SEASON 2, EPISODE 15: FRESH HOPS OF YAKIMA
TOBY TUCKER – DIRECTOR OF SALES, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
GRANT LAWRENCE – TERRITORY MANAGER, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
ZACH GROSSFELD – TERRITORY MANAGER, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
JEREMY “JT” WATTENBERG – TECHNICAL BREWING MANAGER, YAKIMA CHIEF HOPS
BEN EDMUNDS – BREWMASTER, BREAKSIDE BREWERY
- How YCH follows an instant quick freeze (IQF) process for their new Frozen Fresh Hops.
- The benefits of Frozen Fresh Hops being taken from the vine and frozen to hold freshness.
- How YCH relies on reefer trucks and past experience for shipping considerations.
- How fresh hops are the most labor-intensive, but the beer is worth it.
- The varieties of Fresh Hops: Azacca, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic.
- Why JT recommends the hot side to pasteurize hops and eliminate bad bugs.
- The dosage rates for fresh or frozen hops: Use 5–8 times as much, 10–15 pounds per barrel.
- How extra water lowers gravity and raises pH level in the final gravity.
- Why fresh or frozen hops do well in a Hazy and Pilsner.
- Breakside’s timeframe of picking and packing fresh hops up to be back at the brewery within an hour.
- Why Ben prefers fresh hops, but IQF technology has improved a lot.
- How Breakside uses wet, unkilned hops straight from the field; then puts them in unfermented work, such as a hotback application.
- Why Ben believes in processing fresh hops more and how it increases quality.
- Their favorite fresh hops: Cascade, Centennial, El Dorado, Mosaic, Cinco, Mount Hood, Crystal, Sterling, and Strata.
Transcript - Fresh Hops of Yakima
EPISODE S.2, E.15
[FRESH HOPS OF YAKIMA]
[00:00:00] GL: On today’s episode of The BrewDeck, we’re talking about fresh hops. I’m Grant Lawrence, filling in for Toby Tucker as host this week. I’m joined by my counterpart, Zach Grossfeld.
Zach has years of experience with today’s fresh hops subject matter and currently lives and brews in Portland, Oregon, in addition to working inside sales at Country Malt.
Zach, how are you doing today?
[00:00:16] ZG: I’m doing well. I’m happy to be on.
[00:00:19] GL: Awesome. We’ve got another exciting and (we hope) well-timed episode of The BrewDeck today. Today, we’re chatting all things fresh hops with some industry legends. We’ve got the great Jeremy Wattenberg, also known as JT, on the show today.
JT is the Technical Brewing Manager for Yakima Chief Hops. He’s going to be providing insight, and some pro tips on the new Frozen Fresh Hops from YCH that will be available for the first time this year.
After that, we’ve got a whirlpool segment with brewmaster Ben Edmunds from Breakside Brewery in Portland, Oregon.
If you don’t know about Breakside’s beers, you should. These folks clean up at various hoppy beer categories in the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival each year. Ben’s going to give us some insight and philosophy on how they integrate fresh hops into their beers at Breakside.
Without further ado, let’s jump into it.
JT, how’s it going?
[00:01:07] JT: Good. How are you doing? Thanks for having me on.
[00:01:10] GL: I’m doing well, man. Thanks for joining us.
[00:01:13] JT: Happy to.
[00:01:14] GL: Frozen fresh hops are the new thing this year. You guys did a webinar about that recently.
[00:01:20] JT: Yeah. It’s an exciting time. It’s a new product we’re coming out with.
I’ve always been a Northwest brewer, so hearing frozen fresh hops is a pretty exciting thing. It’s something that we’re really trying to get out into the market right now. It’s not just a Northwest thing anymore. It’s something we really want to get out to every brewer out there. Hopefully, these frozen fresh hops allow that. It’s a pretty cool thing.
[00:01:47] GL: For the listeners out there that may not know you, can you give us a little bit of your background? You’re the Technical Brewing Manager for YCH. Did I say that correctly?
[00:01:56] JT: Yeah, you got it. Technical brewery manager. I’m technically a sales liaison there as well, but definitely, I run the brewery here at YCH. Really anything that comes through—any new hops, any new products—I’ll take them and run them through the gambit.
We have a one-barrel brewhouse. From there, we’ll just run every new hop through the wringer, figure out how to use it, how to not use it, help troubleshoot for some brewers, and figure out the best practices. It’s really a dream job. I’m pretty stoked to be in it.
[00:02:26] ZG: Sounds like it’s pretty cool. You test every new hop product and every new variety that YCR comes out with. That’s awesome, man.
[00:02:32] JT: Totally. It’s been fun. I’ve been in this role now for about a couple of years, but I’ve been brewing for a while. This is always something I really looked up to. I always admired the people who got to use all those brand new fresh hops or just new hops in general—new things, new ways of using hops. It’s been pretty neat to see it all materialize.
