the Original Slacker Podcast Podcast Artwork Image
the Original Slacker Podcast
Inside the Brewery 02: Josh Weikert on Blending Hops
October 23, 2018 Round Guys Brewing Company

Homebrewer and beer writer, Josh Weikert joins host Bill McGeeney as they explore the, more art than science at the moment, idea of hops blending. Weikert asserts that there's great opportunity for scientific inquiry into the complementing abilities of hops oils. Based on his, "Brewing Techniques - Hops: Blending & Pairing" piece in the August / September 2018 edition of Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, Weikert explores how he arrived at the magic of hops blending, and further illustrates a couple of his favorite pairings. Music provided under Creative Commons attribution license by Dave Keifer (Last Transmission). The Original Slacker Inside the Brewery Podcast is brought to you by Round Guys Brewing Company. With two locations in Lansdale and Glenside, Pennsylvania, Round Guys Brewing Company offers an array of up to 18 beers at any given time for draft or canned consumption/take out. Learn more at RoundGuysBrewery.com.

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:02Welcome to another episode of the original slacker podcast. Inside the brewery today I speak with Josh Weichert. Weichert is a. he's an academic by training, but a beer lover, beer connoisseur or beer maniac by night. I don't know what's a good way to phrase that. Either way, Josh is great guy. He's. You'll know him from many different publications. He writes a lot and most of the beer literature out there, he's a a grandmaster beer judge. He's just a great beer mind and it's always a pleasure to have him on here on the original stack or podcast presented by round guys brewing company. My name is bill. I'm your host and we're. Without further ado, we're going to jump in and talk about hops and hops and blending and how this new approach to adding flavor to beer is increasing and modify any of the flavors. The current beer styles that we know

Speaker 2:1:11and with me today is Josh Weicker. Josh is known around the community, probably even the nation for having excellent taste in beer and he's been homebrewing for Josh. How long have you been homebrewing for like saying

Speaker 3:1:24coming up on 11 or 12 years? I think. I know I definitely passed the 10 year mark.

Speaker 2:1:28Yeah. Yeah. Josh has been been everywhere pretty much in the amateur world. Now you're writing a lot when you're writing every, every magazine that pickup. I see an article from you.

Speaker 3:1:41Yeah. I'm the, I'm the contributing editor at craft beer and brewing that gets most of my time. Uh, but I do also write for Byu. I wrote the techniques column for your own. I, uh, contribute to beautycounter store semi regularly for growler. I mean, I, I, I'm a yes man. If somebody comes to me and says, Hey, would you like to write about fill in the blank? I always say yes because it gives me an excuse to sort of like, you know, do some research and it's, it's a learning process as much as anything else. And people, you know, people like that. I hit a deadline. I don't think I'm a good writer necessarily, but editors love anyone who hits a deadline. So that's why they keep coming back.

Speaker 2:2:16Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, you have to get the product out there and you know, your, your research, you've always, as far as I've known, uh, just by knowing you for the past eight years or so, like, you know, you've always been a research guy, you know, you want to. Someone gives you a challenge, like, all right, sure we'll make that and then you'll do it 35 times and he'll be.

Speaker 3:2:37It comes out of my professional life. I'm a political scientist and an economist and I. Empiricism is an important part of our world where, you know, it's fine to have good theories, but the biggest challenge in political science is that we were just like purely philosophical from, you know, 2000 BC until like 1958 when we finally invented computers and started actually measuring things systematically and we saw just how like grotesquely wrong for her with all these theories. And so our discipline. Now I, I don't know if we've overcorrected but we have a heavy emphasis on empirical verification. Can you see it in the real world and all I did was basically just apply that to beer and brewing and say, look, I mean if, if I do something once and it works, that's great, but until I can do it reliably, four or five times and repeated trials and then tell other people to do it and have them tell me it works, then I can't really trust it. So I ended up doing lots and lots of beer, which is just a great way to learn brewing because you get to incorporate your corrections that much faster when you're brewing regular length. So

Speaker 4:3:38I saw this article that you made recently over the past three months. Well you probably wrote it before them, but either way,

Speaker 3:3:45whenever someone says, Oh, I saw an article you just wrote. I'm like, wait, which one?

