading random things on the internets and books.

So if you're doing a spontaneous/ambient, it might be beneficial, but otherwise, probably not so much.

Cheers

SteveG
04/30/09 04:17 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Ah, I basically know of the type of organism you mean, I've heard them refered to as "extremeites". But these organisms have pretty specific environmental requirements. As it says on the page tank sent ... "[they] are found in various geothermally heated regions of the Earth". Can actually survive near vents at hundreds of degress. Life is amazing, it finds a way.

I would find it hard to believe though that any organism drawn the areas of geothermic heating would find their way to the Senne valley. That be like gaurding against polar bears in Brazil.

>>but still discourage some of the "bad" bugs from taking up residence in your fresh lambic wort.<<

But how could hop elements distinguish between good and bad bugs? Is providing a selective shield against some microbiology really what comes to mind when you hear "preservative benefits? I think more of things like retarding oxidation.

Baums
04/30/09 04:46 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Extremophiles are cool. I guess there's even one that can reproduce at 121C (autoclave temps)!

But I don't think that's what these guys mean. There's a group of lactobacillus that's "thermophilic" meaning they can survive rather high temps (but not in the extremeophile class). Thermophilic lactobacillus are common as dirt (all over malted barley) and they're mostly the organisms that survive in a mash at mash temps, and make it into unboiled Berliners. I could be wrong but I think l. delbreuckii might even be one (?). Anyway at least some of these guys are also inhibited somewhat by hops.

SteveG
04/30/09 09:30 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Every board needs a Baums! That does make a lot more sense, just one detail is out of whack now for me. If these organisms make Berliner what it is, why would you want to ice them in your lambic? They sound like just the kind of thing you'd want.

Actually two things are out of whack. OK, so lactobacillus tried to sneek in when the beer was hot but the hops choked them out. Then the beer cools and other microorganisms hop on board. Why don't the hops choke out them out too?

Mike T
05/01/09 09:27 AM  
Re: Aging hops
I have always been a bit confused by that aw well, I have seen several sources that claim that lambic brewers try to keep the lactobacillus contribution to a minimum in their lambics (preferring pedio to do the souring further down the road). A friend of mine just did a Berliner, he gave the lacto a 48 hour head start and the rehydrated US-05 he added after has been very slow to get started. It could be that something similar would happen in a spontaneous lambic if you went light on the hops (bacteria reproduce much faster than yeast).

Different strains/microbes have different sensitivities to hops, so what is enough to keep some microbes from reproducing isn’t enough to stop others.

Baums
05/01/09 10:34 AM  
Re: Aging hops
Those are good points and questions, and I don't think anyone knows the answer to all of them.

I don't know that I'd say thermophilic lacto definitely "make berliner what it is", but it's probably fair to say they traditionally had at least some role in souring it (along with whatever else got into the beer at whatever other point in the process).

As for lambic and the adding of aged hops... I try to remember people learned to add aged hops not because they figured out all the microbiology but just because in at least some cases they found it made the beer taste better. Does it inhibit all bacteria? No, but it does inhibit some, and at least some of these bacteria may make the beer taste "worse" (too sour, or diacetyl, or DMS, or the "celery taste"). I think it's maybe as simple as that.

Baums
05/01/09 10:34 AM  
Re: Aging hops
PS every board needs a SteveG much more than it needs a Baums
SteveG
05/01/09 01:54 PM  
Re: Aging hops
You're too kind!

It is true, this is an attempt to backwards engineer the reasoning behind using the old hops. Back when they figured this out they also figured out if you were a witch if you didn't float when thrown in a lake. In a sense that's my point.

We as home brewers follow the leads of those who came before us. Belgian lambic brewers use old hops so we use old hops. So far everyone who offered a reason why did not go the "preservative" route as it would pertain to oxidation or other post-packaging effects that can chip away at a beers quality. Every reason has been tied to the act of cooling wort in the Senne valley night air and the ensueing bug party. If that really is the point of the aged hops, and if we are not cooling our lambic wort in the night air - let alone the Senne valley night air - then by going to the effort of aging our hops for our lambics are we going through a meaningless motion?

