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Hop extracts available at Amazon

Kalsec hop extracts

So now I have a better answer for the question when homebrewers ask me where they can buy various kinds of hop extract. Although there are a limited number of extracts available from homebrew stores, both local and online, they don’t equal the range of what Kalsec is selling at Amazon.

There is a catch. Kalsec’s 8-oounce bottles cost $70 or more and are intended to dose 50 to 75 barrels (or about 1,500 to 2,300 gallons). Dosing is a challenge, so patience is a requirement when making a group purchase with the idea of parceling out the extract. To be honest, I haven’t wrapped my head around the logistics. Be sure to check out the dosing manual.

You’ll find the Kalsec products described at their web site, but here’s a bit more to think about:

Western Brewer magazine advertisement for hop extract– Hop extracts are not exactly new. The New York Hop Extract Company built the first extraction plant in the world large enough to produce quantities sufficient to supply brewers in 1870. Brewers bought extract when hops were plentiful and prices low as insurance against poor crop years and high prices, using it in combination with whole hops.

– Scientists used water and ethanol to extract hops in the nineteenth century. Today most processors employ carbon dioxide extraction, either supercritical (Europe and the United States) or liquid (England).

– It wasn’t long ago that anybody who called herself a craft brewer considered extracts the antithesis of natural hops. They were an efficient, in other words cheap, way to bitter beers that had little hop character. Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing was the first to speak openly about using CO2 extract. Initially he brewed Pliny the Elder, a groundbreaking double IPA, using only hop pellets. He didn’t like grassy, chlorophyll flavors he attributed to sheer hop mass. Following a suggestion from Gerard Lemmens at Yakima Chief, he replaced pellets with extract for the bittering addition.

“We kept it secret for the first few years,” Cilurzo said, “but Gerard twisted my arm.” Cilurzo gave Lemmens permission to publish the information in a Yakima Chief newsletter. Scores of other small breweries soon began to use CO2 extract.

Jeremy Marshall, who is in charge of brewing at Lagunitas, said the brewery started using extract in a wider range of its beers in 2010, intent on lowering the level of tannins in several brands (a problem that emerged after a poor barley crop). “We use hop extract because it increases the quality of our beer,” he said.

– American brewers are not nearly as open when discussing use of extracts for aroma and flavor as for bittering. Several brewers I talked for two stories for Beer Advocate magazine about the future demand for hops said they expect to be using more fractionated hops in the future, but didn’t want to be the first. The reverse is true in England, said Chris Daws at Botanix, a subsidiary of global hop merchant Barth Haas. Botanix creates its own line of aroma extracts, as does Hopsteiner. Daws said craft brewers in the UK are not reticent to use fractions for aroma, but resist extract for bittering.

– Extraction is totally different than distillation, the process Sierra Nevada to get the oils it adds to Hop Hunter IPA (link is for a YouTube video).

– These are intended to supplement “regular” hopping. A complaint about extracts is they can taste artificial, and they do better with a little help. Read the instructions for dosing on a commercial level to see is not as simple as spiking a beer with raw hop oil. And there is the matter of cleanup.

– The list of both positives and negatives that commercial breweries take into account is lengthy. So I’ll cut to the chase and quote Cilurzo again: “It’s such a personal decision. It’s philosophical.”

To return the conversation to homebrewing, I like the freedom that comes with using whole hops (well, pellets) — seeing how particular varieties interact with each other and with yeast to create new aromas and flavors, ones not available from extracts, at least for now. So I’m not necessarily endorsing the use of extracts at home or commercially (on the other hand it’s not like I’d have to tell me children to eat eight per cent less because dry hopping results, on average, in eight percent beer loss).

But I’ve dosed finished beers with samples Kalsec sent and served them to homebrewers. It’s fun. They ask where they can get something similar. Now I have an answer.