Speaker 4:3:49Yeah. It was published back in July, August, September edition of the, the craft beer and brewing magazine, which I find to be really great magazine. I really liked them. Beverly is, uh, there's just so much talent. It's the articles are great, they're insightful and you had been making a blue pills we trying to make and you were just off the mark every time. So what went on

Speaker 3:4:15Dana Existence? Cisco felt early in my career I decided I want to try to win a ribbon or a metal in, in every category and, and one of the and, and so I kept a spreadsheet and I hadn't sort of like, you know, I ended up in a point where I was down to like five or six styles that I hadn't quite gotten right yet, at least well enough to, you know, place in competition and one of them was Bo pills and that drove me insane because like I, I, I grew up in brewing as a, like a lager guy I liked during loggers and I, I had a sort of natural sort of affinity for it. And for some reason I just couldn't make this work. And, and it seems so easy, like mean pope pills is just, you know, it's Pilsner Malt and that's pretty much it.

Speaker 3:4:56Like if you use good floor, multiple pills from off, that's Kinda all you need and you can dress it up a little bit with like, you know, victory or something like that. But I mean like just straight, straight for malted pilsner and just to just a ton of sats, hops and I've heard this time and time and time again and could not get it right. I mean it was coming out well. It was good beer. It just, it didn't have that flavor and aroma that we expect from sats. And without that you don't really have a Czech pilsner.

Speaker 4:5:20What's, what's really the difference between a boat pills and any other pills? Bohemian, Bohemian Pilsner funders who aren't understanding.

Speaker 3:5:27Yeah, sorry. And, and in the new guidelines, I think it's check premium pale lager. They, they dropped out the Bohemian pilsner description out of the DJ ACP guidelines, but it's still there in the end, the va guidelines. But basically the difference between check German and American pilsners are, are pretty subtle. The German pilsner tends to be kind of stark and simple and grainy and with some look like floral hops. But it also tends me a little more bitter. I'm the classic American pills, like the pre-prohibition Pilsner, which we were brewing here, you know, starting with good old John Wagner, and the great city of Philadelphia was the first lager, but Britain, the United States, and he was borrowing a pre-prohibition, American pilsner would, he wouldn't even have called it that at the time. And you know, there you get a more, sort of the classic American hops like cluster and a little more little more malt character.

Speaker 3:6:12The Czech pilsner sort of lands in between those and that it generally has a bit more malt character than the German pills and it tends to be a little less better. Um, and depending on who you ask, they say that, uh, like a touch of diastal, a little bit of buttery flavor is okay. And it, I don't, I don't target that, but I, I, I recognize that it's seems to be president of the style. But what really defines it is just a, just a huge impression of that herbal, herbal, herbal sats, hops, and without that you don't have a Czech pilsner.

Speaker 2:6:42So it's a very nuanced characteristic and I think when you're talking about when you went to write this, you probably didn't have any clue what you're going to come up with in the beginning. Right. Like you, you, I'm guessing this is me guessing here, say you had to write an article and you're making a beer and in this kind of just organically came about and what's going on is essentially you're talking about blending hops and creating a timeline of flavors. Correct?

Speaker 3:7:09Yeah, that's exactly right. By the way, that's, that's generally true about the writing process. Do I usually a outlet and I usually sketch out and outline the bulk of the content and you know, I like every brighter on earth, I think I struggled to get started with writing and something that always sort of sets my head and you know, what's making sort of get into my own voice is what I think just sort of like an anecdote related to something in the, in the, in the topic and the subject. And this was one where, you know, high in terms of hops blending and pairing. This was one where it was, it solves a major headache for me, so it always stuck in my head.

Speaker 2:7:41So what's the deal with hops blending? What'd you find

Speaker 3:7:45mostly that humps on there? Well, first of all we need to, you know, throw in the caveat that I'm pretty sure I put in the article which is that we don't really know enough about hops. I mean we barely know anything if we're being totally honest, like we have a pretty good handle on, you know, the obviously biology, all of them and sort of what's in there. So like gas chromatography, but like how it produces vere is something of a black box for us. I mean we've got a reasonably good handle on, you know, alpha acids. We've studied those up and down. We know how isol, apple alpha acids work. We know why they're more soluble after you boil them and things like that. But when you dig down into what we would maybe turn like the modern use of hops, where you have deer now that are expected to have large and complex hops, aroma and flavor.