[00:02:54] ZG: Awesome. Let’s jump into it. What’s the deal with these new frozen fresh hops? Is it like an IQF process?
[00:03:02] JT: Yeah. Instant quick freeze is what IQF stands for. Essentially, it’s a frozen fresh hop. With fresh hops, it’s unkilned, undried, and straight from the bine.
Normally, for it to be considered a fresh hop, it needs to go into a beer from there in about 24–48 hours. What we’ve done with these fresh hops, which is really neat, is we’ve taken them and then instead of going into the kilning process or even in the fresh hop, getting packaged off to the side, and going to a brewery, we’re now taking those right off the vine and instantly freezing them into minus 80. We’re holding a lot of that freshness. We’re holding a lot of those really good smells and aromas in there.
What that allows us to do is it now allows us to ship those fresh hops around the world. We’re able to store those for a lot longer, so we can brew throughout the year. Not only is this something that is going to help us with a little bit of our quality in terms of anything in the Northwest as well, but now, we’re going to get this worldwide. It’s going to be a really neat thing I can’t wait to see.
[00:04:03] ZG: That’s awesome.
[00:04:04] JT: Yeah. It’s going to be really cool—breweries from Asia, from Australia.
[00:04:09] GL: I didn’t even think about the international portion of it. I was a brewer down here in Texas, and we would get fresh hops from YCH. We’d just be sitting there refreshing the FedEx page eagerly because we knew we had to brew them right away. Because by the time they make it all the way down here, it was right there buttoned up against that time like you were saying, 24–48 hours.
[00:04:35] JT: With that, it can even be a logistical nightmare in terms of brewing wise too. Just not knowing what hop is going to come in, what peak window, and like you said, trying to get there.
If you’re trying to plan out a brew at a production brewery, it was tough before, just not knowing what hop or what day you’re brewing. That goes a long way. With these, it can really help that a lot.
[00:04:54] ZG: What are some of the shipping considerations with that? Is it on dry ice? How are they going to be able to get there?
[00:05:01] JT: We have some reefer trucks that are sitting at minus 80. We learned this from the past. We’re working with Wyckoff Farms on this. They’ve been doing blueberries for a long, long time. That’s where we got the idea from this of let’s take them straight from it. Let’s freeze them right away, hold all that in.
From there, we’ve learned through trial and error how they did it with blueberries. This is something that we can ship, get it to certain facilities, and get it into that beer hopefully as quickly. As I said, this is something from blueberries, from different agriculture in the past that we’ve been able to take a couple of those notes and throw them into our process as well.
[00:05:43] GL: Very cool. With this method, you mentioned Asia, but just so the listeners out there know, there were parts of the US where fresh hops were relatively off-limits to before this, correct?
[00:05:55] JT: Yeah, correct. It’s mostly been just a Northwest brewery thing unless you’ve had a little small hop farm in your backyard. It’s been pretty much mostly just Northwest, so it’s an exciting thing to get it out there to people.
[00:06:10] GL: Like you were saying, in Pacific Northwest, the people that were getting the primo stuff were just coming to pick it up in vans, correct?
[00:06:18] JT: Yeah. It was always fun. I’ve worked for Fremont Brewery in the past. They were a big fresh hop brewery through September and October. It was an ordeal. It was fun. It’s my favorite time of the year as well.
It’s very close to my heart, but you had some long days where you’re waking up at 5:00 AM, driving to the farm, getting them into your beer by your whirlpool phase, which is usually around 10:00 AM, and then you’re doing that multiple times a day. It’s going to ease a lot of stress, hopefully. That’s the goal, at least.
[00:06:47] GL: My understanding was that Zach was doing that when he was brewing. Zach, correct?
[00:06:50] ZG: Yeah. We would focus on the cold side of it, but it’s a waiting game. You’re standing there anxiously, just waiting to get that into the beer.
[00:07:01] JT: Totally. Then from there, you finally get them in. It’s a sprint from there to getting them all into your hops back. Like you said, on the cold side, there are a lot of hops all going in at once to try to stretch those in.
[00:07:12] ZG: Absolutely. How many fresh hop beers do you do a year? I’m sure you’ve done a lot now, but with Fremont too.
[00:07:19] JT: When I was at Fremont, I think we did a lot. I want to say we did probably seven different hop varieties and probably 3 or 4 batches of each on an 80-barrel system. We were cranking through. We were doing probably three batches a day for a good solid month there.
[00:07:37] ZG: You were getting your reps in.
[00:07:40] JT: It was fun. We get nice and strong throughout that month, lifting bales, lifting hops up the stairs, and everything. Like I said, it’s a labor of love, really. Fresh hops are the most labor-intensive. It can be a little stressful, but the beer that you come out with at the end of the day is so worth it.