From deep in the belly of craft beer


During the opening session of the Craft Brewers Conference last week Brewers Assocation board chair Gary Fish said that, at least for the week, Portland, Oregon, was the “epicenter of craft beer.” I can neither confirm nor deny that. I spent my week among the trees, specific trees as a matter of fact, because I was in information collecting mode. And, I figured out over the weekend as I tried to catch up with Twitter and Feedly, pretty disconnected from the rest of the beer world.

Amidst all the high-fiving about how terrific beer in Portland is and what a fine job the city did hosting the convention there was this:

Trying to provide context via Twitter can be maddening. My suggestion is to visit Carla Jean Lauter’s Twitter feed (@beerbabe) read through her tweets and also the replies that followed. Here’s an essential one:

And in the midst of this Heather Vandenengal added more context with “A quick note on sexism and the beer industry.”

Twenty years ago, when Daria and I first visited the Oregon Brewers Festival, that a group of brewers assembled after a day’s work to head off together to a local strip club that had scores of beers on tap was pointed to with a sense of pride. It was another sign how far ahead of the beer curve Portland was — even the strip clubs have better beer. Maybe it is because strip clubs are as much a part of the Portland culture as beer variety, but nobody seemed to be bothered that not all of us are comfortable with treating women as objects.

To be clear, this isn’t a discussion primarily about strip clubs in Portland. All About Beer provided a guide to spots to look for before CBC began. And in the midst of the conversation Lauter started there was this from @SamuraiArtist:

This is a discussion about awareness. There’s been an ongoing conversation about sexism in beer and it needs to continue. In the midst of all those tweets somebody suggested “someone will still find a reason to be upset” and that is true. But some things should be obvious. “I sell beer. I want more women to buy it. I’d like more women to feel comfortable working in my industry.” The next thought should not be “Benjamin Braddock got the girl in the end, so I’ll ask these women to join me at a strip club.”

What do these exchanges on Twitter, and in actual one-on-one conversations, tell us about this entity broadly labeled craft beer? That it is as flawed as society itself? Or that we expect to it be somehow special, less flawed?

Vandenengal wrote, “The reality is that dealing with casually and overtly sexist men who don’t respect women is something that all women of all industries and backgrounds deal with all the time, in both their personal and professional lives. It’s no different in craft beer.”

Not a cheery thought to begin Monday with, but a fact. [Via Twitter, Heather Vandenengal]

Returning to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Critical Drinking — The Craft Brewers Conference + Getting Weird — Good Beer Hunting.
Later this weeks I’ll post some thoughts from the view from 20 feet (in other words, all about hops), but if you’d like more big picture thinking (the view from 20,000 feet) start here. [Via Good Beer Hunting]

Popularity, personal tastes and beer culture.
Is it possible that “local beer cultures do not exist, that they’re only a myth; something artificially preserved for tourists and romantics?”
[Via Pivní Filosof – Beer Philosopher]

What do you really think of that wine? Ask your brain.
If you are going to call somebody a hophead, or hop head, then an MRI kind of makes senses, doesn’t it? [Via Palate Press]

Science Has Not Really Spoken (On The Study Of Big Flavor Wines).
A discussion about wine that is just as relevant to beer. [Via 1 Wine Dude]

And to finish off with a smile, back to Twitter.


Out with the corn, in with the hops

You likely don’t remember, but the top photo first appeared here in September of 2014, when I spotted corn growing where god obviously meant for there to be hops. It is a field near the entrance to Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.

The second photo is what that field looked like yesterday, almost ready for hops to pop up from the soil climb to the top of the 18-foot trellises. String has been strung throughout much of the Willamette Valley. The string is apparent in the photo at the bottom, taken from the north end of the hop field looking back toward the monastery.