Speaker 3:8:26And I'm just gonna just flavor from now on because flavor is what you taste and what you smelled. And it drives me nuts that I have to differentiate the two for everybody. So from now on, it's just going to be flavor of the things that get into hops flavor though are these, you know, these hydrocarbons and these oils that we find in hops and we've known they're there for awhile, but we haven't really appreciated the depth of the problem as in we're talking like, you know, a couple of hundred years ago when borrowers and the amateur biologists are talking, you know, the oils and hops and their uses and when they were thinking about like medicinal uses and things like that. But they also recognize that they smelled it tasted pretty good. Um, but then like I said, modern science sort of catches up and we realized that there's not just like one or five or 10 or even 50 of these. There were actually hundreds up to, you know, maybe as many as a thousand different hydrocarbons and oils in that hump. And that's actually just the beginning of the problem.

Speaker 2:9:23How much do you think this is when we're talking about flavor blending hops, which is pretty much a big thing in the industry right now. Every brewery is doing that for nearly a lot of different styles. You talked about seasons out to IPA stouts. You're, you're blending hops to create a more. As you, as you mentioned in your article, is kind of amplify or compliment some of the flavors that you're getting out of the actual a malt backbone or you're trying to build or maybe something they use character. What do you. Do you think that it's more art than science or could it be more science and art?

Speaker 3:9:59It can be more science than art. It's just that we need to do the baseline research on it and not only that, but it might. It might end up being the case that even with that in hand, I mean just knowing how variable every recipe is on every system. It may even be the case that knowing what we don't know yet, but even if we did that, it might not even feel that useful just because we don't really have a good grasp on how these oils interact with each other or how they present in beer. It's not as simple as, you know, I'm sure I mentioned this in the article. It's not as simple as like if something needs more salt, just adding salt, you know, I mean like that. That's simple and that's how since most brewers come out of like either a cooking background or a science background, the fact that we don't have scientific answers and that it's not as simple as cooking needs.

Speaker 3:10:41That hop soils are just kind of a crapshoot in many ways and a lot of this is just we need to sort of know, build an idiosyncratic base of knowledge within each brewery, eat that. That might be the case. Even if we have good scientific answers for how these oils interact with each other and we don't really know yet. I mean we have some baseline research out of. Sapporo has released some of their. As you see it in the, uh, the journal for whatever it is, the, uh, the Academy of brewing chemists or whatever that, that journalists can see some of that hitting, hitting there, but again, there's a question of utility and we don't want, we don't know how to use the information yet and they will be the case that in you know, 10, 20, 50, 100 years will have such a grasp of this that we can really fine tune and dial in exactly the flavors we want.

Speaker 3:11:29But for now we don't really have that. So what we can do then is work it from the basic side, which is okay, start with one hub, is that giving you what you want? And in my case at least check pills her. It definitely wasn't. But I found that when I added a, a, a sort of neighboring hop, something in the same family that had some of the same characteristics all of a sudden that, that, that then worked and produced the flavor. So I was looking for. And when I started realizing that that was a productive approach, I started doing that kind of across the spectrum of my brewing because one of the things I do, I do some writing a bio and I write a blog called beer simple and we emphasized, as you might imagine taking a straightforward and simple approach to brewing and that seems antithetical to it. And I, the idea of adding more ingredients, uh, you know, is something I didn't like to do. I always wanted a very simple recipes, but I found that little additions of hops in combination with the primary hop character I was looking for was getting me closer to what I wanted.

Speaker 2:12:24How much of the New England Ipa effect do you think pushed us in this direction?

Speaker 3:12:30You can point to that. I, I like to think of that. I like to think of the new IPA isn't a factor I'm going to call it because I mean we, we were, we were trending towards beer with more hops flavor anyway. Um, we were moving away from the end of the week. Great Ivu wars of the early 2000 thoughts. Right? And getting more into, yeah, you can actually drink more than one of something and still tasted, but moving away from that sort of like how better can we make it, which in my mind was like when I was younger and I liked red wines that were just looking intensely tannic and really, you know, flavor forward and everything. And nowadays I'm just like, yeah, can I have just like something like fruity and red, that's kind of all I'm looking for. I think we as an industry just kind of went in that direction.