[00:07:56] ZG: I couldn’t agree more.
[00:07:57] GL: JT, what varieties are going to be available this year from YCH through this program?
[00:08:03] JT: We’re experimenting with a bunch as of the start in terms of what we’re releasing to the public. Off the top of my head, I think we have five. We’re doing Azacca, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic. The big hitters and the good growers are there.
Hopefully, in the future, we keep this program growing and seeing how it does at the start. From there, hopefully, we can keep this building up and get it to where we can do more varieties and longer throughout the year. That’s the goal.
[00:08:37] GL: Makes sense to me. Is there any particular reason why you chose Azacca?
[00:08:43] JT: I think it’s a fun one to use on the fresh hops side. It’s a good grower. It’s something early in the season, so you can space those out. It gives some really neat tea-like qualities.
That’s just a fresh hop in general. You get a lot of that green tea. You get a lot of those polyphenols that you don’t quite get from a pelleted hop. It’s almost the flavor of walking through a hop field, just how it is in the air, that flavor of almost green, fresh. You’ll get that from fresh hops. I think Azacca really shows that off as well.
[00:09:17] GL: Yeah. It’s hard to describe that to anybody who’s never been out to the farms, but it’s maybe one that people are more familiar with listening in. If you’ve ever walked through a vineyard when it’s ripe, the air is sweet.
[00:09:29] JT: Yeah. That’s exactly it. You can almost taste it in the air. It’s such a cool thing to walk through farms and just see the vines growing up. Like you said, it’s in the air. It hits you like a brick wall when you get out of your car and step outside. It’s a really unique experience.
With fresh hops, it’s cool to bring that into a beer and hopefully get a little bit of that feeling and excitement into a glass of beer. That’s what fresh hops bring. It’s a really unique beer. It’s a cool beer. It’s a fun time of year. Hopefully, we can keep this growing and get it out to everybody.
[00:10:06] GL: Speaking of what got you here, being an expert brewer and such, can you walk us through some techniques? I’m used to mostly using fresh hops hot side, essentially treating your Lauter Tun like a giant hop back, but you’ve done hot and cold. Can you just walk us through both of them?
[00:10:24] JT: Totally. I will say off the bat; I do genuinely recommend the hot side. Just with them being fresh, some of those bad contaminants aren’t quite gone out of it, so I tend to say and recommend sticking on the hot side where you can pasteurize those hops and make sure you’re doing a hot kiln on them.
I have seen them on the cold side as well, and they’ve turned out great, but there is always a little bit of that worry of what’s going to happen if I can this beer and something does get into it with a couple of bad bugs in there? I tend to just say, hey, go mostly hot side.
[00:10:59] GL: Play it safe.
[00:11:00] JT: Yeah. Play it safe. Don’t get me wrong, be adventurous. Try them all out if you want. It’s made some really unique beers on the cold side as well. You get a little bit more of that tea-like brew we were talking about, a little bit more of the veggie flavor to it which can be good and can be bad.
But on the hot side, you really pull a lot of those flavors that you’re hoping for. Then, on top of it, you’re killing any contaminants in there.
I tend to stick more on the hot side on a hop back like you said of clearing out your Mash Tun. Really cleaning that out helps you get a nice false bottom in there as well. I think it really brings out the hop characteristics that you’re really hoping for, the desirable versus the undesirable hop characteristics of a fresh hop.
Hot side versus cold side, definitely try on both. I tend to lean more on the hot side than the cold side just for my own personal sanity a little bit as well.
[00:11:54] GL: For sure. Even though they’re being chilled down to minus 180, there are still going to be spores and stuff that can survive that. It’s something to worry about in a production brewery.
[00:12:08] JT: Absolutely. Like I said, try them out on one hop here and there. If you’re going to sell them in the taproom, that’s totally awesome, especially because of how fast, fresh hops will usually sell through as well. But if you’re going to package it, if you’re going to send it out, I usually will say try to stick more on that hot side. It’s a cool thing.
Go ahead and use, you know, some T-90 and some Cryo in there on the fresh hop. Mix it up. Use it on the dry hop if you want. It really lets that fresh hop in the whirlpool shine. You can really not just show that off but also really accentuate it as well.
[00:12:47] GL: For sure. That’s one method of doing it where you have your Lauter Tun cleaned, CIPed, and ready to go to put in your fresh hops.
Any tips from you? Say you come off the boil; should you try to cool it down to a certain temperature before you add in your fresh hops? Any recommendations there for that big hop back?
[00:13:11] JT: Your hops are going to pretty much cool down your boil pretty well just from them being straight from the freezer into your beer. Especially with the frozen fresh hops, they’re super nice and cold. They will chill down your whirlpool a little bit, and you’re going to get a little bit of the lower temperature.
