Hi Stan, Love your work. My question is - do you know of a way to predict good hop combinations?
My question comes from the sheer number of varieties that are now available. Obviously trial and error is one method but I'd like to be able to dial in a combination and the right proportions more quickly. I have read "The Brewers Apprentice" in which Mitch Steele provided some good classic combinations and that's helpful. But again, so many possibilities make it difficult.
Thanks, Reuben. Lots of effort right now being put into a) determining which oils/compounds in hops result in particular odor compounds (that become aromas after being processed by our brains) and b) breeding hops that feature those oils/compounds. We'd hope that means the catalog in the middle of the next edition of "For The Love of Hops" will list percentages of compounds such as linalool, gernaniol, citronellel, etc. AND they have meaning for you, the brewer.
In the interim, some broad stroke suggestions. These come with the reminder it is easy to overrate any one component. We've gone through periods where linalool was considered a key marker for "hoppy" aroma, then it was considered overrated. Now, a lot more interest in how in interacts with other hop components and yeast.
New World hops (meaning they originated there, though they may grow now in the Old World, or be used for breeding other hops grown in the Old World) seems to have two key markers found in much lower levels, or not at all, in European landrace vartieties - 4MMP and Geraniol. When I started researching the book the discovery of 4MMP was more of a breakthrough, one of those things that would have been easy to overrate. Maybe I ended up not discussing it enough - jury is still out. Geraniol - Cascade is a good example - is an example of a compound that breeders once tried to minimize.
So pairing hops known to have 4MMP and geraniol with hops relatively rich in linalool (all in the presence of yeast) seem to be producing some interesting fruity flavors that go beyond citrus. That's one reason brewers are so hot for hops with a higher percentage of oils. For instance, geraniol might be six-tenths of 1% (that's way above average) of the oils in Mandarina Bavaria from Germany, so just the overall oil level is equally important. And until more is known about specific compounds, brewers figure that a high oil hop like Equinox (previously HBC 366) at least has some of everything.
Meanwhile, my suggestion is to pair new hops with some you know a bit about. Still trial and error, to be honest. For instance, use something like Cascade (good geraniol) and Nugget (high in linalool) at knockout or in the whirlpool. After fermentation, split the batch into multiple parts and dry hop each with a different new variety (still at fermentation temperature, some yeast present). Repeat as necessary, remembering the best experiments change one factor at a time.
Sorry for the rambling. Something about the topic.