Hops Matters



Pellets & Powder

Blah, blah, blah. Everyone likes IPA.

Really though, hop forward beers are easily my favorite liquid of choice.  I know, I just used the word liquid.  Never mind that, the point of this is that I purely enjoy the nuance, complexity and oftentimes intensity that hops can provide to a beer.  At Hops & Grain we focus on making lagers and hop forward beers.  We generally shy away from any specific style designation but rather we make beer that we can enjoy and communicate to others in words that we all understand.  You know “that beer is hoppy”.  That kind of thing.

I like lagers because they are hella refreshing when done right.  I also like lagers because they are difficult to make.  If an Amber ale was Lynard Skynard then a well executed lager would be Miles Davis.  Sorry if that offended any of you die hard Free Bird fans.  It wasn’t intended to be offensive, rather analogous but I digress.  Anyhow, making a clean and enjoyable lager is much more difficult than most would think.  But, that’s not the point of this post.  Sometimes I get sidetracked.

On to hops.

As I mentioned previously, we enjoy hops at Hops & Grain, imagine that…

Back in the 2013’s we released a beer called Greenhouse IPA.  The point of this beer was partially to celebrate my nefarious college life as a closet gardener (literally) but also my infatuation with the broad variety of hops that were available.  So many hops, so little time.  So we embarked on a project to create a beer with the same grain bill, same yeast strain, same starting gravity, same fermentation profile, same terminal gravity.  The only variable that we changed was the variety of hops that we dry-hopped the beer with.  It was super cool and we still do it.  In fact, we’re on batch 61 right now.

Lately though, hop products have been changing.  Where whole leaf hops and pellets were the options that a brewer had before, now we have these fancy new products produced by our friends at Yakima Chief Hopunion under a line they call Cryo Hops (insert the trademark symbol).  Bottom line, this shit is super cool.  YCH has developed a proprietary process to extract the lupulin glands from the bracts on a hop flower to deliver a powdery substance reminiscent of weed keef.  I have no idea what that is but according to friends this is a valid analogy.

And, much like the impact of keef (so I’ve heard) this new LupuLN2 product carries a similar intensity when used in hoppy beer production.  Our first trial with this fancy stuff was back in September of 2016 and we created a beer called So Pitted IPA.  That’s right, So Pitted.  If you know what we were referencing here then you are always welcome at Hops & Grain.  If you don’t know you are also welcome but check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5ckCAUVOn0

So Pitted was, well, intense.  We’ve learned a good bit since that first experiment with LupuLN2 and we continue to experiment with it.  Thus, we’d like to introduce a whole new series of hop exploratory beers called Pellets & Powder IPA.  In this series we explore the impact of hop pellets and hop powder, naturally.  What’s more exciting for me about this project is that the inspiration to create it stemmed from a desire to showcase hop farmers.  Brewers tend to take all the credit for hoppy beer.  Much like the world of specialty coffee, brewers are an integral component in the value chain.  But, we also need to understand our responsibility in that chain.  Hop growers dedicate hours, days, generations to growing and caring for their hops.  Acres and acres that are trained, nurtured and harvested in a fashion that gets them in our hands as fresh and full of integrity as possible.  There are also agronomics at play. At the end of the day most of us brewers that prefer to make hop expressive beers desire our hops to be harvested at a time that isn’t the most advantageous for a grower from an agronomic standpoint.  But, as far as a I can gather, hop growers enjoy our excitement and passion for showcasing their crops in our favorite beers.  And I personally feel very responsible to insert that crop into our beer in a way that showcases the great work of the grower.  Quality goes way beyond just a shelf stable beer.  At least it should.  I don’t view hops as simply an ingredient but rather as a delicacy and meant to be consumed as such.

When we were given the opportunity to trial some hop pellets and LupuLN2 powder we jumped at the chance.  Pellets & Powder has been an idea since that day and I’m incredibly excited about the direction that it’s going.  We recently installed four 7 bbl fermenters at the brewery.  These tanks allows us to brew a single 15 bbl batch of beer on our brewhouse and then split the batch into 2 fermenters, giving us the ability to isolate a single variable.  Sometimes this is different yeast strains in each fermenter but more often than not we trial different hops.  With our Pellets & Powder IPA we’ve been experimenting with varying the form of hops added to each tank.  Each batch will be different and we’ll continue to trial new and exciting hop varieties in both pellet and powder form.  Think of it as Greenhouse IPA on steroids.  Or maybe Greenhouse IPA on hallucinogens depending on how you understand analogies.

As of right now these beers will only be available in our tasting room and a few select events.  As we get closer to opening our new brewery in San Marcos you’ll likely see more of these Pellets & Powder IPA’s being released but the intent is to keep it close to home and fresh.  And sorry,  it’s not a NEIPA.  But they’re pretty damn tasty, and hazy.

Clearly the world of beer drinkers tends to enjoy hoppy beer.  And I’m very thankful because I was beginning to think that maybe there was something wrong with me.  Onward through the fog as they say, or maybe “onward through the haze”…