It can be really good in the way it plays with your hops as well, but I’ve never seen it get down below a pasteurization level. Depending on how much you use, it will chill your beer down a little bit, but it’s never been to the point where I’m worried about it.
[00:13:45] GL: Just check it but try to keep it, I guess above 180, you would say. Something like that.
[00:13:49] JT: Yeah. I would say 180, 170 at least. If you can keep it above 180, that’s ideal. Again, depending on how much mass of hops that you’re going to use, it’s going to determine how much that’s going to cool it down.
[00:14:03] GL: Speaking of, what kind of dosage rates would you recommend?
[00:14:08] JT: For frozen fresh hops or fresh hops, I typically say about six times as much. I’ve seen more often than not anywhere from 5–8 times as much. That’s usually up to 10–15 pounds per barrel.
[00:14:20] GL: That’s a lot. It’s awesome.
[00:14:23] JT: It’s going to fill up that Mash Tun for sure. It’s a cool thing to see. It’s just a whole vessel of hops which is such a unique thing to see.
It hits in the face, the moisture blowing off of it just right in your face. It’s such a fun smell. Your brewery is going to smell just as good for the rest of the day. It’s a fun thing. It’s so unique, and it’s so cool.
You’re putting in boxes of boxes. Like I said, you’re filling a Mash Tun with hops or just the amount that you’re using. It’s really cool, but you got to remember that a lot of that is water weight.
These are going to be fresh off the vine hops, so they don’t get kilned, which is why you’re going to throw in that extra weight into your recipe. You’re accounting for that extra water in there.
With that, on the topic of the extra water, you’ll also want to know that it’s going to play with your final gravity. It’s going to lower your gravity. I tend to brew a little bit of a higher gravity beer knowing that once I get into my whirlpool phase, it’s going to drop my gravity a little bit, and it’s also going to raise my pH.
I usually do really focus on my pH, keeping it nice and low, knowing that that extra water at the end is going to raise your pH as well. You lose a little control on the fresh hop, but that’s half the fun.
[00:15:45] GL: Yeah. That makes sense. If you’re shooting for a certain starting gravity, maybe just go a little bit high.
[00:15:54] JT: Yeah. Maybe not by much either. Depending on the size of your brewhouse. I would say the bigger it is, the more you’re going to have to adjust it, but I’ll usually go maybe half a point to a point.
[00:16:06] GL: That makes sense. While we’re on the topic of basically building recipes with fresh hops, can you walk us through any special considerations for using fresh hops in a New England-style IPA?
[00:16:19] JT: It would be awesome. It really plays well in those IPAs, double IPAs, and the Hazy, especially now that Hazy, in the last five years, has really been taking off more and more. You’re starting to see some pretty cool ones.
With the amount of hops you can use, that’s really where it comes into play since, more often than not, you’re going to want to use these fresh hops more on the later side like we said in the hop back and in the whirlpool stage.
Just load them up. It plays super well in a Hazy and a dip. I’ve even seen some fresh hop Pilsner, some fresh hop blends that have been out of this world too.
[00:16:57] GL: Now you’re speaking my language.
[00:17:00] JT: There have been some good ones out there. People have been playing around with them recently, and it’s been so fun to see what they come up with.
Throw them in an IPA. Throw them in a dip and a Hazy. They play great, especially in a Hazy. You’re going to get a ton of polyphenol, so it’s going to give it a natural haze.
[00:17:16] GL: It should have, yeah. A good haze from the fresh hops as well. Cool.
[00:17:22] JT: Definitely. They’ll hang around. That’s another thing to keep mindful when brewing a fresh hop. You’re going to have a lot more of those things floating around in the final product.
If you want a clear beer, definitely centrifuge it, definitely throw some findings in there if you can. At the same time, if you’re just doing a Northeast Hazy IPA, just let it ride. It looks great. It tastes great.
[00:17:44] GL: I was listening to your webinar about the frozen fresh, the typical fresh hops that people have used for a long time. I heard something there about a tetrad test. Can you tell us a little bit about what YCH did testing-wise for frozen versus regular fresh for comparison?
[00:18:07] JT: Yeah. That’s what we do. We have a real top-of-the-line sensory crew as well through here, Tessa Schilaty and Tiffany Pitra. They’re both just absolute rock stars. A lot of what we do, we don’t come out with something until we run it (like I said) through the wringer of, is this something we can come out to and feel confident in saying what we’re saying?
A big part of these frozen fresh hops is that we genuinely feel like these could be as good, if not better, as fresh hops because not only are you taking them from something right off the bine that normally would sit in the van for a few hours and get transferred up. Now, we are freezing it, and it’s staying frozen pretty much until it goes into that beer.
Before we felt comfortable really pushing forward with this, we wanted to say, is this worth it? Is this something that we think a lot of people will use? At the same time, we wanted to make sure our quality was there too.
