This is something I have chased for all the years I've been homebrewing - an intense hop flavor in my beer. This started a few years before the "New England IPA" thing got big. There was some information that came out quite a few years back from some tasting panel experiments run by Ray Daniels that showed that maximum hop flavor was achieved by an 80 minute whirlpool at 180F, IIRC. I know Randy Mosher referred to this on a few podcasts and/or NHC talks probably 5 or 6 years ago.
This was a big breakthrough for me. I started focusing on extended hop stands at varying temperatures, for varying amounts of time, with varying quantities of hops, and with/without dry hops. I still haven't hit on one single magic formula yet, but I have identified several trends based on my results.
1) More hops = more flavor. That seems obvious, but the first thing to try if you're looking to increase the hop flavor in your beer is to double the amount of hops you're using. There is a bit of a diminishing return as you use more and more hops, but I use 2-4 oz/gallon for my target hopping rate - usually around 2/3 at whirlpool and 1/3 as dry hops.
2) Dry hops add quite a bit of flavor, they aren't just for aroma. A lot of flavor comes from the whirlpool hops, but I did several "whirlpool-only" batches and found them to be missing some of the brighter fresh citrus and pine notes compared to brews using both whirlpool and dry hops.
3) Warmer/longer whirlpools or hop stands get you more flavor. I've tried cooler temps and shorter times, but I get noticably more flavor from a 90 minute hop stand that is kept hot. I generally add the hops at flameout, after all boiling activity has stopped, and turn the heat back for a bit on when it dips close to 170F.
4) Not all varieties pack the same punch. You really want a lot of hops that are high in oil content. I use Citra in pretty much all of my IPA's. Even if it's not the dominant flavor I'm looking for, it really boosts the oil content.
5) More hops means more vegetal/grassy flavor. This is pretty much the bane of all heavily-hopped IPA's. I have yet to find a way to completely separate the flavors I want in my beers from the ones that I don't want. I've seen some trends, but nothing I'm willing to claim as conclusive.
Yeast is something I haven't played with too much. A lot of my experimentation was done before the NEIPA thing got big, and I used US-05 for almost all of my IPA's. I know certain strains definitely seem to decrease hop flavor; so it's not unreasonable to think that some can enhance it.
- Cold storage seems to reduce grassiness faster than it reduces hop flavor. But who wants to lager an IPA for 3-6 months...
- Whole hops might lead to less grassiness than pellets. I'm not 100% convinced of this yet, but I've brewed a few beers that used a portion of the hops as leaf that had noticibly less grassiness than all-pellet beers. Unfortunately, many of my favorite hops (Vic Secret, Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy) aren't generally available as whole cones.
- I've done some experimenting with Polyclar, but I haven't noticed much of a change in the end results of my beers.
The experiment conducted by Rock Bottom I eluded to above supports your findings.
Dave Green summarized this study in his BYO article on the topic of hop stands:
“Another factor to consider is how to handle dry hopping your hop-forward beers if you employ an extended hop stand. Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery performed an extensive study on hop stands and dry hopping under the guidance of the Portland, Oregon brewmaster at the time Van Havig, (now of Gigantic Brewing Co., Portland, Oregon). The study was published by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas Technical Quarterly and considered beers that were hopped in four different ways, short hop stand (50 minutes) and no dry hops, long hop stand (80 minutes) and no dry hops, no hop stand and just dry hops and finally half the hops in hop stand (80 minutes) and half the hops for dry hopping. Beers produced using exclusively hop stands and the beers produced using exclusively dry hops will both result in well-developed hop characteristics, but there were some nuances. The long hop stand developed more hop flavor and aroma than the short hop stand indicating that essential oils were still soaking into the wort after 50 minutes. The exclusively dry hopped beer received its best marks in the aroma department, higher than the hop stand beers, but scored lower for its hop flavor. The beers where only half of the hops were added for the hop stand and half were added for aroma ended up scoring high in both departments. Havig's study also showed that adding 1 lb./bbl (0.45 kg/bbl) Amarillo
dry hops produced the same amount of hop aroma as ½ lb./bbl (0.23 kg/bbl), indicating diminishing returns at higher dry hop rates.”
Of course, as we’ve said here many times that experiment was conducted on commercial equipment which can lead to differences when scaled to home brew equipment. Though I find it interesting there are parallels between your findings and theirs.
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