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Do Willamette hops stink like a chemical?

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bradleypariah

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TL;DR - Do Willamette hops normally smell strongly of a chemical?


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My local HBS has a really knowledgeable owner. Dude is basically a scientist.
I bought some fuggles from him one time, and I thought they tasted stale. Never mentioned it to him. I thought maybe I just don't like fuggle. His hops storage is an upright freezer, and there's lots of old, caked ice all over the shelves. In serious need of a defrost. Some bags of hops get stuck in the frost. Wondering if that's kosher or not. Can the hops get freezer burn?

I love hops. I have popped whole leaves in my mouth and chewed for a while. I eat a pellet on brew day, then keep it my cheek while I drink a home brew. I live in the PNW, so I'm intrigued to use hops from my area.

Last weekend I bought four ounces of Willamette, and they stunk like paint with a hint of something rotten. I've been brewing for five years, and I have never smelled hops so disgusting. The HBS is 40 minutes from me, so I called first, and he said to bring them in. I drove all the way into town, he sniffed the bag, and said he didn't smell anything. *ANYTHING*

I've bought lots of hops from him over the years, but fuggles only once, and Willamette only once.

He told me I probably didn't like either of them because they are both from the noble hop family. He said they're for American pislners and used as a preservative, not really for flavor. I only make reds and IPAs, so I kinda buy his explanation, just for lack of exposure to the product, but I'm also on the fence that the dude's sniffer is on the way out. He has helped me so much with advice over the years, that I don't dare disrespect or argue with him. I need your insight.

Do hops go bad? Do Willamette hops stink of chemical in comparison to hops such as citra, centennial, and magnum?

So confused right now. :confused:
 

schematix

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Find another source for hops.

In my experience LHBS hops are not fresh, usually several years old unless otherwise stated on the package. Even worse if they break down and package themselves. That's not to say they aren't usable, but after having gone out of my way to buy current crop year hops for the last 2 years, i'm not going back, even for a deal.
 
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bradleypariah

bradleypariah

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I actually have my own hop vines in the back yard. One is Willamette, one Columbus. My big concern isn't just "Can the guy not smell??", I'm also desperately hoping I'm not raising a vine I will hate the taste of. I should have mentioned that.
My Willamette is about 8ft tall right now, the Columbus is about 5ft.
They are both on their second year, so this will hopefully be a huge yield.

Appreciate the response.
 

GrimBrewer

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That doesn't sound right.....or smell right. Bought a bag end of last year but didn't use it, In my brothers freezer at the moment. It should still smell like hops, just with a difference. Not like a chemical

The fact that you saying they cant event defrost the fridge make it sound like they care that much. You could always ask them how old the hops is. But who's to say they wont lie. How does the hops look and was the vacuum pack still sealed?
 

agrazela

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Maybe you've got some kind of aversion to farnesene? Do you like saaz hops?
 

jerbrew

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Willamette is a fantastic hop and had never smelled like "chemicals". I use them in my IPAs some times but mostly I keep them around for my APA and porters. I tend not to listen to anyone who tells you what a hop is for specifically. Just look at comet. Discovered decades ago but only now getting love as a late hop addition as palettes change. Saying something like "don't use it for that cuz it smells bad" on a classic hop variety seems like a cover up. You'd have heard that about willamette by now if that were the case.

Anyways, I digress. I would recommend buying your hops in bulk from a reputable source that discloses the harvest year. I bet the hops your buying are not top notch quality. I buy all my hops from Yakima valley hops. Great quality, price, and selection. In fact, I just used a half pound of hops from them that was a 2014 harvest. Still vacuum packed and stored in my freezer for a year and a half. Still smelled and tasted great.
 

worlddivides

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He told me I probably didn't like either of them because they are both from the noble hop family. He said they're for American pislners and used as a preservative, not really for flavor. I only make reds and IPAs, so I kinda buy his explanation, just for lack of exposure to the product, but I'm also on the fence that the dude's sniffer is on the way out. He has helped me so much with advice over the years, that I don't dare disrespect or argue with him. I need your insight.
That's nonsense. Willamette is primarily an aroma hop, meaning it's valued most for its pleasant aroma. Yes, you can use it for bittering too (which is what I assume what he means by "as a preservative"). It is a very versatile hop, but it is used a lot in IPAs. In fact, some companies make single-hop IPAs with Willamette (Mikkeler makes one, for example).

That guy doesn't sound like he knows at all what he's talking about. And I've brewed with Willamette several times, and "chemical" is the last way I'd describe its smell. It's herbal and fruity.

EDIT: As a side note, Willamette used to be the most grown hop varietal in the US. Obviously it wouldn't have been so popular back then (and now still) if it had such an unpleasant aroma.

Also, Willamette is not a noble hop. The noble hops are: Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, and Saaz. Now, Willamette is based off of the English varietal Fuggle, but that isn't a noble hop either, and certainly isn't traditionally used for pilsners (or for lagers in general).
 

brewcat

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I actually have my own hop vines in the back yard. One is Willamette, one Columbus. My big concern isn't just "Can the guy not smell??", I'm also desperately hoping I'm not raising a vine I will hate the taste of. I should have mentioned that.
My Willamette is about 8ft tall right now, the Columbus is about 5ft.
They are both on their second year, so this will hopefully be a huge yield.

Appreciate the response.
Oh well. You can always replace it if you don't like it.
 

Yooper

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Before I got into big hoppy IPAs, willamette was my favorite hop variety. I still love it, but don't use it as often since I"m brewing more NE IPAs and using more of the newer hop varieties.

It's a lovely aroma hop. It's a nice subtle mix of fruit, spice, and earthiness. To me, fuggles is too earthy and tastes like a pile of dirt. But willamette is gentle and just so good. I have some in the freezer right now, and would never say they smelled at all chemical or bad.

It is the hop (along with cascade) in Bell's Amber Ale, if you like that beer.

It sounds like you're getting some bad hops, I'm sad to say.
 

GrimBrewer

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They looked a little white to me, and they were not vacuumed (anymore).
If it was sealed correctly they been exposed to the elements. Hop quality will drop fast if its not stored correctly.

You should ask for your money back.
 

kh54s10

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The hops should not have a white look. I agree that the hops were bad. I would be leery of advice from that guy. Most of what he told you was not completely correct, while not all of it was totally wrong.
 
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