Speaker 3:13:11We got back to okay, computer just tastes good again and not be like an endurance challenge. So we were heading in that direction anyway. I think. So when you, when you take that to its logical conclusion, that's how you end up with a new England Ipa. But we were already seeing, you know, just to keep it in the pilsner realm. Right. Victory Prima pills is an outstanding example of German pilsner except for the fact that it has way too much hops flavor for the style. And so like that's, that's a beer the victories have been brewing for. I have no idea how many years, probably 20, 25 years and I'm not sure it's changed much to much over that time and so we were already working in that direction, but it certainly makes these kinds of discussions about how you get flavors and the extent at which we can control that. It makes those discussions a lot more Germane and relevant.

Speaker 2:13:57Yeah. I found out beer actually to age really well on draft and it mellows out in bottles. It's like the reverse it.

Speaker 3:14:05I am amazed at how different [inaudible] pills is between the bottle, the Canon of the draft. I swear if there's any barrier you could use to highlight how much packaging and delivery and service matters. That is definitely one because I thought I knew what Primo pills was like and it was based on drinking out of the bottle for a long time and then I. I found it on draft somewhere wants. I'm like, oh, wonderful live prima pills. I'll draft my takes and I'm like, I'm not sure that's the right. He doesn't sees it all the same. It's very different. And then what? And then when victory started, canning at it tasted different again. And by the way, all three work. Excellent. That was the most intriguing part of it is that they were all great.

Speaker 2:14:44I used to swear that it was a different beer. I was like, this is a different VAT or understanding it from a different bank. Yeah, they changed it this year.

Speaker 3:14:50Pills is different than last time. Serious

Speaker 4:14:53hoarding, hoarding Christmas. It will go bad within three months. Hoarded now. Um, so last question here. What about you? What's, uh, what are your favorite hop parent combination? You don't have to get to proprietary if you don't want to give away too many secrets here.

Speaker 3:15:11Well, first of all, I'm a big believer in that there literally are no trade secrets and borrowing. This came up recently. One of the projects I'm working on lately as I'm doing some consulting for a steel city, a coffeehouse and brewery, they're adding a brewery. Seth is now half clearwater headboard to steele city coffeehouse and brewery. And this came up with the owners recently, by the way, everyone go check out the steel city a job just for the coffee, hot try the Mojo is the best guy. I'm not a coffee guy. And I took a sip of that and I, I did a double take. It was incredible.

Speaker 4:15:43I don't know. It might be watering between.

Speaker 3:15:46Yeah, well there is water in coffee that counts. Um, but yeah, but uh, I was talking to the uh, the owners of steel city and this question came up recently because we were um, we had a big friends and family, a beer tasting, just sort of like, you know, start dialing in the recipes and get some early feedback. And uh, the, the two owners were asking the question of whether we needed people to sign nondisclosure or anything like that to protect anything proprietary. And both seth and I both were like, no, there's nothing proprietary in brewing, or at least there shouldn't be. I can give you named the most famous beer in the world. You can get the recipe for that beer. Try to prove yourself and it won't taste the same. Anyway, so now I have nothing proprietary. The only, the only one that I held back for a little while was mainly because I didn't understand it, not because like I just wasn't sure why it tasted good and so I didn't want to tell people about it that, but generally speaking, I, I like uh, I like sticking with, you know, thinking of this in two different ways.

Speaker 3:16:40Either pair hops or blend hops because sometimes they use three, but I try to keep the two I tend to blend or perhaps either within the same flavor profile or I tried to sort of like set up those competences, contrasting flavors. So for something like when I went floral hops, you know, we're talking, you know, taking something like Hellertown, uh, and which is just classic German Noble hops and pairing it with something that has a lot of those same geranium oil and the same floral characteristics. I'm trying to avoid the technical language, Geranium and, and Linalool and all these things that sound like I made them up. But you, you, you hair, you know, hops with the same kind of soil profile and flavor profile. And you're more likely to land somewhere in that vicinity. So like Hellertown, northern brewer to me, or rf fantastic caring.