The alternative reaoning I think, which I feel is more on the mark but cannot prove in any way, is that way back when beer was always consumed fresh. It was a far less artisinal day, nobody had cellars to age fine beer. Actually I doubt there was much in the way of fine beer to be aged. So a lambic, that went 3 years before it hit the street, was a real anomoly. Who knows, maybe beer did spoil quicker then. There was far less sanitation, no technology to be brought to bare on growing, harvesting and malting grain, no refridgeration (which could be a big factor), etc. Maybe a beer didn't have the same chance at long term survival as it does today. So maybe aged hops WERE important, but today not only are they moot to homebrewers but Belgian lambic producers as well.

Hummmmm

ChadYak
05/01/09 03:44 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Ok this discussion has way to many misnomers in it... First off..

<<There's a group of lactobacillus that's "thermophilic" meaning they can survive rather high temps>>

I can tell all of this is coming from WildBrews (which should be read with caution as it is not all fact but lots of interpretations) Thermophilic bacterias that he is referring to are acetobacter. These are organisms that love to infect wort straight out of the kettle at temps around 120 F. Acetobacter a huge producer of purely acetic acid is absolutely not wanted in a spontaneous beer.

<<OK, so lactobacillus tried to sneek in when the beer was hot but the hops choked them out. Then the beer cools and other microorganisms hop on board. Why don't the hops choke out them out too?>> and also <<But how could hop elements distinguish between good and bad bugs? Is providing a selective shield against some microbiology really what comes to mind when you hear "preservative benefits? I think more of things like retarding oxidation.>>

It's not the hops that decide who gets in and who doesn't, it is the physiology of the bacterial organism and it cellular pathways. Undissosiated hop compounds insert them selves into plasma membranes and by doing so disrupt pH of the inner cell and its function. Also the tiny wholes created cause leakage which inturns allows the alcohol into the cell eventually destroying the cells of the bacterias. Certain Lactobacillus strains such as Lactobacillus brevis are are hop resistant as they have and "ABC" transporter which quickly transports the hop compound back out of the cell restoring the balance. It also has a mechanism which binds to the hop compound through divalent bonding and inactivates the compound. There you go straight from my notes from first semester.

<<what comes to mind when you hear "preservative benefits? I think more of things like retarding oxidation.>>

Hop compounds like iso alpha acids which are the main preservative compound in no ways inhibits oxidation in a beer. Oxidation is a completely different biochemical process which involves reaction with polyphenols and the binding to oxygen sites and changing the molecular composition and color of the final beer.

<<As for lambic and the adding of aged hops... I try to remember people learned to add aged hops not because they figured out all the microbiology but just because in at least some cases they found it made the beer taste better. Does it inhibit all bacteria? No, but it does inhibit some, and at least some of these bacteria may make the beer taste "worse" (too sour, or diacetyl, or DMS, or the "celery taste"). I think it's maybe as simple as that.>> and <<way back when beer was always consumed fresh. It was a far less artisinal day, nobody had cellars to age fine beer. Actually I doubt there was much in the way of fine beer to be aged. So a lambic, that went 3 years before it hit the street, was a real anomoly. Who knows, maybe beer did spoil quicker then. There was far less sanitation, no technology to be brought to bare on growing, harvesting and malting grain, no refridgeration (which could be a big factor), etc. Maybe a beer didn't have the same chance at long term survival as it does today. So maybe aged hops WERE important, but today not only are they moot to homebrewers but Belgian lambic producers as well.>>

Remember from WildBrews in areas such as Senne Valley region and from Farmhouse ales and the brewing oh "Saisons" in Wallonia which are remnants of each other the brewing was seasonal. So beer had to last for the year. There absolutely was aging beer because there was no option to brew continuesly. Only 150 years ago Belgian had something like 2,000 breweries because each home brewed. Beer had to be saved for the year. Further hops weren't exactly available like they are now so what was around was used. Old hops was what there was. Pilsner wasn't made because they knew they had soft water it just so happens that it survived because of it and is now a characteristic.. the same for tradition and lambics they used old hops because its what they had and it worked hence why it has survived. The preservative benefits were seen with fresh hops and non fresh hops. Back in the day they were added as possible, because someone said hey try this it helps. I think that about gets everything..

