In the Beginner Brewer blog, I try my best to stick close to brewing science and the confirmation of published and peer-reviewed research. It’s a service I like to call, “I read the boring stuff so you don’t have to.”

But we all have preferences, idiosyncrasies, and (admittedly) untested beliefs that inform our homebrewing practices. Of course, it’s still a good idea to confirm some of these practices eventually.
But for now, I thought it would be interesting if I shared some of mine, especially those which have limited or contradictory evidence backing them up.

Hop Socks are Evil. Maybe.

There’s plenty of evidence for hops requiring both temperature-based and physical agitation to ensure maximum utilization. For instance, keeping your boil rolling and vigorous is a sure-fire way to extract the maximum alpha and beta acids from your hops.

But ever so often, I encounter the notion that one should, rather than just chucking hops directly into the kettle, use a hop sock or hop spider.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, a hop sock is, like the name suggests, a sock-like bag, usually made from Voil or muslin cloth, that can be suspended or placed in the kettle. The idea is that you put your hops in the bag, and so, avoid any hop residue from entering the final product, thus producing clearer beer.

But I’m not convinced. For one, there are better ways to ensure beer clarity (for a full treatment of this, check out this article). For another, I’ve got some doubts about whether hop socks allow for sufficient agitation of the hop pellets to ensure full utilization.

Evidence for this is mixed, and so far, no clear answer has emerged from the hazy fog of homebrew research. But until it does, I’m not a fan and prefer to add hops straight-up, without any socks, spiders, or other doodads.

Gently does it

Brewing is often a violent process. What with rolling boils, shaking fermenters to oxygenate your wort for pitching, and massive burners, it’s easy to assume that all things brewing are necessarily a bit rough and tumble.

But apart from the processes I just mentioned, I try to keep my brewing operations gentle and calm. Even though there is limited evidence for the risks of hot-side aeration, for instance, I still like to keep my mashing processes nice and gentle.

In general, I’ve found that doing things slowly, in a measured fashion leads to less brewing frustrations.

Add a Week

Aligned with the point above, I’ve developed the habit of almost always adding one additional week to parts of the brewing process that calls for waiting, such as fermentation, bottle conditioning, and so on.

Although I’d say this is not entirely evidence-based, there are some good reasons to believe that beer takes more time to ferment and mature than is generally believed.

And a common mistake I’ve seen novice brewers often make is to rush the fermentation and maturation phases of their brew.

Time is often a great ally to the brewer: it allows for yeast to do its work, such as scrubbing out off-flavors or carbonating your beer. In addition, flavors meld together and improve the overall quality of your beer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Comment in the space below and tell me what your favorite untested brewing methods are!

1 Comment

  1. Hans Havenga

    I have also found that when I had a “bad brew” that time can be a great asset. I have had some brews that did not taste the way I hoped it would. Instead of throwing it away (or in my case use it to distill a whiskey) that putting it in a cupboard and forgetting about it can result in a great tasting beer after a few months.

    Reply

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