My latest batch (American IPA) was my first where I utilized dry-hopping. I used homegrown whole-cone hops (Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook) which were added loose to the glass carboy fermentor after beer was 95% attenuated. At that point i had tasted the beer and was very excited, as it tasted wonderful! I predicted that some additional hop aroma would only add to the experience.
Two days into the dry-hop, I noticed that at the beer at the top of the fermentor (starting about 1" below the layer of floating hops) was clearer than the rest of the fermentor. I, unfortunately, didn't snap a photo of it, but it suffices to say that the boundary between layers was quite distinct and that there was a marked difference in the amount of suspended particles. So far this is just an interesting observation, so fast-forward to filling the keg...
I filled the keg using closed transfer methods and wound up with 0.25-0.5 gallon of residual beer which, because I was gentle when racking the it, consisted wholly of the undisturbed stratified layer I spoke of earlier. I used this leftover beer to fill my graduated cylinder for gravity measurement and the rest went down the drain. I took my final gravity reading, which showed an additional 0.001 of attenuation when compared to when I had dry-hopped 5 days earlier, and then took a sip of the beer from the graduated cylinder. Ughh!...ruined!
The beer, which had tasted very good prior to dry-hopping was now a bitter mess, which I qualified as undrinkable. It was like sucking on a grapefruit. My wife consoled me and suggested I chill it down, burst carbonate it, and see how it faired afterwards.
I awoke the next morning with a clearer head and it was at that moment that the obvious possible explanation for the bitterness became apparent. The upper layer of stratification that I had observed was loaded with hop constituents and did not represent the bulk nature of the brew. I tasted the cooled and carbonated brew and found that, indeed, it was balanced quite drinkable. Thinking about the implications led me to the following 2 conclusions and a couple of questions:
Conclusion 1): Dry hopping does indeed impart bitterness to the beer. I say this because the nose that I got from the 'hop-loaded' sample at the end of my keg transfer was not anywhere near indicative of the extreme level of bitterness that I experienced. This is, to help qualify the statement, from an untrained palate.
Conclusion 2): There is a propensity for dry-hop additions to remain unmixed if they are added in the form of loose whole cones.
Question 1): Has anyone out there had a similar experience?
Question 2): Given that I would like to promote consistency in dry-hopping and full utilization of dry-hop additions, what are some ways that you would suggest to alleviate the situation which I have observed? I'm considering: weighing the whole-cone hops down in a bag, using pellet hops for dry-hopping, and somehow mixing the post-dryhopped beer (not sure how to accomplish this in a glass carboy effectively...).
Thanks for the read!