Beer ingredients are easy…all you need is water, grain, yeast, and hops. It is the countless variations and combinations of each ingredient that make brewing a balance of science and art. So far, in my home brewing journey I have focused on the grain bills and the overall process of brewing. Being a self-proclaimed hop head in my earlier years, I wanted to start brewing more hoppy beers.

I decided to start with a basic pale ale. While I love IPA’s, I was nervous to jump right into the large quantities needed to make a desirable IPA. Pale ale’s are still categorized as hoppy but not over the top. They also make for an easy beer to have in the kegerator.

pale ale

I know enough when it comes to the purpose of hops in the brewing process. They are used to create the bitterness, flavor, and aroma in our tasty beers.  They are added at various stages in the boiling process in order to obtain each role they are meant to play.

As a general rule of thumb in a 60 minute boil, each hop role is created as follows:

  • Bittering: At the beginning of the boil
  • Flavor: Anywhere between the last 10-30 minutes of the boil
  • Aroma: The last 5 minutes or at the end of the boil (flame out)

For my pale ale, I went for a single hop beer, meaning I used only one type of hop for each stage. I went with Simcoe hops. They have a strong citrusy, pine flavor and aroma as well as good alpha units for bittering. They are a super popular hop in craft beer, easy for homebrewers to get, and tasty.

hop addition

Like any true adventurer, I couldn’t just follow the basic guidelines here and so began researching some variations in the typical hop additions. I finalized on 2 variations in my hop schedule, first wort addition and whirlpool.

First Wort Addition

The idea behind first wort hops is to extract flavor from the hop oils early on that would normal evaporate when added to a long boil. There are a lot of experiments with first wort addition you can find online. It was fun to see not all the science is completely understood and I was able to be a part of the experiment in my own way. A single hop beer can fall flat at times, so I was looking for a method to extract a deeper flavor profile that can blend nicely with the regular flavor addition. While I’m not sure if this addition will be noticed in the end product, it was fun to research. Check out Craft Beer & Brewing magazine’s article for more details.

first wort addition


Finally instead of adding aroma hops at flame out, I went with a whirlpool or hopstand. I’m still not sure the difference between the two, or if there is one for that matter. After the boil, I cooled the wort to 170o F and added my aroma hops. These then steeped for 10 minutes. During this time, I would slowly stir the wort (no splashing). I  assume this is where the term whirlpool comes from. My goal with the whirlpool is to extract a more complex aroma of both pine and citrus from the simcoe hops.

I’m patiently waiting for fermentation to complete and to try this sucker out. I’m hoping to have a true-to-style and well-balanced pale ale that may be entered in our local BJCP competition this month. I’ll be reporting back on the results in the near future so keep an eye out. In the mean time, does anyone else feel the need to enjoy the same style of beer while brewing for good luck? I went with a delicious Fort George Brewing “City of Dreams” pale ale. Cheers!

pale ale

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