Hop fields, Mount Angel, Oregon

Hop fields, Mount Angel, Oregon

Preparing hop yard for a new season, Mount Angel, Oregon


Big craft just keeps getting bigger


Newly Formed Craft Consortium Enjoy Beer LLC Eyes Acquisitions, IPO.
Honestly, I wouldn’t pretend to understand all the implications for “an acquisition vehicle and craft beer consortium,” which is how Enjoy Beer is described. But it must be big business because founder Rich Doyle says he “hopes to have five craft beer breweries under the Enjoy Beer umbrella before 2020, at which point the company may consider an IPO.” This certainly means more of what Alan McLeod has been calling “big craft” or “national craft” for about four years. Abita Brewing CEO David Blossman, whose brewery is the first to enter into a deal with Enjoy Beer, told the Boston Globe: “We’re not losing our heart and soul. We turned down lots of other opportunities because we wanted to remain rooted in our local community and culture.” But he also wants his coming to keep expanding.

That’s not a particularly bad thing, at least that’s the view from here, nor is it necessarily a good thing. It simply is. There are going to be more breweries shipping more beer farther from where it is brewed. It may be harder for them to act as autonomously as they once did or to appear as warm and cuddly. This won’t bother most of the drinkers who buy their beers. But if it does, here’s the thing, there will still be more local, quite often pretty small, definitely independent breweries in America than since, well, probably ever. [Via Brewbound]

In which I give more badly written beer history a good kicking.
Marytn Cornell goes to work on “How the India Pale Ale Got Its Name” at, which carries a certain cachet when it comes to history. But Cornell calls the article “one of the worst I have ever read on the subject, crammed with at least 25 errors of fact and interpretation.” [Via Zythophile]

Nano Breweries: The Art (and Economics) of Brewing at Tiny Scales. Small. “Success is contextual.” [Via Paste]

Let’s Grab a Beer… With A-B InBev.
Big. Curious fact: will redirect you to what appears to be a sign in page. But if you really want to see what the site looked like back in 2007 or so use the Wayback Machine. [Via Advertising Age]

The Growing Future of Local Hops.
Noteworthy here is that the Hop Growers of America has added an at-large director to its board, so that for the first time there’s a board member from outside the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Tom Britz of Montana is also chairing the Small Growers Council, which will address “the very different business model and challenges of small growers across the country who have no infrastructure, no multi-generational institutional knowledge, and no economies of scale.” Just to be clear, three Northwestern states will continue to supply almost all the hops in the country. We don’t know how things will work out trying to grow hops many places where they eventually failed before. But nobody will succeed without putting the infrastructure for picking, drying and processing in place. This is another sign that is happening. [Via Flathead Beacon]

Brewery has enough water to make beer for the year.
The local water district in Redding, Calif., lets Wildcard Brewing in Redding know just how much water it can use during 2015. [Via KRCR]

The Lesser-Spotted True Red Lion.
Maybe the beer culture always looks a greener on the other side of the Atlantic, but — dang — a true inn that offers beer and lodging, and also the village shop and post office. Plus a backyard that comes “closer to the feel of a Bavarian beer garden than anywhere else we’ve been in Britain and yet, at the same time, could not be anywhere but in England.” [Via Boak & Bailey]

Brewery re-imagines flagship beer.
An announcement from Stone Brewing not long ago that it was replacing Ruination IPA with Ruination generated the usual Stone related chatter on the Internet. New Holland Brewing in Michigan is taking a different approach — simply stating it is changing the recipe on Mad Hatter IPA and throwing a little party. The change includes using Michigan-grown hops, not available when the beer was first sold in 1998, and a hop variety, Citra, that also wasn’t available. [Via Grand Rapids Business Journal]

How Cans turned Craft into Crass.
This would have made an interesting addition to The Session #98, although it’s about something more basic than cans versus bottles. “I’ve said before how I dream of a day where a brewery releases its beers in cans for the first time and there isn’t a gratuitous Twitter frenzy worked up where people admit they’ve masturbated five times that morning because a beer that more often than not has already been available for 12 months is now going to be a million times better because its changing vessel. I’d like to think such a day will come. I fear it shall not for many a year.” [Via Beer Compurgation]


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