By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sure, you’ve used a wide variety of hops since you began homebrewing. Maybe you’ve even started to grow your own. Perhaps there was a even time you got your hands on a rare variety. But there’s still more to learn since the industry has found new ways to process hops, providing beer makers with even more options. These developments can open up a whole new world of flavor profiles.
Aside from all of the hop varieties that seem to debut every month, there are now new ways to process hops. We’re familiar with hops in the whole-leaf dried form — they basically look like pressed flowers. There are also hop pellets that are primarily used by commercial producers. The pellet is literally the whole dried hop chopped into what’s almost a powder before it’s then pressed into little nuggets that look like rabbit food.
The other fairly common use for hops is in oils. To make that, hops are stuffed into a cylinder that is sealed. Carbon dioxide is added at one end while the other features a relief valve. As pressure builds, the CO2 extracts the hop essence, which comes out as an oil. This liquid has all of the same properties of the hop, but in a condensed form and none of the vegetal matter.
One of the newer products available to homebrewers is called hop hash. In large hop-picking facilities, the cones are stripped off bines and fed into a drying room on conveyors. During the harvest, resin and lupulin build up on those belts, which can be stripped off and it resembles a clay-like material. That is the hop hash. It can also be collected as a byproduct of cleaning the pelletizer. The hash has an intense aroma and flavor, which can be great for bittering. It’s also a unique way to add strange and interesting flavors to the boil.
Because hop hash is basically condensed hop essence, the oil makes it difficult to break down in a dry hopping application. But don’t worry — there is another category of hops now on the market that’s easier to use for additions after the wort has been cooled. Cryo Hops, created by Yakima Chief in Washington, “uses a proprietary cryogenic separation process that preserves all components of each hop fraction,” according to the company website. The result is two products: LupuLN2 and Debittered Leaf. The former retains most of the flavor and aroma of hops without the plant matter. It’s best used at the end of a boil or when dry hopping. Keep in mind the dosage is half that of regular hops or pellets by weight. And since there’s no plant involved, you won’t run the risk of picking up grassy flavors in the final beer. The second product, Debittered Leaf, is the concentrated bract separated from a hop cone’s lupulin glands. It’s best used during the boil for beer styles that don’t require a large hop presence, like a pilsner.
With all of the new hop varieties on the market and exciting ways to impart their flavors, our options as homebrewers are seemingly endless. The future is ever-changing and there’s no telling what type of brewing process you’ll end up using to create your next award-winning beer.
Patrick's Snake Oil [AG]
Patrick's Snake Oil [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.