By the way Lactobacillus delbruekii is what is used mainly to sour Wit beers and Berliner Weisse. The lowered pH from the organism helps ward off other potential spoilage organisms too.

SteveG
05/01/09 04:24 PM  
Re: Aging hops
>>Thermophilic bacterias that he is referring to are acetobacter.<<

But do not lambic producers specifically avoid brewing during certain months specifically to side step acetobacter? If so then is not acetobacter retarded by another means ... timing?

>>There you go straight from my notes from first semester.<<

OK ... that was intense! But as educated as it was, it is really not relivant to the original question. Since homebrewers tend not to cool their wort outside when making plambic, the "protect the wort from contaminents while its hot" concept just does not fit. We use wort chillers but still many homebrewers stick to the aged hops rule. Why?

>>Hop compounds like iso alpha acids which are the main preservative compound in no ways inhibits oxidation in a beer.<<

I didn't mean to suggest otherwise, I was using oxidation as an example of post-packaging spoilage to contrast the pre-packaging spoilage that would be the case if hot-side contanination was the problem. I've always heard the deal described as loads of hops used for their preservation benefits, not because they retarded certain bacteria upon cooling.

>>There absolutely was aging beer because there was no option to brew continuesly.<<

OK, I'm down with that. Still, we are not talking here a lambic time frame. You're right, some beers would have to last longer if production had a window. But nowhere near 3 years.

>>the same for tradition and lambics they used old hops because its what they had and it worked hence why it has survived.<<

Then why would that practice be lambic-specific? If that's all there was so that's what everyone used, regular old pale ales would have used years-old hops too. Maybe they did. But today lambic producers still use them, other beer styles do not despite what their ancestors had to deal with. Really, how dumb would it be to apply a practice today that was driven by availability issues 500 years ago?

So lets bring this to modern times. Lambic producers still use aged hops, homebrew books tell us we should too if we make lambic. But clearly the "that's all there is for hops" reasoning has no place for the homebrewer. Nor does any reason tied to thermophilic bacteria and open night air cooling. Who here makes plambic and uses aged hops? Why do you do that? BTW, my hand just went up. I've been using years old hops for my ambient ale. Why? Cause I've been told to. I now question that. Do you, or do you see a reason to buy an extra bag of hops to sit on for a few years?

BPotts
05/01/09 07:18 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Steve I asked this same question not too long ago.... I'll search up the archives to see if I can find the thread.

Personally, I think it's a flavor thing. I've done a couple hoppy sour brews and I thought they tasted kinda strange with that extra grassy earthy flavor. In fact I think we tasted that kind of flavor in Ted J's flemish red during the swap tasting if I remember correctly. The flavor just didn't fit for a red. If we want to get into Wild Brews - I think Jeff comes to that eventual conclusion as well. Though I guess it could be argued that those flavors would age out in time, I think it probably still contributes to the flavor on some scale and probably never would taste the same as a beer brewed with aged hops. Ever had a great hoppy double IPA that's been cellared for a year+? Yuck - just bitter and metallic with a bad grassy flavor - none of the original fresh pungent fruity citrusy flavors... not what the brewers originally intend the beer to taste like.

Obviously, like you said, homebrewers are working within a controlled environment (an air tight glass carboy, usually) so really, why bother worrying about infection from random bacteria and yeast floating around in the atmosphere....

BPotts
05/01/09 07:27 PM  
Re: Aging hops
http://www.babblebelt.com/newboard/thread.html?tid=1108752780&th=1221491971&pg=&tpg=4

About mid way down the page - the topic didn't get much discussion but Al said he still does for ambient ferments - again I'm assuming to get aseptic qualities without flavor contribution.

