I've done some testing on the age vs. freshness issue.
I have an American IPA "Asgard Ale", and my double IPA "Thor's Hop Hammer".
I see that you have a Pliny Clone going so that's a lot of help on the seeing where you're coming from, assuming you've had real and fresh pliny. Nationally speaking, I think both judges and folks on this forum aren't on the same page about big hop head IPAs. Pliny, "the West Coast" style, clean big , bright hops and low malt, doesn't ship to the east coast specifically because it doesn't age well, and as you'll see on the notes on the keg it says to not age the beer and drink it fresh. So, depending on what type of "big hop flavor" you mean, the answer you're looking for will vary. As a note about my palate, I think dogfish and pliny are completely different types of hoppy beers, though they are often compared. I'm a Pliny fan so read this accordingly...
I was at first able to make a good, dry hopped, 8.1% double IPA with bright, floral aromas and big hop flavor, but flavors and aromas peaked at about 4 weeks. I've even timed my brew and dry hop dates so that judges in competition would drink it at peak flavors. At 6 weeks it started to noticeably loose hop characteristics. After getting pretty happy with my recipe of my double IPA, my next my goal was to create a big hop beer with a longer shelf life.
IMO it's the dry hop that really drops out, and some of the flavor hops drop when you age it. My dry hopped Thor's Hammer which is mash hopped, has 2.5 oz 1min hops, and 6oz of dry hop is best at 4 weeks. For my next beer, one with more shelf life, my idea was to not bother with dry hopping (which can get to be a pain), and instead try just dumping the massive hops into the 1 minute. It's worked for me. It's a different kind of beer but it does have a long shelf life and it's good.
My A IPA is best, rather, only good after it ages about 2 months. It has 4 oz Centennial 10AA of 1min hops. It's pretty bad tasting when it's young. After it mellows it's a good hop oriented beer, but more balanced with the malts, unlike the hop-centric double IPA. It's not a bright, citrusy hoppy beer, but a good A IPA. More of a subtle Racer 5 / Lagunitas.
And to second the sentiment, taste is subjective! Asgard Ale bottle conditioned at 4 or 5 months old, took 1st in A IPAs, and 3rd in IPAs overall at the World Cup of Beer 2010. My Thor's Hop Hammer actually scored higher, but the competition was tougher in the double IPA category and it didn't place. Judges' notes really show how palates differ. Some national judges just didn't like the big hop flavor, while locals loved it. One scored it as a 41. Another said it was too hoppy and not balanced. For me the "off balance" of the big hops and low malts is exactly what I'm going for in a Pliny type double IPA.
Cheer's to having fun brewing gallons and gallons of beer, finding the recipe that you like.
p.s. SAYNOMORE, I haven't tried it yet, but I've had the same thought about aging beer first and dry hopping later. Let me know if you try it.
Originally Posted by saynomore10
Here's a thought.
Why not age the beer however long you feel is necessary, let's say two months or so, THEN dry hop as normal and keg or bottle. It seems to me that hop aroma and flavor dissipate with age much more quickly than bitterness anyway. So this way you could still get great aroma and flavor from the dry hopping and keep most of your bitterness, but still get a nice aged and conditioned beer.
What does everyone think about this?