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8 Quick Questions About Aged Hops and How to Age Hops

Aged cheese, aged wine, aged liquor…aged hops? When and why would you used aged hops?

1. What Are Aged HopsĀ Used For?

Aged hops are used in beers that are spontaneously fermented, which means that they are exposed to open air to allow natural yeast to enter the wort and ferment it. No yeast is added by the brewer. These beers are fermented in wood barrels for at least a year, sometimes several years, and take much of their flavor from the wild yeast and bacteria that enter during the open-air exposure and that exist in the wooden barrels.

This style of beer, known as Lambic, is not known for its hop bitterness. Its unique, sour flavor actually requires minimal hop bitterness. When hops are aged they lose their bittering properties, but they do not lose their ability to prevent infection in the beer. This is why aged hops are perfect for brewing Lambic: they protect against wild bacteria infecting the batch, but they do not give the beer much bitterness.

2. How Are Hops Aged?

Hops are aged by simply letting them sit in a dry place, such as an attic, for one to three years. Home brewers most often place the hops in a brown paper bag and then leave them to age.

3. Why Do Hops Have to Be Aged for So Long?

As the hops age they go through phases that are described as “funky” and “cheesy” due to their aroma. After sufficient aging, though, the hops will lose any aroma and flavor that they once had. A full year of aging will diminish flavor and aroma in most cases.

4. What Type of Hops Are Aged?

Whole leaf hops are used for aging because hop pellets do not age quickly.

Some sources recommend aging hops that are low in alpha acid, which is what causes the bitter flavor in hops. Essentially any variety of hop can be aged, however, because the goal is to rid the hops of flavor and aroma anyway.

5. Is There A Way to Accelerate Hop Aging?

You can rapidly age hops by heating them to 150 degrees F in an oven for up to twelve hours, but with a caveat: it will make your house smell horrible and the smell may linger for days!

6. Is There An Alternative to Aged Hops?

If you are brewing a Lambic but can not find aged hops, or do not want to wait a year or two for them to be ready, there is another option. Replacing the aged hops in your recipe with a very low-alpha acid hop variety will give similar results. If you do this, aim for a final bitterness between 10 and 15 IBUs for the beer.

7. How Many Ounces of Aged Hops are Necessary for a 5 Gallon Batch?

Recipes vary, but Lambics often use 3 to 4 ounces of aged hops. If the Lambic is going to become a fruit beer even fewer hops are used – only 1 or 2 ounces.

8. Where Can I Buy Aged Hops?

Try these home brewing suppliers for aged hops:

Hops Direct
Seven Bridges Cooperative

Have you ever aged hops? What process did you use and how did it turn out?