Pow­der Days: An Ex­cit­ing New Turn in the World of Hops

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Brewing Trends - By Libby Mur­phy

Lupuln2™ hops pow­der, a new hops prod­uct com­ing out of Yakima Chief − Hop­union this spring, is trans­form­ing sev­eral meth­ods in the brewing process.


and us­age tech­niques are con­stantly evolv­ing, most brewers have taken for granted the form those hops take. For most of craft beer’s his­tory, the op­tions were whole cone, pel­let, or ex­tract, and that was that.

But to­day’s craft brewers are more open to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion than ever, and the fi­nan­cial re­bound of the hops mar­ket has led to ad­di­tional in­vest­ment from ma­jor hops grow­ing and pack­ag­ing con­cerns, re­sult­ing in ground­break­ing de­vel­op­ments that may change the way brewers get their hops.

Yakima Chief − Hop­union (YCH HOPS) is lead­ing the charge in the de­vel­op­ment of these new hops prod­ucts, and the re­lease they’re bring­ing to mar­ket this month, Lupuln2, prom­ises to dras­ti­cally re­duce the amount of hops used by weight, en­hance hops fla­vor and aroma, re­duce veg­e­tal off-fla­vors, save beer yield lost to hops mat­ter, and re­coup lost profit. While this might sound too good to be true, many brewers have al­ready been us­ing the prod­uct—lupuln2 hops pow­der—for sev­eral months as part of a pilot pro­gram and have had out­stand­ing re­sults.

Lupuln2 is called such be­cause of the process used to sep­a­rate the lupulin glands from the whole hops cone and the fact that the re­sult­ing con­cen­trated lupulin prod­uct is twice as po­tent as tra­di­tional hops prod­ucts, says Melody Meyer, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing at YCH HOPS. The pro­pri­etary process starts when the cones are placed in a ni­tro­gen-rich at­mos­phere and bathed in ex­tremely low tem­per­a­tures, which al­lows the lupulin glands to be sep­a­rated cleanly from the leafy ma­te­rial.

Bet­ter Fla­vor

Sev­eral brew­eries, in­clud­ing Über­brew (Billings, Mon­tana), Tril­lium (Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts), Melvin Brewing (Jack­son, Wy­oming), and Law­son’s Finest Liq­uids (War­ren, Ver­mont), to name just a hand­ful, have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with Lupuln2 and re­port­ing back to YCH to de­ter­mine best prac­tices for its use.

Mark Hast­ings, co-owner and head brewer at Über­brew, says he first used Lupuln2 for his Al­pha Force RAP DOM (brewed with seven types of hops, two of which were YCH HOPS’S Lupuln2), an ex­per­i­men­tal IPA that took sec­ond place at the Al­pha King Chal­lenge in 2016. “RAP DOM has kind of a crazy hops aroma, and it was our ‘shock and awe’ beer—it worked! Now we want to take it to the next level.”

Lupuln2 re­duces veg­e­tal, grassy, bit­ter off-fla­vors be­cause the process sep­a­rates out the leafy bract of the hop cone. All that re­mains is the juicy, resinous, fruity fla­vor of the hop’s lupulin glands in a fine, highly con­cen­trated pow­der. Meyer says, “Vir­tu­ally ev­ery brew­ery we’ve heard from has used the word, ‘juicy.’ So if you’re us­ing Sim­coe brand Lupuln2, you’ll get all the re­ally great fla­vors that you wanted in the first place but also no­tice an in­tense, ex­tra juicy char­ac­ter­is­tic. And it re­ally de­pends on how much of the Lupuln2 you have used.”

Hast­ings backs that up with his own ex­pe­ri­ence. “One of the beau­ties of our tap­room here is that you get the feed­back across the plank. [The cus­tomers] no­ticed not only in­creased hops aroma and fla­vor, but it was a more pleas­ant aroma and fla­vor. And it was ini­tially more just, ‘Wow! How did you guys do this?’ ”

From a brewer’s be­hind-the-scenes stand­point, dur­ing dry hop­ping, Hast­ings found some­thing else. “I no­ticed with pel­lets that when you taste that beer right af­ter a dry hop­ping, the beer is al­most un­drink­able, it’s so hoppy. And then you give it 2−3 days of cold con­di­tion­ing to trans­fer it, and it be­comes a beau­ti­ful beer. But it’s

“One of the beau­ties of our tap­room here is that you get the feed­back across the plank. [The cus­tomers] no­ticed not only in­creased hops aroma and fla­vor, but it was a more pleas­ant aroma and fla­vor. And it was ini­tially more just, ‘Wow! How did you guys do this?’ ” —Mark Hast­ings, Über­brew

al­most shock­ing—like pep­per cap­saicin. With the Lupuln2 pow­der, I didn’t ever no­tice that harsh­ness.”