We really pushed it forward with running side by side, whether it be one fresh hop versus a frozen fresh. Then, we will run it through our trained panel. More often than not—man, I don’t want to give any numbers to it—I know that a lot of people actually prefer the frozen fresh over just a normal fresh hop, which threw us off a little bit. It was cool, but it also showed that there is a future for this. This is something that a lot of people can get their hands on. People will want them.
[00:19:35] GL: You definitely (this way) just got my gears turning. You removed so many variables. When you ship a traditional fresh hop, it’s like, get in the van, go to the airport, and get on a plane. You’re subject to so many different variables. That plane could have a layover somewhere. It could get stuck out in the hot sun and bake your hops. There are just so many things you remove by doing this and ensuring quality.
[00:20:00] JT: Definitely. That’s part of the excitement. Like you said, it takes away a little bit of that unknown that always comes with it. Is this going to make it there in time? Is it going to line up with the beer they want? Is it the same hop that they want to use that they were planning on? It really takes away just so much of that uncertainty in knowing that you’re going to get those hops in a reefer truck delivered right to you cold and as fresh as they come pretty much. It’s cool. It’s something I’m holding back a little bit of excitement to, but I’ve been pretty giddy about it recently.
[00:20:37] ZG: You would have had to go back a year to at least test this, make the beers for it. It seems like something that’s been in the works for a while.
[00:20:44] JT: Definitely. We actually just brewed a beer. I’m sipping on it now, but we brewed this four weeks ago. Would you think about that? That’s ten months past when the harvest season was. This has been something that we’ve been thinking of. We’ve been doing little side projects on the side, but we actually decided to really push forward with it recently.
Like I said, I just brewed a beer with it when these hops were ten months old. It’s incredible. It’s probably one of the better fresh hops I’ve brewed, which is exciting to see. Knowing when we’re drinking it and drinking a fresh hop here in July and August is a pretty unique thing.
[00:21:20] GL: Yeah. It doesn’t happen too often.
You mentioned a little bit about finding a centrifuge, things like that. Is there any consideration on using these versus T-90s and other things? These days, it’s kind of an outlier, but wanting crystal clear beers, is there anything you should worry about with the fresh hops?
[00:21:47] JT: Bring the West Coast IPA back, right? We touched on it a little bit, but there will be the extra polyphenols, just the extra stuff that comes with a whole cone BRAC that is going to be leftover in your beer. You think about it. You’re filling up an entire Mash Tun with hops to however much surface area of beer. It’s going to be just naturally hazier than what a normal IPA run through your system is going to have.
Definitely fine it. Definitely centrifuge it if you can. If you don’t mind a little bit of haze, keep it in there. It’s not enough to ruin your beer, but I would say I’ve noticed that an extra day or two crash really does help these beers out a good amount. That’s more so for the hop scratch.
[00:22:42] GL: It mellows it out.
[00:22:43] JT: It mellows it out. It takes away a little bit of that harshness that can come with a fresh hop. I definitely say temperature and time are your friends when it comes to a fresh hop as well.
[00:22:54] GL: For sure. That was exactly what we did back when I was brewing fresh hop beer. The same thing we found is just a couple extra days really took that hop burn away and melted it out.
[00:23:06] JT: It does. In that same vein, I’ve noticed that an active dry-hop has really helped out with that a lot. It gets through your secondary fermentation that people can worry about a little bit of that hop creek that can come with these fresher hops.
I’ve really enjoyed doing an active dry hop. Like you said, just an extra couple of days. Don’t rush these beers. There are some of the more exciting beers that come through during the year, so no need to rush them.
[00:23:36] GL: How many days do you typically find—in your test brews—to go grainy glass?
[00:23:41] JT: That’s dependent more on the brewery. On the smaller scale, I’ve noticed probably about 14 days from brew day to when I’m crashing it, and then usually about another week from there that I’ll let it sit to really mellow itself out before I’m even thinking about giving it out to anybody. Probably 3–4 weeks, and I think you’re set if you can get away with not having that hop scratch or if you have the centrifuge, which shortens the process. But I’ve been seeing pretty typical about three weeks from the time I brew to the time it’s in a glass or in a keg. Then, usually after that, about a week after is when it really tastes its best.
[00:24:21] GL: Makes sense. For all these places that are going to have access to this for the first time, do you guys have a general fresh hop recipe? Is it on your website? Is there one that you recommend?
[00:24:38] JT: We should have some of them on our website for sure. If you ever want to email [email protected], that’ll lead to a couple of our other top-of-the-line guys and me. I think our lab lead is on with a bunch of our other regional sales managers who all have brewing experience around that email too. We’re always super happy to answer anything that we can, help out, and just get good beer out there. Rising tides raise ships. The best beer we can get, that’s what we’re hoping for.