SteveG
05/01/09 07:28 PM  
Re: Aging hops
I have personally never gone for hoppy and sour. I still remember the day on the main board that I admitted not being a fan of Orval. Ouch! So for me bitter and funky also just does not work. But I feel you can simply lay off the hops, use and ounce and change, and not fight the wild components of your brew.

Anyway, my objective in questioning a rule we have all grown as brewers obeying is to try and cut through misconception, really hammer out the best way to do what we do.

ChadYak
05/02/09 04:25 AM  
Re: Aging hops
<<But do not lambic producers specifically avoid brewing during certain months specifically to side step acetobacter? If so then is not acetobacter retarded by another means ... timing?>>

The risk of infection is throughout the entire brewing process. Just cause a beer is sterile out the kettle doesn't mean it will stay sterile through transferring. In Lambic a larger amount of the organisms which cause fermentation will come from the barrels. Of course for the original fermentation when a barrel is brand new it would have been from the air but not anymore. A lambic producer would fill a cask at least a quarter full before filling it with wort if it were first use new. So what I'm saying is the risk of spoilage is through the entire process and hops benefits are not for the first few hours but for the entire life of the beer. And acetobacter are some of the most prevalent bacterias and will always be present they just may be lower during certian periods of the year but inside they live year around. I have done 4 ambient ferments in various rooms through the university looking at the influence and to se how contaminated labs and brewing areas are and 3 out of 4 times I have gotten significant acetobacter spoilage.

<<Since homebrewers tend not to cool their wort outside when making plambic, the "protect the wort from contaminents while its hot" concept just does not fit. We use wort chillers but still many homebrewers stick to the aged hops rule. Why?>>

Same as above the hops preservative benefits are a continued benefit they are for each process were spoilage may occur. Anytime you sample from a barrel your are upping the chance of the possibility of spoilage. How many times do they sample a barrel over 2 to 3 years?

<<hops used for their preservation benefits, not because they retarded certain bacteria upon cooling>>

The preservative benefits are they preserve the beer from bacterial spoilage. Through out the entire life of the beer not just wort cooling.

<<Then why would that practice be lambic-specific? If that's all there was so that's what everyone used, regular old pale ales would have used years-old hops too. Maybe they did. But today lambic producers still use them, other beer styles do not despite what their ancestors had to deal with. Really, how dumb would it be to apply a practice today that was driven by availability issues 500 years ago?>>

I think this is a fun question and a good one. This is why books like farmhouse ale and Wildbrews are such god reads because they try to demystify history. But to be honest with the "How dumb would it be" Brewing has some massively un founded beliefs which it continues to use. Its brewing and some of it is based on opinion. I believe that absolutely people are dumb enough to continue something because its the way it has always been done. Just look at the way lambic is produced. They use equipment so outdated why? Because its the way it always was. You can produce the same quality product with the same base using ultra modern techniques. Dirk Naudts proves that with De Proef brewery.

But after all that typing.. To answer your question... I can't come up with a super good reason to use aged hops.. Really if your making a pLambic do you need to use them? No just like MikeT said 10 IBU is sufficient... I think if its a pLambic and there is no need to protect it by adding the very large volumes of hops which they do but get no bitterness from then you only need to get 10 IBU's or so from some low alpha acid aroma hops used as a bittering hop to "balance" out the pLambic. Aged hops allow the amounts which would be added fresh to an american IPA to be added to a lambic without noticing any hop character due the the degradation of the is-alpha acids. Do you see any reason why it would be important other then purely for style and to say you did in a pLambic?

SteveG
05/02/09 06:08 PM  
Re: Aging hops
In regards to avoiding acetobactor:

>>The risk of infection is throughout the entire brewing process. Just cause a beer is sterile out the kettle doesn't mean it will stay sterile through transferring.<<

I've made 5 or 6 ambient ales, only one was trashed by acetobactor. Made it too late in the year. On the other hand, prior to starting this thread I always used loads of old hops, so the one I lost would have had its hop shield up. I've also had a barley wine going every year for the last decade in change, they can still for 2 years. Never lost one to vinegar. With BWs, I prefer the less hopped variety, so dodging acetobactor would not be due to Bigfoot hop levels.

