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Vaping hops, of the dankest kind

Sentences you would not have read in the Washington Post in 1980, or likely many years after, from a story about events around the District during SAVOR:

“And on June 4, Lagunitas is serving up hops in an unusual manner. The California- and Chicago-based brewery will have a vaporizer set up at Smoke and Barrel (2471 18th St. NW; June 4, 5 p.m., free) so patrons can vape hops while getting buzzed on eight of its dankest drafts.”

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Building a better hop pellet?

The BBC Pure Hop Pellet is not exactly new. Boston Beer Company has been using this custom pellet for several years, since developing it in collaboration with the Barth Haas Group.

But that eight hop varieties will be available to other breweries in this form after the 2015 harvest is new.

Not long after Eric Beck of Boston Beer and Christina Schönberger of Barth Haas completed a presentation titled “The Evolution of a New Hop Pellet Type for More Efficient Dry Hopping” during the Craft Brewers Conference two weeks ago Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker stopped at the Barth Haas group to say hello to Schönberger. I asked him if he’d be interested in using such pellets in his brewery.

“Sure.”

I consider than an endorsement.

Backing up, because you probably haven’t memorized “For the Love of Hops” (the custom process creating the pellets used in Samuel Adams beers is discussed on page 226). Hops are first milled in a hammer mill, preferably under refrigeration to reduce losses of alpha acids and essential oils. Hop powder is accumulated in a mixing vessel and then pelletized. These may be Type 90 pellets or Type 45.

T90s once contained 90 percent of the nonresinous components found in hop cones, thus the name, although today product losses are generally less and the percentage is actually higher. They are the most common sold. The composition of oils and alpha within the pellets is similar to cones but not necessarily identical.

T45, or lupulin-enriched, pellets, are manufactured from enriched hop powder. Processors mill the hops at about -20° F (-30º C), which reduces the stickiness of the resin, and separate the lupulin from unwanted fibrous vegetative matter. Although the name implies the hops are enriched to twice the level of T90s, the level may be restricted by the amount of lupulin in the original hop. Normally, processors customize the level, producing, for example, a T33 or a T72 pellet that would still be referred to as a T45 pellet.

BBC Pure Hop Pellets are produced on the T45 line, but with more like 90 percent of hop matter. (More like, because T90s really contain close to 95 percent, and BBC a bit less than that). The percentage is important to Boston Beer. David Grinnell, vice president of brewing, explained that when the brewery was looking for an alternative to T90s they could have decided to use Type 45 pellets. They reduce the space needed for storage and deliver more lupulin more efficiently. “Concentrated lupulin is not unattractive, but it’s not the whole hop. We’re committed to the whole hop,” he said. “Somewhere in your brain you know (that) will have value.”

Or as Beck said during the presentation, “We believe … (it) reminds you that you are drinking beer.”

BBC Pure Hop Pellet vs regular pellet

This graph shows the difference in sensory impact that Boston Beer found when using Mittelfrüh in Boston Lager (“Pure Hop” process is on the top). Of course, this will vary based on variety and type of beer being brewed. However, it should be apparent brewers can either choose to use fewer hops for the same impact or get more impact with the same amount of hops.

Barth Haas has facilities to make T45s in Germany and in Yakima, Wash. (For the record, so does Hopsteiner.) Haas will initially produce Mittelfröh, Hersbrucker and Saaz Pure Hop Pellets in Germany. For now, it will make Citra, Cascade, Centennial, Equinox, and Mosaic Pure Hop Pellets in Yakima. “We want to make sure we can serve the market,” said Alex Barth, president of John I. Haas, Barth’s U.S. company.

That means you aren’t going to see them everywhere. Haas serves mostly regional-size breweries directly, with channel partners selling to smaller ones (and the homebrew market). Larger breweries are the ones that will find the most use for the dry hop friendly pellet — they are the ones still sorting out more efficient ways to dry hop large amount of beer without clogging their filters and wrecking centrifuges. “It will take some time to filter through the market,” Barth said.

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-ounce 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 my 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.

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

Acres and acres of hops, oh my!

THURSDAY HOPS LINKS 04.02.15

Processing hops, Yakima Valley

I don’t expect to make “all hops all the time” a weekly feature, but perhaps a regular one.

Yakima Valley hops acreage grows with demand.
The question recently has not been whether more acres are needed, but where they might be planted. Despite interest across the country (see below) in growing hops, the Northwest is where it is happening right now. This project — a collaboration between Congdon Orchards and Virgil Gamache Farms of Toppenish, one of the Valley’s longtime hop growing businesses — returns hops to an area where they were produced a century ago but not recently. One point of order: the story reports “growers expect to plant a record 41,000 acres, up from 38,011 acres last year and surpassing the previous record of 2008.” In fact, some estimates are acreage in the Northwest could reach 43,000, but that still wouldn’t be a record. Modern day acres peaked at 44,161 in 1996. According to the 1913 Joh. Barth and Sohn Hop Report farmers in the United States and Canada grew hops on almost 54,000 acres in 1913.

Idaho hop acres expected to increase by almost 1,100.
That would be a 29 percent increase. Oregon growers are expected to add a more modest 500 to 600 acres.

In Michigan. The Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference is next week. Michigan currently has the most acres under wire outside of the Northwest, and that’s about to double.

In Ohio. Last year was the first time since Prohibition the state reported hop production: 100 acres planted and 30 acres harvested. In February, about 500 people attended the second Hops Growers Conference in Wooster.

In Virginia. Over the past two years, the Old Dominion Hops Co-operative has grown from about two dozen members to more than 80. And in November, the governor’s office approved a $40,000 grant to help Black Hops Farm in Loudoun County open a processing facility that promises to buy up to 60 percent of its product from Virginia growers.

In Minnesota. In case you were wondering about the challenges of growing “an unfamiliar crop.”

In New York. Brewery Ommegang will release a pale ale this summer made using all New York state hops. Hop State New York will be available only in New York. Ommegang, known for its Belgian-inspired beers, purchased hops from eight different New York farms to use for the pale ale, according to Mike McManus, innovation manager at Ommegang. Some of those hops will also be used in another beer. “It’s something we want to support,” McManus said. “It is going to be one part, a small part, of our hop usage. We’re going to do whatever we can to support the industry.” That’s the sort of backing new hop growers are going to need. Maybe breweries, or groups of them, need to establish regional “adopt a hop farm” programs.

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