Hops at the start of the boil: does the variety really matter?

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I've read in a few places that the hops at the beginning of the boil are just there for the IBUs and will contribute little if any flavour.
If that's so then does it really matter what variety you use at this point, so long as you adjust for the %acid ? (For a bitter or normal lager)

Reason I ask is because I always seem to end up with unpteen half-used packets of random hops in the fridge and it would be nice to just use a 'generic' one for bittering.
 

Agentgonzo

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A lot of the volatiles get boiled off. But some flavours do stay. Kettle hops add some flavour, not just bitterness.

So yes, it does make a difference, but not as much as if you use them later in the boil or dry hopped. Does it matter 'enough '? That's up to you. I'll often stick with one or two varieties as my go-to bittering hop
 
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I've settled on Magnum as my go-to bittering hop as it's got a nice high AA.

I've done a few recipes substituting Magnum in place of the main bittering hop and keeping the late additions the same, there is a change in the resultant beer but not massively. I think it would make more of a difference with some of the more characteristic bittering hops like Target, which gives a kinda harsh bitterness in brews like Guiness clones. But for bittering hops like Fuggles and Goldings, Magnum seems to work OK as a substitute and you use a whole load less hops.
 

the baron

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Thats why a lot of brewers use Magnum hops just for the bittering and they have a pretty neutral flavour just bitterness, this also saves on using expensive hops as Magnum is cheap

Cheers Sandimas I must have been typing in tandem🤣athumb..
 

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In my experience, doing a 90 minute boil with one initial addition will still give a beer more flavour than just being bitter malty wort. Also, the nature of the bitterness is different between varieties, even if the ibu calculator suggests the same bitterness.
 
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In my experience, doing a 90 minute boil with one initial addition will still give a beer more flavour than just being bitter malty wort. Also, the nature of the bitterness is different between varieties, even if the ibu calculator suggests the same bitterness.
OK, that’s useful to know.
So it would make sense to use a ‘neutral’ bittering hop at the start and then get your desired hop character by later addition(s)
 

Sadfield

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OK, that’s useful to know.
So it would make sense to use a ‘neutral’ bittering hop at the start and then get your desired hop character by later addition(s)
That's one approach. It would offer some consistency and predictability with regards bittering, or one could go the other way and select a hop to fit the desired perception of bitterness required to suit the beer being brewed.
 

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I have done a bit of research myself for my upcoming West Coast IPA recipe.

Janish (The New IPA, 2019) suggests that the vast majority of flavour and aroma is lost in boiling hops, save for those from alpha humulene and beta caryophyllene whose oxidation products impart an earthy, spicy, woody flavour.
So if this is desired, choose a hop high in these oils, if not, then don't.
Oddly enough, the high AA hops with low kettle potential seem to be the most expensive, which goes against the usual approach of selecting boil hops.
 

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An Ankoù

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I've read in a few places that the hops at the beginning of the boil are just there for the IBUs and will contribute little if any flavour.
If that's so then does it really matter what variety you use at this point, so long as you adjust for the %acid ? (For a bitter or normal lager)

Reason I ask is because I always seem to end up with unpteen half-used packets of random hops in the fridge and it would be nice to just use a 'generic' one for bittering.
Yes, it does matter. Some hops give a coarse bitterness and others a smooth bitterness. It used to be thought that those hops with a high percentage cohumulone content were harsh, but I think that has been debunked. Personally I find Pacific Gem and Target to be quite coarse, while Magnum is very mellow and clean. Others, say Bullion is coarse, but it's my favourite bittering hop hop in an Irish stout.
 
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Dropping in a portion of the hops early on is called First Wort Hopping. A friend wrote an article which explains it well.
 

An Ankoù

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Dropping in a portion of the hops early on is called First Wort Hopping. A friend wrote an article which explains it well.
Hmm. A nice story, but I'm not sure about the bit about binding the flavours to the wort sounds a bit odd even if the other claimed benefits are there. I've done FWH with all my brews for a couple of years now. My thinking was that if I'm going to cut the boil time down from 90 minutes to 60-75 minutes then I can get the best bitterness out of the hops by chucking them in sooner rather than later. Whether that gives me a smoother bitterness and more flavour, I hadn't noticed and I'll have to do a side-by-side to evaluated that one. However, any excuse to brew more beer is a good idea in my book. So thanks.
Yes you can have too much Miles Davis.
and too much Al di Meola, too.
 

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It also depends on the hop variety and beer style. Chinook in a light American lager will have way more impact than equal IBUs from magnum.
 
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