[00:25:09] GL: Very cool. Zach, do you have any more questions for JT?
[00:25:12] ZG: Nothing that comes to mind. I really appreciate your insight on this. It’s cool to hear from someone that has such close access to one of the things in beer that gets a lot of people the most excited. I really appreciate you coming on.
[00:25:26] JT: I appreciate you, guys. Totally.
[00:25:28] GL: Yes. For anyone out there listening, these are available to preorder right now. You can go to Yakima Chief’s website and fill out a preorder form. Am I saying this correct, JT?
[00:25:40] JT: Yeah. Fill out a preorder just right there through the website. We’re going to start off just going through the fresh hop season, but hopefully, as these grow, we’ll start releasing them throughout the year a little bit later as we go. That’ll come after we see it but definitely get in there. Preorder, get online and get yourself some fresh hops.
[00:26:02] GL: Holy frontier of minimally processed hop products.
[00:26:05] JT: Exactly. It’s pretty neat. Sorry to loop it back to the recipe, but another really neat thing that you can do with this is now, you have the ability to fresh hop with different hops that before you wouldn’t have been able to put together. Now you can do a Citra-Simcoe fresh hop. Normally, those are totally different peak windows.
This is not only going to open it up to many more brewers, but it’s also going to raise the creativity in what you’re allowed to get away within these fresh hops too. There are a lot of just really exciting things that come with it that I can’t wait to see what people come up with.
[00:26:41] GL: Got you. Peak windows that never lined up before but now will line up, and you’ll be able to do it. Cool.
In every podcast segment with our guests, we always ask an important question. One that gets asked to the Country Malt folks by brewers a lot, so we thought we would get it on the recording.
What’s in your beer fridge right now? It doesn’t even have to be alcoholic, for that matter, but what are you enjoying lately after a long day of brewing at the R&D Brewery?
[00:27:10] JT: That’s a good question. My beer fridge is full right now. I’m working through my backlog a little bit, but I’ve been drinking a lot. I know this might go against my job title working at a hop company, but I’ve been drinking a lot of Stouts recently. I don’t know if it’s been the hot weather, and I’m just a rebel in that way, but a lot of Stouts and a lot of Porters have been really catching my eye.
I’m currently drinking the Bodhi’s Offer from Georgetown, which is tasting incredible. It’s a good go-to for me.
[00:27:37] GL: They make some great stuff.
[00:27:39] JT: Georgetown. They’re up there. That’s the normal go-to IPA for me, but I’ve been really into the Stouts and into the Porters recently. I go on my phases.
[00:27:52] GL: Sure. I think we all go in phases, but it’s the first time in maybe 12 months that I’ve heard somebody say Stouts or Porters. I was not expecting that.
[00:28:03] JT: They’ve been tasting good. The Dark Star from Fremont is always in my fridge. That’s kind of a go-to for me. I don’t know if it’s just switching it or if it’s my off-work beer to get away from hops a little bit, but it’s a go-to sipper for me.
[00:28:19] GL: All right. JT, thanks again for coming on to be part of our show and for giving us some more insight into fresh hops. I think we’ll cut it there today.
[00:28:28] JT: I appreciate you guys. This is great. Thanks for having me on.
[00:28:31] ZG: I love the shout-out to Dark Star too. That beer is incredible. Every time I see it down in Portland, I pick it up.
[00:28:40] JT: Totally. It’s a beer scene down in Portland.
[00:28:44] ZG: I’m not sure how you see it up there, but things are opening up and then closing. I think everyone’s a little frustrated with it, but it’s picking up again, which is really cool.
[00:28:53] TT: All right. Up for a well overdue segment that we call The Whirlpool. I don’t think we’ve done one of these in a long time, but I’m very excited that we get to jump back into the water, especially when it’s 105 degrees here in Texas. I’d like this Whirlpool to be somewhat chilly. It’s miserable and steamy down here. We’re going to continue the topic of fresh hops.
Super excited to have this guest on as he’s brewed and had a lot of history utilizing and using fresh hops in his beers and recipes. We are excited to welcome him to The Whirlpool. Ben Edmunds, the Brewmaster VP of brewing, the jack of all trades at Breakside.
How are you doing, Ben?
[00:29:31] BE: I’m good. Thank you. Good to be here.
[00:29:34] TT: Also with me again is Grant Lawrence, our South Central Territory Manager at Country Malt Group, and then another special guest today is Zach Grossfeld, who is our Inside Sales Rep at Country Malt Group covering Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas. Those are a lot of states.
How are you doing, Zach? Let’s go and get started. We’ve been talking about fresh hops. Let’s just dive right in. I know Grant, being a brewer by trade and Zach as well, you guys are probably twiddling your thumbs like kids in a candy store ready to get going on this, so let’s do it.
