Brewmaster Bill was recently sitting and enjoying a Halleck Pale Ale in the beautiful forest scenery of Halleck Road, WV. The cool, shady, forest atmosphere relaxed his external persona, while the tantalizing citrus, piney, and spicy hoppy flavors exercised his taste buds. Like many brewers, though, his mind kept proposing “How can I get MORE hop flavor and aroma?!?!”
Chestnut Brew Works recently doubled the capacity of their brewhouse from 1 barrel (=31 gallons) to 2 barrels. We needed to add some new equipment, and also adapt our processes a bit. One process that changed was how quickly the hot wort (unfermented beer) was chilled from boiling temperature to 68 degrees F (which is the suitable temperature for ale yeast fermentation). The chilling process takes a bit longer with the new equipment, meaning that the hot wort sits in the kettle for a longer period of time after the boil. These hot wort temperatures extract hop flavors and aromas, but the longer the hops sit at these temperatures, the more hop-ill-icious molecules that volatilize and leave the wort forever
How could Bill reduce the hop contact time with the hot wort to maximize the extraction, but also retention of the hop aromas and flavors? Answer, a Hopback!! Brewmaster Bill MacGuyvered the hopback from an old Corny keg from his hombrew days, some weldless kettle ball valves, and a little bit of stainless steel mesh.