Speaker 3:17:28Um, I use that in most every German lager I make, um, mainly is the northern brewer, gives a kind of a rustic flavor that I think is missing in a lot of, a lot of the sweeter, more refined beers. Uh, certainly many of the beers that are brewed with nothing but, you know, to row American tale malts and an American yeast and American hops, they, they, they, they lacked something, a sense of this is gonna sound so pretentious. They don't tend to like it or they don't taste like an artisanal products. They statistical to clean, you know, but uh, the, the throwing and suddenly like the northern brewer roughs it up a little bit, mixed, it tastes a little more natural. Um, tropical hops. I, I'm a fan of blending basically any classic American hop, sorry, classical, a modern American hub, et Cetera, or, or, you know, even like Columbus and nugget and Chinook and all those.

Speaker 3:18:18Um, I like blending those with, uh, with any New Zealand or Australian hops. I can get my hands on, especially the more fruit forward ones because when you pair something like Cetera that has a lot of like, you know, tropical flavors and things like that. You hear that as unlike motor Wicca or civic jade or something like that. You get like a totally different experience in terms of the hops, like you really start thinking in terms of not just not tropical in the sense of drinking like a Pina Colada or a Daiquiri but tropical and the sense of, you know, like, you know, tropical cuisine and cooking. I did ads, just a ton of flavor to it.

Speaker 2:18:52When you say, when are you putting the money, how are you pairing it and when are you pairing? It isn't like a. are you adding a mix or adding one before the other or is it one after the other and then another round or how you can use it

Speaker 3:19:08in terms of timing, they're always going to be late just because it's something I repeat over and over again until I will get everyone on earth to believe me. If you're throwing hops into the boil, those are bittering hops. I mean you're, you might get a little flavor out of them, but to you you're, you're working against yourself and ops and hoping to get flavor.

Speaker 2:19:29Right. And the thought process on that is that it's still breaking down because the heat's still breaking it down. Correct?

Speaker 3:19:34Yeah. And also these oils, these hydrocarbons are incredibly volatile. I mean like some of them volatilize at like 130 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I mean they, I mean they're almost at room temperature out loud and they still don't hold up. So like you dropped it into the oil for even a couple of minutes and they, they have a very short half life now. I mean some are more robust than others, right. Some of the, some of them were like myrcene is, but most hops are lousy with mercy and that's when you pick up a hop cone, rubbing your hands, smell it, you're smelling myrcene. Myrcene has a pretty robust shelf life in terms of half life when you're boiling it, but like other, I'm pretty sure it's Linalool is the one that I use as an example, has a boil time. Halflife of it's like, it's like 12 minutes.

Speaker 3:20:16It's, it's half of it's gone when you boil it for 12 minutes. But we've been conditioned as brewers to think in terms of boiling as like if you add it late in the oil, then that's an aroma hops. It really isn't a I. If I want flavor out of a hub, I put it in the whirlpool and for that matter I usually wait, you know, a solid five, 10 minutes left the temperature start coming down to below one 80, one 90 or so, because at that temperature, your, by the way, even if that temperature, you're still volatilizing the oils, but at those temperatures, the orbital volatilizing it a lot less and you're a lot more. And it's gonna. It's gonna survive in the beer. So we're always talking late hops. It doesn't, that doesn't have to mean dry off, but it can, uh, in terms of how I add them, um, it depends how I'm using it.

Speaker 3:21:00If I want a, if I'm setting up a contrast in flavor, then I add them in separate additions. I'm not, I'm not convinced that it's absolutely necessary, but I have noticed that when I go the other way, uh, I, they don't tend to be as crisp and clear. Like when I'm using the Hellertown northern broer when I'm just, I usually just keep a half a pound of each one of those in the freezer and [inaudible] today. I will figure out, okay, I need for this German Pilsner, I need, you know, four ounces total. I'll take two ounces of each, you know, just blended together by hand. And I just sort of then way out additions of that. Okay. For other things though, like when I'm doing a, I do fugly in glacier is a combination. I used in a lot of English beers because I liked that fumbling glacier share a certain earthiness. Uh, but at the same time, glacier adds sort of a, like a Minty Mellon flavor which makes it tastes more like earthiness and less like the ground. So what I'm going for that, I'll add those separately in separate additions. And then when dry hopping, I always do separate editions for hops and I usually give them a couple of days between additions as in I'll add one on day eight of fermentation, one on day 10 on day 12.

