The Ins and Outs of Aged Hops

Why use Aged Hops

Hops are an essential part to any modern beer or homebrew. From IPA to Porter and Pilsner and everything in between, hops are used in all different ways to create all sorts of flavor. Hops are also used as a means of sanitation since they are naturally antimicrobial; keeping spoilage bacteria from growing in your beer. Aged hops contain this same property but loose a few thing along the way.  The floral, fruity, dank flavor you get from a nice dry hopped IPA is lost and replaced by an almost cheese or musty aroma.  Also their bittering property is removed as alpha acids, contained in the hop cone, degrade with heat and exposure to oxygen.

Aged hops are traditionally used in Belgian-style Lambic production, a beer that is spontaneously fermented by microbes in the air.  By using aged hops the beer still gets the antimicrobial properties that reduces the amount of bacteria and allows wild yeast to take hold early in the aging process. These beers can sometimes be aged up to three years. The hops provide a subtle flavor profile that compliments the wild yeast flavors without adding bitterness.

When could you use aged hops? You can use them in your home brew to create a new flavor profile for brett and spontaneous ale projects. Keep in mind beers with aged hops will be funky, cheesy, musty etc. unlike the citrusy, bright flavors you would expect from hops. They can be used as a bittering charge, to deter lactic acid production without adding hop bitterness. They can also be used as late addition hops for those cheesy, funky characteristics, or a dry hop for even more intense funk. If you are using it as a dry hop we recommend pairing it with other non-aged varieties.

What does it take to age hops? It’s pretty simple! If you’re a homebrewer with access to hops you can use a partial bag to begin the process. Generally, I like to use low alpha acid hops with European origin. However, I have heard of brewers that use high alpha acid American hops as well. Age your hops in a warm, dry area – light is not a factor. Make sure your hops are dried out before you loosely seal the bag so they don’t mold. Generally you will want to age your hops about a year – keep in mind pelletized hops take longer to oxidize than whole cone. As you can see in the photos, the hops are no longer the vibrant greens they once were. But they turn dull and brown as they age.
Photos from left to right: Whole cone hops aging in loosely sealed bags. Aged whole cone hops. Aged pelletized hops.

At MobCraft we’re experimenting with aged hops.  We have started to age hops for our future spontaneous ale projects. Currently, we use them for their flavor as a dry hop and even as brewing additions in some barrel fermented brett beers currently in process.

-Adam Director of Barrel Operations