Why would I brew a 200-barrel batch of a beer based on an intriguing idea?
I wouldn’t. And that’s why breweries have pilot systems–to test ideas. Sometimes ideas are bright, the resulting elixirs rushed into production. And sometimes ideas are stupid.
I haven’t yet decided if my idea to smoke hops is a bad idea, but I do know that the extraordinarily minor experiment I conducted over the weekend wasn’t anything to get excited over.
The Question: What if I smoked some hops (as in barbeque, not doobie), then “Randall-ized” them by dry hopping a beer?
The Possibility: An amazing synergy of beer and smoke-wafts for a dazzling, easily accessible smallbatch riff on a beer.
The Answer: It wasn’t all that cool.
Another Question: Why the heck not?
Another Answer: On a post-grilling-my-dinner-whim, I decided to toss a few pellet hops on the cool side of my (four-foot long) grill with a cedar plank for smoke sensations on the fire at the other end. After about 15 minutes on smoke, I put the pellets (Tradition, for the record) in my French Press with a homebrewed English Mild. After steeping for about five minutes, I pushed down the plunger and served myself up a mug of beer. As one would imagine, it had a heavier hop aroma and flavor, not to mention being a bit hazy. Smoke was no more than a hint, and far less than I was after though I wasn’t looking for a smoke bomb. The beer became vegetal, and not so yummy.
The path forward: Like I said, this incarnantion of the experiment was a whim. If it’s to truly reveal an interesting beer to brew in a larger quantity, a second trial, likely with whole leaf hops and a good deal more time in a more carefully designed cold-smoking setup, will need to take place. It, too, may result in lameness, but then again, I’m not brewing 250 barrels (or even five gallons) of the stuff. And I’d advise you to not fool with it either. At least not yet…
Another question: What else am I going to do on a Sunday evening?