Do You Have To Dry Hop an IPA? (Pros, Cons, & Alternatives)

Tired of spending the time and effort to dry hop your IPAs? While it can seem this is your only option to achieve hop aromas, that is not the case.

You do not have to dry hop IPAs to get the full aroma and flavor of hops. It is one of the better methods, but not the only one. Alternatively, you can add hops or extract to the end of the boil, add them during whirlpool, use a hop back, or use a flavor infuser.

Learn about what dry hopping can do and how alternatives can reach the same goals. As you will see, the “oomph” behind dry hopping is not limited to one method.

Are all IPAs dry hopped?

You might assume that all IPAs are dry hopped based on the sheer number of IPAs that are. Despite what they say about making assumptions, you would be forgiven for this one.

Nearly all IPAs are dry hopped. This is particularly true for commercial IPAs. However, some homebrewers and even a few breweries may choose not to dry hop for a variety of reasons.

While dry hopping is incredibly common, it is not necessary for a good IPA. Dry hopping can be an extraneous step for homebrewers whose palates don’t crave the power of a DIPA. Adding hops at various stages of the boil can provide enough character for their tastes.

Then there are those who say that an IPA that hasn’t been dry hopped isn’t an IPA at all. Since this is the most popular school of thought, most IPAs are dry hopped.

What is the point of dry hopping?

If dry hopping isn’t a requirement for a good IPA, then why do it? If it were completely useless, brewers would skip the step. Yet there are plenty of reasons to delay drinking your beer for hops.

Dry hopping gives the beer a chance to take up the strong flavors and aromas of the hop. Earlier hop additions won’t be able to contribute as much of either.

When hops are exposed to heat – such as during the boil – the oils responsible for aroma and flavor can evaporate. Adding hops to primary or secondary fermentation prevents any loss of these oils.

Not to mention that dry hopping can be used to revive a beer. If a batch of beer has sat for a while a quick dry hop before drinking can perk it right up. This can be great if you know a batch will sit while you focus on another batch.

Pros of dry hopping IPAs

Dry hopping is the standard when brewing IPAs, so it’s not surprising that there are many advantages to doing it this way.

Pros of dry hopping IPAs include:

  • Provides strong aroma
  • Provides flavor
  • Contributes to beer preservation
  • Can refresh old batches

Cons of dry hopping IPAs

On the other hand, there are some potentially unexpected reasons not to dry hop your IPA.

Cons of dry hopping IPAs include:

  • Can provide a grassy aroma & flavor
  • Can provide an oily flavor & mouthfeel
  • Exposes beer to oxygen
  • Large hop quantity can absorb beer

Dry hopping alternatives for brewing IPAs

However, there are alternative ways to achieve the benefits of dry hopping. All you need to do is get the essential oils into the beer. Since the oils are rather fragile you have to be careful with how you do this. 

Here are the best alternatives to dry hopping:

  • Add hops late in the boil
  • Add hop extract to the boil
  • Add hops during whirlpool
  • Use a hop back
  • Use a beer Randall

Let’s look at each of these options and see how they work.

Add hops late in the boil

Since the essential oils can be lost to evaporation you get the most aroma when you add the hops towards the end of your boil.

The earliest you should add aroma hops is 10 minutes before flame out.

The aroma and flavor transferred won’t be as strong as there will be some boil-off. That said, with enough aroma-specific hops you can still brew a delicious IPA.

Add hop extract to the boil

This method is essentially the same as the previous one.

For this method, use a hop extract. This product contains essential oils in a more concentrated form. The oils will still boil off so you should not add the extract too early. 

Hop extracts also contain the alpha and beta acids found in hops. If added too early, the alpha acids will isomerize.

Add hops during whirlpool

If you whirlpool your wort between boil and primary fermentation, you can add hops during this stage. At this point, your wort will be cooling. These lower temperatures will allow easy extraction of the oils without damaging them or adding bitterness.

Timing is important here, but not as important as during the boil. The ideal temperature range is between 160°F and 170°F. When your wort gets to this range you can add your hops. You can leave them in for 15 to 30 minutes depending on how much aroma you want.

Use a hop back

Another possibility during this same time frame requires a hop back.

This simple container will allow you to run your wort from the boiling container to the first fermenting vessel through some hops.

Like the whirlpool method, the temperature of the wort is a factor. You want the wort to be hot enough to promote essential oil absorption but also cool enough to avoid adding bitterness. 

Use a beer Randall

The last alternative makes use of a device called a Randall (a fancy name for a flavor infuser).

When this device is attached to a draft system, the beer that enters the device will be filtered through the ingredient of your choice. 

If you add hops to it you will get the flavor and aroma notes of fresh hops without dry hopping. The alcohol present in the beer will strip the hops of their oils so lower ABV beers won’t pick up as much.