Hops Lose Alpha Acids Over Time (Part 1 of 3)

HopBagAlphaLet’s say you buy an ounce of Cascade hops and it says 6.0% alpha acids on the package. What is the percentage of alpha acids in your hops? This might seem like a trick question, but it isn’t. Alpha acids decay over time and the percentage listed on the package represents the level when the hops were analyzed. The number may be substantially lower when you brew with them. In each hemisphere, hops are harvested once a year. Once harvested, the clock is ticking on their alpha acid levels. For advanced homebrewers — especially those brewing hoppy beers in the few months leading up to the next hop harvest — it pays to understand what is going on and how you can adjust for it.

The major variables contributing to the decline in alpha acid levels are temperature, exposure to oxygen, exposure to light, and the variety of hops. As a homebrewer, you should store your hops in a way that minimizes their degradation.

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Brewing with Heather

CallunaVulgarisHeather (Calluna vulgaris) grows widely across Scotland. Its purple flowers are mentioned in many Scottish poems and songs. The tips of the bush are eaten by grazing animals and bunches of flowering heather are often gathered for decorations. In the past, heather was also used to bitter Scottish beers.

Hops don’t grow natively in Scotland. In the 1800s and 1900s, Scottish brewers imported their hops. Before that, in the 1700s and earlier, there is some evidence that Scottish brewers used other bittering agents in their beer. (There is a lot of conflicting evidence about this. I’m not a historian, but it seems there is at least some evidence to support this.)

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Plant a Beer Garden (I: Hops)


A leaf from a healthy Cascade bine.

It’s that time of year again, the time when hop rhizomes are available for homebrewers who wish to grow hops. Growing your own hops can be very rewarding. It’s also very straightforward. Here’s what you need to plant hops for your own “beer garden.”

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Barleywine (II: Extract Wort Production-II)

This is the second of two articles on extract wort production in the series of articles on barleywine. The previous article was published yesterday.


An old can of malt extract.

Making a barleywine wort using malt extract as the primary source of fermentables is straightforward — for the most part, you just dissolve the malt extract in water. However — as I discussed in the previous article on influencing the amount of trub and altering the fermentability of the wort — there are ways to tweak your wort production to make brewday easier and your beer better.

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