Speaker 2:22:08Great. Well thank you so much josh, for coming on the original slacker. Uh, you know, it's funny with we're starting to see us actually perfect craft beer now, right? That's what we're starting to see. We're actually starting to see us round out the edges and make the first second gen of craft beer actually rich. More flavorful, tastier, more, more enjoyable. Sit back and less of an endurance challenge. And some of them, yeah, I really appreciate you coming on. Where can people find you?

Speaker 3:22:40Uh, you can go to beer, beer, hyphened, simple dot if I assume that if you're listening to this, you can operate google, just google, dear simple blog and you'll, you'll find my blog, read craft beer and brewing magazine and read. Do I have stuff? I, a steel city. I'll also be. Actually, this is actually almost a perfect plug. I'll be leading a, uh, basically a two day seminar on hops hopping on pairing that whole, the whole nine yards in Asheville, North Carolina on behalf of Brew Your own magazine. And that's happening in March. So you can sign up for that. They're basically two, one day seminars and you can say it's part of the whole Byo camp happening in Asheville. And honestly, you should not have reason. Need a reason to go to Asheville ever. This is, this is a real beer, becca. It's, you know, somebody said it's like, it's like a Portland of these coast. And I'm like, wait, we already have one of those west coaster

Speaker 2:23:32random drug addicts walking around.

Speaker 3:23:34Well, I can't promise that, but yeah, so it's not an ethical leader sign up for one or two days of seminars and uh, yeah. We'll see you around.

Speaker 4:23:45Yeah, that's great. We're important. We're not, we're in Nashville. Oh, that's okay.

Speaker 3:23:50Good question. It is at a fancy, fancy hotel that I, I'm told is a very short uber ride away from all the breweries.

Speaker 4:23:58Great. Well good luck down there. I know a last time I was down here a whole bunch of breweries, but Bhramari Romare, I believe I was really impressed with that little place. More of a local's place, but they were just throwing everything out the wall and some of it's great, but you know, when you're throwing stuff at the wall you're always gonna have some thoughts. It's just part of taking a risk on it, you know?

Speaker 3:24:18Yeah. But the, but the winters when you were like that is if they are really, really out of them.

Speaker 4:24:23Yeah. So. All right man. I mean I, this is one of the. Oh I'm sorry. No, no, continue.

Speaker 3:24:27I was gonna say that, uh, one of the things that you know is really exciting about fear now is that a lot of breweries are not just into barrel aging now, they're actually making like solera where they have like stacked barrels and are blending down through the generations of each barrel and you know, you have these perpetual works that are just constantly fermenting and I'm telling you in the next four or five years we're going to see a lot of breweries that have these programs releasing single bottle releases that are just going to be out of this world.

Speaker 4:24:54That's a great trend. Yeah. I'm looking forward to it, Josh. Thank you. One more time, man. My pleasure man. Alright, great. Take care. Have a good one.

Speaker 1:25:19Wow. What a great, great interview with Josh. Always love it when I'm chatting with Josh. Good guy. Good Buddy. A way. One to talk to you about a beer we got. So you know, around guys bring company located up in Lansdale, the brewing and we have the restaurant down in glenside to Glenside Ale House and our venue spot where we're recording this right now. The original stack of podcasts being recorded in the underground around guys brewing company across the street from our brewery and pub, inland stale, so we got this beer kiss off because it's obviously a great ipa. I know Rocco is back. They're not in his head. He loves it. Hey, do you like aromatic? A funky kind of meets a, a deep citrus aroma to a beer. Kind of like a halo orange type character to it. Maybe a gold clear with a little clingy.

Speaker 1:26:07Whitehead Siberia. You sit down and look at your meijer. That actual beer, you kind of want to get another glass right next to it because it looks so pretty well. Hey, as kiss off or flagship, IPA has got a deep citrus flavor with a nice matching bitterness on neon green biscuit and cracker aftertaste. I love kiss off. I have four or five years in my place at all given times because I drink it a lot and I think there's a great beer, but it's just one of the many beers we got through round guys, period. I wanted to thank you guys one more time for listening to the show and look forward to hearing from you guys. If you guys have any thoughts or suggestions for the show or you wouldn't see any other guests on here, reach out to me. Bill at [inaudible] dot com. Send you guys off and thank you for listening.

See All Episodes