A few days ago I was browsing /r/homebrewing and came across an interesting link to a blog post called Water, Malt, Hops, Yeast … and Tea?. The post got my creative juices flowing: I’ve always wanted to brew with tea, and the author suggested a Darjeeling Kölsch as a recipe idea.
Fantastic, I thought! Let’s brew a Darjeeling Kölsch! Perspiring with excitement, I ran to the kitchen cupboard in search of darjeeling.
Well, you guessed it: no Darjeeling.
Nevertheless, I remained in a creative mind set, and wanted to brew some beer. I sat down and considered my options; however, inhibiting my thought process was the fact that I was rather short on ingredients: I had some German pilsner malt and fuggles hops. I also had my trusty Weihenstephan Kölsch yeast to hand.
What the hell am I to do with these ingredients, I thought? I’ve never brewed a Kölsch with fuggles, and it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a hop addition. But, I couldn’t stop myself – I was destined to brew.
Content with the idea that this would be an experimental brew, I decided to take it to the extreme. I would brew a “Backwards Blonde Ale” using hop tea.
The Backwards Blonde
This is something I’ve never done before. I’ve never done a Blonde, and I’ve certainly never done a Backwards Blonde (no pun intended!) But on that fine, Sunday morning I decided to give it a go.
I plugged a recipe into Beersmith 2 using the following ingredients: German Pilsner malt, Fuggles hops, and Weihenstephan Kölsch yeast. I designed it to be 26 IBu and 1.038 SG. This was to be a 1 gallon batch. I definitely didn’t want this blonde to over charge.
So far so good. Now, heres the kicker: I decided to mash in using hop tea.
To do this, I took the total volume of water needed for the mash, added just enough for boil off, and brought it to a boil. Once at a boil, I added all the fuggles hops that I needed for bittering and boiled for an hour.
After the boil was complete, and my kitchen smelt like one powerful cup of earl grey, I turned the burner off and allowed the hop water to cool to 70c. I then dropped my grain bag in, and began a mash. Oh, and if mashing in with hop tea wasn’t enough, I ploughed forth and added some more hops to the mash for flavour and aroma.
After the mash rested at 65c for 60 minutes, I drained and boiled the wort as per usual. The only thing different during the post-mash boil was that I did not add any hops.
Reflections on the Backwards Blonde
The Backwards Blonde is now fermenting in my girlfriends closet; there wasn’t any room in the fermentation chamber for her. I also had to fashion a blow off tube using only (sanitised) tin foil, electrical tape and syphon tubing because I couldn’t find a carboy bung! I’ll let’r ferment for 7 days, check gravity, and then age for a further 7 days.
But, how will she taste?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve heard of people adding hop tea to wort prior to the boil, but not using hop tea as mash water!
It’s possible that this beer could be overly bitter. I removed the hops from the hop tea prior to adding to the mash, but would the bittering compounds continue to act when I boiled the wort post-mash?
It’s also possible that I will achieve little to no hop flavour and/or aroma. After all, I didn’t add any late hope additions when I boiled the wort. One thing that interests me, however, is that there has been some anecdotal evidence in favour of hop additions in the mash retaining an influence on hop flavour and aroma. Would this happen with the Backwards Blonde?
The impact of hop additions and hop oils on brewing is no simple subject. Indeed, it requires a post of its own. But am I put off by the possible outcomes? No. Home brewing is about experimentation and fun. It’s about testing the normally accepted ‘rules of practice’. Hey, maybe something good will come out of it!
Will this be a perfect example of achieving error through trial? Let me know what you think by posting a comment below!