By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are hundreds of different breweries in the U.S. alone, most of which feature a unique version of the IPA. Many also have a number of other hoppy beers that employ different techniques to get the most out of the hops that are added. The methods used by a commercial brewery may seem out of reach for the average homebrewer, but the equipment can always be scaled down. A hop back is one of these pieces of equipment that seems like it will only work on a larger scale, but with a little ingenuity you can build one either by using equipment you already have or by purchasing the pieces to make one.
What is a Hop Back?
A hop back is a vessel, usually made from stainless steel, that has a false bottom. It comes into play right after the boil and before the wort is chilled. When the wort is done boiling, the liquid goes through the hop back, which has been filled with hops. This process is like adding hops to the end of your boil, but instead of the hops just sitting there and losing their aroma you are quickly adding the aroma and then chilling it rapidly. This gives you the largest amount of hop aroma in your finished product. You can build your own hop back or buy one. There are few hop backs available either online or at your local homebrew shop.
What You’ll Need
To build a hop back, you’ll need a small kettle with either a false bottom or kettle screen and a weldless ball valve. If you can, modify one of your existing kettles in order to save some money. The biggest hurdle is making sure that you can chill the wort as fast as possible. If you are using an immersion chiller, you want to make sure that it’s sanitized and in the vessel you are running your wort into after you use the hop back. You want the wort to have good contact with the hops, so as you slowly drain out of the hop back you can have it go directly into your primary bucket. You should then be able to chill it down to pitching temps without the wort getting too hot in the fermenter. If you’re using a counter-flow or plate chiller, you just need to put the chiller on the outbound of the hop back and drain as normal. If you’re using a pump, you want to gravity feed your boil kettle into your hop back and then pump the hot wort through your wort chiller into the fermenter. Using the hop back can give all of your brews that extra level of hop. This added kick can help you create the perfect IPA.
Champions Ale [AG]
Champions Ale [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.