[00:30:06] GL: Ben, thanks again for coming on. The point of the show today was to talk about new-school and old-school methods of fresh hops. I’m a brewer by trade. I talked with Zach a bit about this a couple of weeks ago, and you came highly recommended.
Once he mentioned Breakside, I was like, absolutely, I’d love to have him on. Every time I’m up in the Pacific Northwest, I reach for your beers because they’re awesome. I’d love to hear more about the ways you guys like to use fresh hops. Let’s take it from the top—where do you get fresh hops from typically?
[00:30:38] BE: For fresh hop beer specifically, we source all of our hops from Oregon farms. That’s something we’ve migrated toward over the years. Probably when we first started making fresh hop beers back in 2010, we were sourcing a lot of those hops from Washington, and now we’ve gone with our production brew being literally 20 minutes from the hops fields. We’re pretty fortunate that we can go and get hops directly in Oregon and get all the varietals we want for fresh hops beer right now too.
[00:31:04] GL: Very nice, keeping it as an Oregon thing. I can understand that. Zach mentioned a little bit to me, but being in Portland, so close to all these hop fields out in Oregon, is it true that you guys just go pick them up straight from the farm and bring them back in a van?
[00:31:19] BE: Yup, that’s exactly right. Someone typically leaves around 7 AM or so, maybe a little bit earlier, gets down to the farms by 8 AM, picks up the hops, and it’s back in the brewery within an hour. Whenever those hops are coming off from the picker, by the time they’re getting processed in the brewery and in the beer, that time window is probably as little as an hour and a half or so. It’s pretty tight.
[00:31:44] GL: I got to say, Toby mentioned Texas. He’s up in Dallas. I’m in Houston. None of the breweries out here have that luxury. We’re all relying on airmail and stuff and present F5 on the FedEx webpage, watching them come in. That’s awesome. What was that timeframe one more time of how long they come off the picker then you have them back in the brewery? How long?
[00:32:07] BE: They’re back in the brewery in an hour and usually in beer within an hour and a half.
[00:32:13] GL: Wow. That’s cool. When you get back to the brewery, how do you guys prepare for that? I’m pitching this podcast; you have to understand a lot of breweries out further east; they’ve never really used fresh hops.
[00:32:26] BE: To be honest, I’m not sure what I think of flying hops out elsewhere around the country. I think in terms of fresh hops beers, I think it puts people at a little disadvantage and is kind of a regional specialty in my mind that is best brewed and experienced in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, technology has improved a lot, and there’s a lot of IQF out there that allows for fresh hops to be delivered really efficiently to other people in other regions.
At the same time, I think that we see a huge change in the hop quality from fresh hops if we run into a logistical sniff, having to keep them for eight, nine, or ten hours especially overnight. Those hops aren’t quite the same, so I understand why a lot of people would. I applaud people for not just making these beers just because they can, and maybe actually the obstacle is a good thing.
I’ll give an overview of what we do here with our processes. I’ll start by talking about what we used to do and what I think most breweries still do, which is, for the most part, I think most brewers/breweries are using wet hops, unkilned hops straight from the field as they come off the picker and are then using them in unfermented work, oftentimes in a hot back application.
There are some people who might use in the kettle or throw in the whirlpool bag, but I think the most common process you see is that brewers are taking hot, pumping it out of the kettler or a whirlpool back into a Mash Lauter Tun where they have basically put the fresh hops and then steeping the hops there like a giant hop back situation.
[00:33:58] GL: That is how I used to do it out here in Texas.
[00:34:01] BE: Until maybe ten years ago, I think that was really the only way that anyone was doing it, and it was really kind of the standard. The downside of that method is one; you have to hold the tank open and hold your brewhouse open until those hops are ready. It can be logistically challenging to make those beers that way because you’re at the best harvest.
[00:34:24] GL: Absolutely, you have to have everything CIPd, ready to go, as soon as the fresh hops come in. We would use our Lauter Tun; it’s like a giant hopback.
[00:34:32] BE: Exactly, yeah. I think when we first started doing some fresh hop beers, again 2010, 2011, that was what we did, and I was intrigued by some methods that people were doing. Specifically, Deschutes was doing this early on, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, where they were transferring finished beer into wet hops in a break tank.
From a brewing point of view, that is a lot easier because then you have finished beer that is ready to go, and you infuse the beer with a; I guess you call it a dry hop, but in this case, it’s cold side with the wet hops.
[00:35:07] GL: It’s like a giant hop randall.
[00:35:09] BE: Exactly, and you either keg the beer out of those serving tanks or break tanks. I’ve heard of people who actually are serving them directly off the hop bags still in the tanks, so that’s kind of a random situation.
[00:35:20] GL: Got it, you have to be set up with serving tanks. I came from a pretty large production brewery, so we wouldn’t be able to do that, but cool. Okay.
