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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.


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!


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.


Hop links, news & myths

- “It’s wonderful that hops have become the subject of so much writing and discussion. It’s just unfortunate that in the process so many (false) myths are being passed on – in countless forums and blogs, on Facebook and even in conversations. So let’s do some spring cleaning and do away with some of these myths.”

The Barth-Haas Group plans to update its new Hop Flavour Blog each Monday. The quote above is from a post about hop myths. Not the sort of historical ones Martyn Cornell tries to rid us of in the appendix to “Beer: The Story of the Pint.” Instead, these set the record straight on brewing matters. For instance, “Myth No. 4: Hop varieties are easily interchangeable. Hop oil contains more than 400 aroma compounds in different concentrations and combinations, and these substances additionally produce synergistic effects. It is therefore very difficult to swap hop varieties.” Indeed.

– ADHA483 (Azacca), ADHA881 (Jarrylo), ADHA871 (Pekko), ADHA527, ADHA529, and ADHA484, oh my! I suspect it will be possible to drink a beer brewed with a relatively new hop or an experimental one (probably only with a number as a name) about every five minutes for three straight days during the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference in Portland. But the most public tasting will be one featuring varieties from the American Dwarf Hop Association’s breeding program at Apex Bar April 17. Among the breweries that made beers using the ADHA hops are Bagby Brewing, Alagash Brewing, Bear Republic Brewing, Three Floyds Brewing, Founders Brewing, you get the idea. First beers will be tapped at 2 p.m.

Hallertau Mittelfruh

– A crew from Simply Hops (part of the English branch of Barth Haas) tweeted their away across Germany last week. Interesting tour, including a stop inside of the -35° C chamber where Type 45 pellets are processed. But I was struck more than anything by this description of Hallertau Mittelfrüh: “Full of grapefruit!”

– It sure looks like 2015 will be a breakout year for German-grown Mandarina Bavaria, introduced in 2012 (in time to be described in “For the Love of Hops” although there was little available for brewing). German farmers harvested 100 metric tons (a metric ton is about 2,200 pounds) of Mandaria Bavaria in 2014, compared to 19 in 2013. That crop is sold out, but acreage will double this year. Mandarina is prominent in Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack, which is one reason that brewmaster Matt Brynildson spent a chunk of time in Bavaria during the 2014 harvest. He writes about it in travelogue Firestone Walker has created and included plenty of photos (aka hop porn).

– Jeff Alworth writes about brewing with Latir, one of the hops Todd Bates bred in New Mexico from different neomexicanus plants collected in the wild and now grown by the monks at Christ in the Desert monastery north of Abiquiu, N.M. He promised to save me a bottle, so I will report back after CBC.

Working with a living beer community

Tiah Edmunson-Morton, Oregon Hops & Brewing ArchivesThe March/April edition of DRAFT magazine has a lovely little story about Tiah Edmunson-Morton and the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives. (Full disclosure: I wrote it.)

I’ve pointed to her Tumblr blog on several occasions, first because I thought you might be interested, and second, perhaps selfishly, because we need to encourage this sort of activity. In one sense it is easier to collect history as it is happening; in another it is harder because you don’t know necessarily know what is going to be important.

Yesterday Alan McLeod wrote, “The interesting thing about the early bits of anything is how little data there is to work with.” Indeed.

So a couple of quotes from Edmunson-Morton (in case your copy of DRAFT hasn’t arrive in the mail):

“The ultimate irony is you can digitize it all, but how to you make sense out of it?”

“You are no longer dealing with people how have died and left their nice box of stuff. You are working with a living community. The power is not just records, but people’s memories. One person fills in a blank here, another person there.”

As I wrote in the story, OHBA makes too much sense to be one of a kind. But, to repeat myself, we need to encourage this sort of activity. Edmunson-Morton is already practicing what Paul Eisloeffel of the Nebraska State Historical Society calls holistic collecting, “thinking outside of the archives box” and gathering artifacts as well as historical documents. This doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

“Dealing with artifacts has always been a problem for standalone archives,” he said. He’s a proponent of the sort of proactive collecting Edmunson-Morton has begun. “It is important for archivists to be able to look at what’s happening in a culture and start collecting now. I really applaud her.”

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