This experiment was to enticing to pass up, but to make it a reality we needed fresh, whole-leaf hops. Luckily, our friends, Kate and Suzanne, just happen to grow their own hops, which they graciously donated for this experiment. The Cascade hops were picked from the vines during the morning hours on Thursday, August 29th, 2012 and collected up later in the day. The hops needed to be dry for use in the french press, so I placed in the oven at two-hundred and thirty five degrees for ten minutes then let them air dry for twenty four hours. The french press was disassembled into its various parts and cleaned three times with generic dishsoap, before getting a hot rinse in the dishwasher.
To perform the tasting experiment, we filled the french press about two-thirds with hops and poured in three-quarters of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. We choose this beer because as the websites explains it is made with, "generous quantities of premium Cascade hops..." and is readily available. Before placing on the plunger and filtration device we allowed the hops to steep in the beer for ten minutes along periodically swirling the mixture with a knife to distribute the hop oils.
After the ten minutes had elapsed, RandumInk carefully inserted the plunger and began methodically pressing the filtration device pushing the hops to the bottom of the french press. Before we tasted this newly "hopped" up version of this classic American brew, we sampled the Pale Ale straight from the bottle. The hop character had a very pleasant, floral aroma. This pleasant aroma was complemented by a controlled bitterness with a hint of spice.
The french pressed pale ale had lost most of its carbonation causing the beer to become flat with hop "pollen" floating across the surface of the beer. The aroma of this version was bursting with hop character, almost to the point of excessiveness. The aroma of the beer was much better than the taste. The pleasant spiciness had been transformed into a vegetal quality that contained much less bitterness. We hypothesized many reasons why this transformation had taken place, but ultimately they only conclusion that we could agree upon was that the original Chico version was superior to our french pressed experiment.
Although this experiment didn't produced the results we had hoped, we did learn about the power of dry-hopping during secondary fermentation. I hope to use this newly acquired appreciation for dry-hopping by incorporating it into more of my homebrew recipes creating more aromatic products. I enjoyed this experiment and hope to it again in the future was other pale ales or IPAs and different hop varietals.