Zach Page, di­rec­tor of brewing op­er­a­tions at Tril­lium, says of his cus­tomers’ re­ac­tions, “The re­cep­tion was great; peo­ple re­ally liked it. The aroma was ex­plo­sive, and we were su­per happy with the re­sults, so now we’re talk­ing about in­cor­po­rat­ing it more and more.”

Tril­lium’s Street Se­ries is a se­ries of IPAS that uses the same grist, yeast, and IBU lev­els through­out, but they change up the hops with each beer. That’s al­lowed cus­tomers to try Lupuln2 and com­pare it against the pel­let hops as well. “Our cus­tomers love try­ing these beers side by side and get­ting to know what Galaxy or Sim­coe or Amar­illo adds to a beer, so I’m not sur­prised that peo­ple are in­ter­ested to see what this new prod­uct could bring to a beer or how it changes from pel­let va­ri­eties.”

Less Waste = More Beer

When YCH HOPS’S R&D team set out to cre­ate this new prod­uct, one goal was to cre­ate some­thing that would re­duce trub, which in­creases yield and, in turn, profit. Hast­ings says, “We hop to the ex­treme, so we see losses that are maybe greater than some brew­eries. In some of our IPAS, we’re close to—at the very min­i­mum—7 pound/bbl of hops, and we usu­ally get up to over 10 pound/bbl of hops in a batch. So we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pretty sig­nif­i­cant losses.”

Be­cause it doesn’t con­tain the non-vi­tal leafy por­tion of the hops cone, the Lupuln2 hops pow­der is twice as con­cen­trat-

ed as tra­di­tional hops pel­lets, which means brewers have to use only half as much prod­uct by weight as they nor­mally would. While the Lupuln2 pow­der it­self doesn’t cost less than other hops prod­ucts, the cost sav­ings brewers see will be in the yield that’s re­cov­ered at the end of con­di­tion­ing.

YCH rec­om­mends in­tro­duc­ing the pow­der in in­cre­ments into brewers’ recipes un­til brewers know how the fla­vors will in­ter­act with their in­gre­di­ents and the other hops they use. From there, they can grad­u­ally in­crease the amount of pow­der they use, un­til they reach the de­sired amount. The Cryo Hops™ line is avail­able in many of the pop­u­lar hops brands in­clud­ing Ci­tra, Sim­coe, Mo­saic, Ekuanot, and Lo­ral. Meyer says that brewers are see­ing an av­er­age of 3−5 per­cent more yield re­cov­ered from their batches, which means more beer can be sold in the tap­rooms. Hast­ings says he’s sav­ing a lit­tle more than 5 per­cent on his hop­pier beers. “Where we did an 11-bar­rel batch and were lucky to re­cover 6 bar­rels per batch on our hoppy beers, we’re start­ing to see 7 and 8 bar­rels when we use Lupuln2. I think po­ten­tially we could see a lot more.”

Some brew­eries have in­vested in cen­trifuges to re­cover some of the beer pre­vi­ously lost to trub and hops mat­ter (see “Se­ri­ous about Sep­a­ra­tion,” page 52), but oth­ers haven’t been able to give up space or make the fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment. Hast­ings says, “Any­thing we can do with­out some of the equip­ment that some of the larger brew­eries have—like New Bel­gium with their cen­trifuge—is great be­cause the hops bro­kers have done that for you. That’s where this prod­uct has some ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial from a prac­ti­cal stand­point.”

Tril­lium first tried Lupuln2 with a 10-bar­rel batch, but it was when they

ramped up to 90-bar­rel batches that they re­ally saw the dif­fer­ence in sav­ings. Page says, “We have yet to use a recipe that’s 100 per­cent Lupuln2, so my data is kind of anec­do­tal. With Pow Pow (a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Law­son’s Finest Liq­uids), we saw an al­most 10 per­cent in­crease with our yield. The in­creased yield is fan­tas­tic. Our first con­cern is qual­ity, so we’re in­te­grat­ing Lupuln2 slowly, and us­ing tast­ing pan­els to make sure the qual­ity of the beer is just as good as, if not bet­ter than, what we were see­ing be­fore with the pel­lets.”

