In the January MUGZ meeting I had attendees sample two different beers without any prior knowledge of what they were drinking (our members are pretty gullible that way, but I like ’em!). Fortunately for them, the samples were totally safe. In fact, the only difference between these two beers was that one was brewed with whole hops and one was brewed with pellet hops.
I’ve wondered the benefit of brewing with whole hops over pellets since I began homebrewing. No brewing resource really seemed to settle on one being better than the other, so I eventually decided to find out for myself. I took the “Ordinary Bitter” recipe from Jamil Zainasheff’s excellent “Brewing Classic Styles” book and split the wort into two kettles on the same stove. From there, I boiled them simultaneously, taking care to keep the boil rates and stirring as close as possible to rule out any other variables beyond hops. I also made sure the hops came from the same retailer with the same alpha acids.