In today’s business world, the best ways to stay ahead of the competition are to either be an innovator, or use the latest and greatest technology and products. The craft beer industry is no exception, as its rapid growth has fueled a demand for brewers across the country to find new ways to stand out amongst the ever growing number of craft breweries, especially here in St. Louis. From complex sours and stouts at Perennial and Side Project, to one-off batches and hop trials at Square One and Schlafly, and to eclectic combinations of spices and herbs at Earthbound and Scratch, our local head brewers and brew masters are constantly working at producing something different for us beer drinkers. And now they’ve found something new to use in the brewing process: hop powder.
At the Brewer’s Association 2017 Craft Brewers Conference last month, YCH Hops debuted a new product called Cryo Hops that pushed hop powder into the spotlight. Hop powder, also sometimes called hop dust or (incorrectly) hop hash, is the concentrated lupulin from whole hop cones. Lupulin, for those new to craft beer and brewing, is what gives flavors and aromas in hop forward beer styles that aficionados like to identify sometimes as “citrusy”, “dank” or “piney”. A few companies already produce and sell hop hash as a by-product of turning whole cone hops into pellets or make a highly concentrated hop resin extract in syringes for home and commercial use. YCH however appears to be the first at this time using proprietary new methods with nitrogen to produce a concentrated lupulin powder that, according to 4 Hands head brewer Andy Burgio, “will allow brewers to get a better tasting and better smelling beer”.
“What initially drew me to using hop powder was the ability to impart more flavor and aroma into the beer without adding more vegetative matter or adding more astringency from the bitterness of the usual hop pellets. We’re going for what the best parts of hops are.”
When Saint Brewis visited 4 Hands, Burgio was getting ready to add the hop powder again to the Loose Particles beer potentially going on tap this week. “We’re using the powder in a double IPA that will be hazy and fruity with two different yeasts, one of which is a super fruity American ale yeast that doesn’t flocculate out well. We added it (the hop powders) in at five minutes left in the boil and at the beginning of whirlpool, and then dry-hopping with it today.”
The end goal of 4 Hands is to make a juicer, hoppier IPA that goes with the real juicy and fruit-like aspects that hops give off in IPAs. And if it works out, they plan to continue using hop powder, however availability is the concern according to Burgio. “It’s a newer product, and this product is a better quality one than hop hash. In some regards it’ll help the industry with demand as it’ll be able to create more products from the same ingredient, and in bigger breweries it’ll get a higher finished beer yield as the absorption rates will drop.” As far as making another hazy IPA, the trend is picking up in popularity but Burgio doesn’t see it as a fad or going away anytime soon. “The style has the ability to stick around as long as it’s done right. As long as the breweries can make the style smell and taste good, they will keep selling it.”
While the hop powder is only available currently to commercial brewers, that will change in a few weeks when the American Homebrewers Association’s 2017 HomebrewCon (National Homebrewers Conference) begins in Minneapolis. During that time, attending homebrewers will get to stop by the YCH booth to learn about hop powder and will more than likely be able to walk away with a few ounces to use at home. After that, hop powder will soon be made available for sale at local homebrew stores nationwide. There are five varieties available, two of them being Mosaic and Simcoe which Burgio used on brew day and when dry-hopping respectively. For any homebrewers looking to try it in their beers, Burgio offered a couple pieces of advice.
“Add 50% (of hop powder) of what you’d normally add with pellet hops. Definitely add it during a part of the process where it’s agitated as it tends to want to float on top of the wort or beer, which is why we added it during the whirlpool so it would break down and release the oils into the wort. For a homebrewer, I would definitely add it between primary and secondary fermentation, so when you’re racking over from your primary to your secondary you have that agitation to help get it into solution.”
Loose Particles goes on tap at 4 Hands later this week, stay tuned for more updates!
For more information on the hop powder being used by 4 Hands, go to: https://ychhops.com/hop-products/cryo-hops.