Tril­lium does use a cen­trifuge, but in a less con­ven­tional way—they use it to get the large solid mat­ter out of the cone of each tank dur­ing the trans­fer, and a lot of the batch is by­passed around the cen­trifuge. “This lets us dial in the con­sis­tency and tur­bid­ity of our beers as well as helps in­crease the yield. With Lupuln2, we found a much tighter bed of hops at the bot­tom of the tank that let us trans­fer more to the brite tank.”

Sus­tain­abil­ity and waste are al­ways big con­cerns at ev­ery point of the brewing process, and for YCH, the waste re­duc­tion will be two-fold. Meyer ex­plains, “We’re de­sign­ing the line as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble, and on a brew­ery level, by not hav­ing that ex­tra ma­te­rial, they in­crease their yield.” Lupuln2 is also avail­able in pel­let form, which fur­ther re­duces pack­ag­ing, stor­age space, and ship­ping.

How It’s Used Now and Be­yond

The oily na­ture of the lupulin glands presents some in­ter­est­ing chal­lenges for brewers. Oil and water don’t ex­actly have a friendly re­la­tion­ship, so brewers have had to be­come in­ven­tive when it comes to get­ting the pow­der to mix. But brewers, not ones to turn away from the pur­suit of mak­ing great beer, haven’t backed down from the chal­lenge.

Meyer says, “When added via the top of the tank, Lupuln2 can tend to sit on the sur­face. Dos­ing with pel­lets can as­sist in­cor­po­ra­tion. Additions via wet ap­pli­ca­tions un­der CO2 con­di­tions are also ben­e­fi­cial.”

Hast­ings has used Lupuln2 only at whirlpool so far. “Part of our con­cern af­ter see­ing it in the whirlpool is that it likes to float a lit­tle bit. We had to do kind of a pro­longed whirlpool.” YCH rec­om­mends late ket­tle additions, so the aroma isn’t boiled out, and be­cause the par­ti­cle size is so small, there’s lit­tle risk of clog­ging heat ex­chang­ers, even with car­ry­over into the fer­men­tor.

Tril­lium has used Lupuln2 both in the whirlpool and in dry-hop­ping. “In the dry-hopped [batch], it worked re­ally well be­cause we used a dry-hop­ping de­vice that has a pres­sur­ized ves­sel that you put the hops in­side and you cre­ate a re­cir­cu­la­tion from the bot­tom of the tank through the rack­ing arm. And then this pres­sur­ized ves­sel lets you in­ject the hops in­line dur­ing the re­cir­cu­la­tion loop. So it re­ally in­creases the sur­face area ex­po­sure that you get be­tween the hops and the beer.”

You’ll likely see more of it in fu­ture batches at Tril­lium. Page says, “I think we get the good fruit-for­ward hops that we’re look­ing for with less of that veg­e­tal bite, so our goal long-term is to in­cor­po­rate more Lupuln2 to save us the yield and de­liver a bet­ter prod­uct. It also takes up less space and is more prac­ti­cal to use.”

As for Über­brew’s fu­ture use, Hast­ings has made sev­eral plans. “When we dry hop, we like to do it at fer­men­ta­tion tem­per­a­ture—this is with pel­lets—for a cou­ple of days and then re­move those hops be­fore we do an­other dry-hop ad­di­tion. The idea is that you can get some of the grassy notes (mainly from that ex­tra plant ma­te­rial) that you maybe aren’t look­ing for if you leave the beer for pro­longed amounts of time by us­ing those pel­lets. I was con­cerned that would hap­pen with the Cryo Hops, but that’s not go­ing to be the case be­cause the plant ma­te­rial has been re­moved. There’s the chance that in­stead of hav­ing to do two dry-hop additions to avoid the grassi­ness, we just do one, cir­cu­late, and re­cir­cu­late to get the fla­vor.”

As for the home­brew­ers out there, while Lupuln2 isn’t avail­able just yet for that mar­ket, Meyer says home­brew­ers can ex­pect to see some ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments by the time the Na­tional Home Brewers Con­fer­ence rolls around in June.

In the mean­time, you’ve got to find the clos­est brew­ery us­ing these prod­ucts to test the dif­fer­ence in fla­vor your­self and if you’re lucky, find out how the brewer ap­plied the hops to his/her beer. It’s a prod­uct that will be in­ter­est­ing to watch as more brewers use it and de­velop new ways to use it.

Op­po­site » Tril­lium Brewing’s JC Te­treault adds Lupuln2 hops pow­der to the boil ket­tle. Left » Sean Law­son of Law­son’s Finest Liq­uids poses with a bag of hops pow­der.

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