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Home Grown 'Nugget' hops

My father-in-law tried his had at growing hops for the first time this summer. He grew and harvested a decent amount of Nugget Hops. The hops have been dried in the sun on a window screen and are now in zip lock bags with a slight vacuum applied to the bags and are being stored in the freezer.

I am not an all grain brewer, kits only. What would be the best way to utilize these whole hops? Here are some of my thoughts

  1. just buy my next kit and add them towards the end of the boil
  2. dry hop the next kit with them
  3. I was thinking about making a 1 gallon trial beer with them, something like a single malt, single hop to be able to really understand their flavor.
    3a) same as 3 above, but I realized I am not really set up for small batch’s with out buying some additional equipment, so I was thinking of making a 2.5 gallon (half of a kit’s volume) or should I just make a full batch?

I am interested in your thoughts and opinions. If you have any suggestions for malt (dry or liquid) and which yeast to attempt a single malt-single hop brew, please share that information too.

I usually use home grown for dry hop.


do you worry about sanitation of the homegrown hops? I know when I have dry hopped in the past, it was with pellets that were in the foil bags and I sanitized the bag prior to introduction to the beer.

Would a quick dunk in vodka solve this issue? Would it cause any negative effects to the hops?

I usually boil a hop bag before I put the hops in it. But never do anything to the hops themselves. Hops themselves are safe. Now nugget hops are also good for bittering but I’ve never used fresh hops in the boil that sounds messy. If I was going to do that I would put them in a sack also. I plan on growing some nugget and try it.

Unlike most other brewers, personally I never use homegrown hops to dry hop. Too many questions and issues with dunking a bag in there, hop particles, etc. Plus I have experienced a contaminated batch from trying this. It might work better if you weigh the hops down with sanitized marbles or something to keep the hops and bag fully submerged.

With my homegrown hops, I like to aim to make a pale ale. A simple pale ale with extract is just a few pounds of light DME, with ~15% crystal 40 or 60 or whatever you like, with US-05 yeast. I use my homegrown hops for bittering, flavor and aroma, adding them at 60 minutes left in the boil, then 15 minutes and 2 minutes. This works great as long as you are flexible about what style you call it. If it turns out right, great, it’s a pale ale. Turned out too weak and not very bitter? Fine, so then call it a blonde ale or amber ale, depending on color. Way too bitter? Great, then it’s an IPA. No big deal, as an experiment. They all taste great regardless.

If alpha acid matters to you and you have the capability of making more than one batch with your hops, then be sure to jot down a guess as to the alpha acid content and how much you used, and enter this into software. Because then if it tastes way too bitter or not bitter enough, you can take a second guess on the alpha acid % for next time, and in this way you can determine very closely after a couple of batches how much alpha acid content there was.

As an example, I find that for my homegrown Hallertau hops, the alpha acid has ranged from about 3 to 7% in different years. This has a lot to do with how much water they got, and how late you pick. Generally the later you harvest, the higher the alpha acid, but if there was a drought in the summer then this can hurt it, etc.

I would go with the half batch, at 2.5 gallons, or even a 1/3 size batch at 1.67 gallons. Then if it turns out great, you can brew again but with greater knowledge of your bitterness and flavor compounds. If it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s less to swallow or dump! A one-gallon batch is not the best size in my opinion as you’ll get just a 6-pack for all your labors… but if that’s good enough for you then it’s good enough for me! Just means you have more hops to run extra experiments!

You shouldn’t really need any special equipment for this. Just use your normal fermenter and everything and you’ll be fine. You can chill your wort by immersion in a sink of cold water, replacing the immersion water after about 20 minutes after it warms up.

Dave,sorry to disagree but, how do you dry hop then? When you boil how do you strain out the whole hop mess? Personally I wouldn’t want to make a 5 gallon batch and not know what I’m going to get that’s why I would be leery of using an unknown to bitter with. I would start with dry hop then when you see if you like the flavor you can add late in the boil for more aroma and flavor. I do weigh down the hop sack and rack on top. Frozen hops then submerged in alcohol will be enough sanitation for the hops. As always contamination is a worry but it can usually be attributed to technique .

When I boil with whole hops, I use a bag. Keeps most of the hop particles out. If I use pellets, then I don’t use a bag, just let them ride for the entire boil and fermentation.

The time I got contamination dry hopping with whole hops, I had boiled the hop bag but it floated on top and had mold growing on the surface of the bag. I should have weighed it down, however I am not certain that that would have prevented contamination either.

So now I dry hop with pellets only, no bag, just throw them in and let them sink, and only on rare occasion. I much prefer to add hops in the last 2 minutes or at flameout and whirlpool, rather than dry hopping, if at all possible. In a big IPA, this is not sufficient, but I only make IPA every few years.

I do like the vodka idea. I haven’t tried it but I might have to. Seems worth a shot (no pun intended but I can see it now).

I brew with partial mash kits, but also grow Cascade and Nugget hops which I dry and freeze. I use whole hops in addition to whatever is in the kit. I have just thrown a couple of handfuls into the wort near the end for aroma, with or without a bag. You can just dump the grain out and re-use the bag for the hops. If the hops are loose in the wort they tend to plop and splash when pouring into the fermenting bucket. Experimenting is the best part of home-brewing…

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