There's a whole lot more to hops than bitterness.
Depending on the variety, they can pack all kinds of layered flavor and aromas, from juicy tropical fruit notes to earthy pine ones, and everywhere in between.
And when pro brewers want to imbue their beer with an especially in-your-face hit of those flavors, they do something called "dry hopping." That means they take their finished batch, dump in a whole bunch of hops, let it sit while the flavors absorb, and finally strain the batch so that it's ready to be bottled.
The result: loads of aromatic, intense hop flavor, but without any added bitterness. And that's exactly what you can do here.
Dive into your favorite IPA by seeing what specific nuances different hops can lend to a brew.
What You'll Need
First, you need a few bottles of Bud Light, or any similar light beer with a screw-top cap. The fact that the base beer is so bland and watery means that the hop flavors you're about to add can shine through clearly.
If you have a means of re-capping bottles and want to use something a little more flavorful, you can use any easy-drinking, not-too-hoppy ale like a blonde. Or if you want to turn the flavors up to 11, you can use a hoppy beer you're already familiar with, like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, as your base. The individual hop flavors you infuse won't pop quite as much, but it'll give you a better idea of how the hops will taste in a real hoppy brew.
Note that if you use a bottle that doesn't use a screw-off cap, you'll need a bottle capper tool to reseal the beers once you've dropped in your hops. You can find 'em online, or in homebrew shops.
Label each beer with what hop you plan to drop in.
You'll find three varieties in the hop tasting kit in our Cheers box, but you can easily supplement or replace those by making a trip to your local homebrewing store. They'll have all kinds of varieties for you to choose from.
Get your beers ice cold — just shy of freezing. If they're too warm, they'll shoot up with foam once you drop the hops in.
Once they're chilled, crack 'em open and add 6-8 hop pellets (more if they're broken up) to each bottle, then screw the tops back on. The amount doesn't matter so much — add more pellets and the flavor will be more intense, but you'll have to deal with more hop gunk in your brew at the end of the waiting period.
Store the beers in a cupboard or a closet and wait 3-7 days.
A few hours before you're ready to drink, put the beers into the fridge. That gets it down to drinking temperature, obviously, but also helps the hop particles to settle to the bottom so that you can avoid pouring them into your glass.
Pour gently, leaving the last ounce or two of hop-saturated beer in the bottle, then start tasting. Make sure to keep track of which beer is which, and then jot down some notes of what you think each variety tastes like.
The hop flavors should pop pretty strongly if you used Bud Light or something similarly light, but if they're not intense enough, you can give the experiment another shot and add more hops, give it a little bit more time, or both.