Lately, with the trend of craft breweries moving towards ultra hoppy, high IBU IPA’s; home brewers need to be on their game if they want their home brewed beer to stand up to what the breweries are releasing. One of the greatest advantages that a home brewer has over a craft brewery is freshness. As beer ages the potency of hop bitterness and aroma diminishes and that is accelerated by heat and oxidation. Since a home brewer does not need to contend with their beer sitting in a hot warehouse during distribution or having the sun beat down on their bottles in a stores showcase, you should do your best to take advantage of your beers freshness. Always do your best to store your beer in a cool dark place if possible.
Another way to make the most of your IPA’s freshness is to dry hop. The reason a brewer dry hops their beer is to impart the beer with fragrant and fresh hop aroma. Since the beer is cool when the hops are added, the oils from the hops will not be infused with the beer and they will pass on little to no bitterness. Dry hopping is typically conducted once primary fermentation has completed and the hops are typically left in contact with the beer for between 7 and 14 days. The hops are usually added after primary fermentation has completed so that less CO2 is being produced and the hop aroma can stay in contact with the beer as opposed to being carried out of the fermentor with the escaping CO2. I personally like to use whole hops for dry hopping, but pellet hops can be used as well. When the beer is ready to be transferred to a keg or bottle, the beer is siphoned as normal and the hops are left behind in the fermentor to be discarded. I typically add about 2 ounces of hops for every 5 gallons of beer, but more can be added if desired.