No, your eyes aren't deceiving you; I'm dry hopping Bud Light today. I borrowed this idea from one of the brewers at Anchor Brewing. He mentioned on a Brewing Network interview that this is his favorite way to see the differences between different hop varieties. They just buy a 12er of Bud Light, pop the caps, drop in a few pellets, and then taste the differences. It sounded like a great idea to me, so here we go!
There isn't too much to talk about in terms of a 'how-to'. Label and sanitize your caps, pop the caps, drop in some pellets, and re-cap. It's a pretty straight forward process. I keep all my hops in mason jars, so it's a pretty simple process for me to open a jar, steal a few pellets, and seal it back up with the foodsaver. The only real question was how many pellets to add to each bottle.
The easiest way for me was extrapolate the batch up to 5 gallons. I figured 2oz of dry hops in a 5 gallon batch sounded about right. 2oz is 56 grams. A 5 gallon batch yields 54 bottles, so we're talking about roughly 1 gram of hops per bottle. My scale has .1g resolution, so it made the process pretty simple. I can tell you it's around 2-3 regular sized hop pellets, or 5-7 of the smaller sized ones. I don't think it will matter too much though; throw in a few pellets and call it good.
Anyway, I put the bottles back in the box, and tossed them in the closet for three days. I then put them in the fridge overnight to crash the hops to the bottom of the bottle. I'd recommend doing this for longer should you keep the beer cold the entire time. Now for the fun part: the tasting!
I used: Amarillo, Apollo, Belma, Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Chinook, Columbus, Galaxy, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and Simcoe. Pretty much all the usual suspects in an IPA line-up. I carefully decanted the beer out of the bottles, and holy crap! I didn't think dry hop character would be as pronounced, or the differences so stark. The Bud Light doesn't provide much in the way of flavor, so the hops really stand out.
I won't do a full review of every hop, but I'll lightly cover them. Amarillo was sweet, big stone fruit character, some citrus. Apollo was insanely dank, much more so than CTZ. Belma was fairly funky, there's some fruit in there, but it's hidden pretty well. Casacde was classic, fairly mild with some grapefruit. Centennial was one of the best on its own. Smells like Trix cereal; big sweet orange note. Citra smells like mangoes -- straight up mango. Chinook was my least favorite, pine with a big dose of cat piss. CTZ was dank with some citrus underneath. Not quite as pungent as Apollo though. Galaxy had to be one of my favs. It doesn't have the in-your-face character that Citra had, but it's very tropical, and seems well-rounded. Almost tastes like a blend. Mosaic is like a mix of Citra and Simcoe with a hint of blueberry. Nelson Sauvin is very nice, citrus with a hint of grape. It's a pretty potent hop. Finally Simcoe, massive grapefruit aroma with a little pine. The pine almost has a fresh-cut-grass quality.
Smelling and tasting them on their own was fun, but when I started mixing them is when the real party started. Holy shit, it's a whole new world. First, I mixed a 50/50 split of Nelson and Galaxy, and it had the identical dry hop character as Stone's Enjoy By IPA. I mean, it still tastes like Bud Light, but the dry hop character is unmistakeable. Next I mixed CTZ, Simcoe, Columbus and a splash of Amarillo, and sure enough, it tasted like Bud Light flavored Pliny. From that point I got creative mixing a few things. One of the notable ones was Apollo, Mosiac, Simcoe, and Amarillo -- pretty incredible.
So, where to take this from here. First, I'm absolutely going to repeat this with something more Pale Ale/IPA like. SNPA seems like the perfect candidate. Secondly, I'll use a hint more hops, maybe 1.5-2g per bottle. Finally, I plan to use this method to test out new dry hop combos before I brew them. It's invaluable how quickly you can drop some pellets in a bottle, and with little work, taste it a few days later. The days of experimenting with 5 gallon batches just to test a dry hop dry are over. I'm serious! This has been a bloody epiphany for me.
This is too easy, and it works too well. Honestly, spend the $12 on a case of beer you won't cry over pouring out, and do this. Now.