ChadYak, I do realize that excersizing caution in terms of acetobactor, and any other unwanted microflora, is a very important aspect of managing your beer aging. So though I can accept that acetobactor is always present, my personal experience has taught me that it is not always a threat. If it were always a threat you'd be risking every beer by racking it.

As far as >>How many times do they sample a barrel over 2 to 3 years?<< I'd like to steer this topic more to a homebrewer context, that was always my intention here. In that context the question is moot, I have no barrel to sample from.

>>Do you see any reason why it would be important other then purely for style and to say you did in a pLambic?<<

I don't, there in lay the point. And of course the only benefit from being able "to say you did in a plambic" would be to impress others who are also of the mistaken belief that aged hops are important here. I think tradition is cool, but not just for the sake of tradition. And keeping hops around for a few years is a pain in the ass. This board gets a lot of attention from people looking to made funky beer like lambic. It is my hope that by getting people to think about what they are doing instead of just doing it cause they read somewhere that they should, that we will be helping to nudge forward best brewing practices.

So all that said, when you make a beer that would tradionally call for 3 year old hops, do you bother?

ChadYak
05/03/09 01:23 PM  
Re: Aging hops
Needs more reading into maybe... Look up some papers from the Journal of the Institute of Brewing on hops, hop preservative compounds and their activity with age and on aged hops. Get a hold of them, read them and then why don't you come back to this thread with your findings.. I know I'm interested, many other probably too. That is one of the point to this board and brewing in general ..research.. brew/test..report..

Chad

kbhale
05/04/09 12:31 AM  
Re: Aging hops
Why they use old hops, cheaper? Would the chemical changes that occur during aging of hops control the growth of unwanted wild ones different than fresh hops? A lot of nasties in a barn yard.

I don't think it matters if you use old hops or low alpha hops in today's making of sour beer, our sanitation is good. Which makes the choice coming down to taste. What is important is timing of what bugs eat first. The hops suppress the growth of lacto and maybe other wild ones more than yeast. So yeast mainly Brettanomyces dominates the wort first. Which uses up oxygen and forms the pellicle which suppresses Acetobacter . With the lower O2 levels Pediococcus grows easier. The alcohol suppresses a lot nasties to. And so on.

Me, I grow hops and have a 2 kilo box setting out on a self I use for sour and fruit beers.

kevin

SteveG
05/04/09 06:06 AM  
Re: Aging hops
kbhale, for "Why they use old hops", see the first post here, second sentence. As far as being cheaper, having to store something for 3 years before using it would not reduce it's value or lambic itself would be cheap (also stored 3 years)! They acquire the hops then age them as opposed to getting bargains from hop growers on inventory that has not moved in 3 years.
Narvin
05/04/09 10:57 AM  
Re: Aging hops
Different acdis and oils in hops age in different ways over time and with oxidation. I'm not sure how important aged hops are to a lambic, but there is no doubt that, chemically, aged hops will contribute different flavors.
Baums
05/04/09 11:56 AM  
Re: Aging hops
Wow, lots has been written here. Couple of comments:

Chad says "I can tell all of this is coming from WildBrews." We all have to be careful about what we state as fact. That statement is no exception.

I really don't think acetobacter love to infect wort straight out of the kettle. I *know* they can become an issue later on when there's some ethanol around for them to work on, but I'm not aware that they spoil ethanol-free wort. If there's some real evidence to the contrary, I'd definitely like to hear of it.

I think nobody will dispute that hops have at least some bacteriostatic properties for at least some spoilage bacteria. In that sense they should certainly be of value in at least some ambient ferments. And with aged hops, you can use more of them before you affect the flavor too much.

Another reason for using hops is that supposedly (probably more than "supposedly" but I'll just say so because I don't have a solid reference offhand to back it up) hop polyphenols have a significant antioxidant protective effect. Again, aged hops lets you get more of that without overdoing hop flavor/bitterness.

 
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