A few nights ago whilst drinking a bottle of BrewDog 5am Saint I inhaled the aroma coming from my glass & paused, the first thought to enter my head was why can't all beers smell this good? The short answer is, they can!
The role of dry hopping(putting dry hops into fermented beer) for added aroma is a commonly used technique in the US craft beer scene, but relatively recently it has found favor again with British breweries. If you have ever had the pleasure of taking the cap of a fresh bottle of 'Stone IPA' for example, the aroma is simply stunning & for me is just as much a lure as the flavour. I believe aroma should play as large part of the experience of drinking great beer as savouring the flavour.
Most British brewers add 'late' hops to the copper either minutes from the end or at flame off to add aroma, this is a tried & tested technique which works & lifts the aroma of the resulting beer whilst adding little bitterness as the hop oils are not isomerised. However the aroma that can be achieved by steeping dry hops into fermented beer for at least a week is truly unrivaled.
So why don't British brewers use this technique more? In 2007/2008 hop prices hit record levels & due to the amount of hops required for dry hopping it became cost prohibitive, in some cases it could have added 40% to the cost of producing a beer. Also in the UK brewers are much more financially constrained, for example duty on beer is ELEVEN times lower in the US not to mention their larger market, the price of fuel etc... Giving US brewers much more scope to just produce 'wow beer' regardless of cost, so in short UK economics & commodity prices directly affect the quality of British beer.
In the last year hop prices have decreased significantly, in particularly US varieties, now making it financially viable to dry hop beers without increasing costs significantly. This is great news for craft beer in Britain as it allows us as brewers to increase the quality of the finished product. The brewers dilemma is at what point is a beer of sufficient quality whilst still remaining profitable? It simply boils down to simple economics, if a commodity is cheaper we can use more whilst still being competitive on price. So with one eye on 2011 I for one am excited at the prospect of using bale after bale of US green goodies to dry hop more of our beers & give them that wow factor!