[00:35:29] BE: I think early on, one thing I was impressed with was I felt like the character of the cold side applications was a lot cleaner. I think that you got more hop aromatics, stewed or vegetal quality to these fresh hop beers, and they smell more frankly hoppy. They also had a lot of these chlorophyll plant characteristics that I didn’t hate initially, but I think over time, I just felt a little too textured, a little too green, a challenge.
You’re trying to get this green quality, those field-like qualities into the beer. But at the same time, I felt like some of these beers, even the best ones, when we were making them, the best versions are the ones we are tasting in the marketplace; it’s usually generic tasting. You really can’t taste the varietal specificity.
The character was also kind of fleeting. Even though you have these wonderful hops, I think a lot of the hop characteristics in these beers are presented as vegetal, compost, chlorophyll, a lot of negative things that were coming out of these beers. Over time, we found that we liked doing the cold side editions more, but they’re still not as clean as we wanted and really not having the varietals specific characteristics that we wanted.
I think we first did this in 2014 was the year we decided to make this change was to bring the hops back to the brewery and use liquid nitrogen to flash freeze them and then crush them open. Kind of like a very crude way of making cryo hops. That was the idea being that we would still because it was liquid nitrogen, it would freeze them very quickly and then allow them to thaw. They’d still have that fresh wet character to them, but also, we will be accessing glands and be able to extract more of the aroma components that we wanted to make the beer smell like a particular hop that we were advertising as being in there.
[00:37:26] GL: Interesting.
[00:37:27] BE: That was the initial idea, and despite that, it was kind of a silly idea. It worked pretty well, and we since then have continued to use and refine that idea. I think that by processing the fresh hops a little bit more, we’re able to extract and get a lot of quality from them that I think you wouldn’t be able to get if you didn’t do that.
[00:37:51] GL: Sure, I mean it’s just more surface area once you, I don’t know if you have a name for this, but it’s like a cryo shatter almost.
[00:37:59] BE: We call it our hop shattering.
[00:38:01] GL: Hop shattering, okay. Interesting. You’re talking a little bit about the different varieties, and obviously, in most people’s heads with the fresh hops, you’ll really kind of get on the variety. Did you guys typically try to do a single variety of fresh hop beer and really get that lovely flavor of a citra or whatever that was that year, or are you doing blends of them?
[00:38:24] BE: We do about seven to eight different fresh hop beers every year. Again, that’s kind of a great privilege of being close to the Oregon hop fields and having the relationship to the farms here and being able to work these beers through our cellars, again by virtue of not doing hot side doing these cold side editions with the shattered hops we are able to streamline a production processing a lot more than if we hold the brewhouse open every time we’re to make a fresh hop beer.
[00:38:48] GL: Yeah, I’m quite jealous. We would get one shot at it per year of usually one variety. We didn’t even get much of a choice.
[00:38:57] BE: All of our fresh hop beers, the fresh hop is a single hop, yes. I think maybe once we’ve tried blending cones, but for the most part, what we’re doing is we’re taking an existing core brand, the finished beer of ours, and then the fresh hop process is additive. We’re adding on this fresh hop varietal to a finished beer.
[00:39:21] GL: Got it, okay. Good to know.
[00:39:23] ZG: That’s really interesting.
[00:39:25] GL: When we’re doing it, we basically had a different risk just for our one time of year fresh hop release, but I like the idea of the seasonal enhancement of the flagships.
[00:39:36] BE: Yeah. We’ve tried doing maybe once or twice, maybe a little bit more of that over the years where we’ve done the bespoke recipe for a fresh hop beer, and it just never turns out as well. It’s really useful to do it on an existing excellent brand.
I remember one of the beers that really inspired me was Deschutes fresh hop beer palm. They didn’t do anything; it’s beer palm. Beer palm plus fresh hops are awesome. We’ve just had the same results year after year. The beer we like the most within our own program is the ones we have already fine-tuned.
[00:40:11] GL: Got it. Like Fresh Hop Wanderlust.
[00:40:13] BE: Exactly, Fresh Hop Wanderlust, What Rough Beast, etc. The other thing is we don’t always feel that the varietals that we love for the dry hop in a particular beer are also the best fresh hop varietals for that beer. I think that sometimes there are some varietals that come out of the field fresh that smell better than some of the more priced varietals where maybe when they come out of the fields they have a lot more allium and sulfur characteristics, and a lot more garliciness and intensity. That is what you’ll end up seeing in the fresh hop version of that beer.
It’s actually through the pelletizing process that some hops like Citra, for example, end up a lot better than when they come out of the field. A hop like crystal is not considered a primo aroma hops these days from American IPA. It’s an awesome fresh hop varietal because, for whatever reason, when it comes out from the field, it’s just like floral, grapey, and intense in a way that it seems to diminish when it’s pelletized.
[00:41:14] ZG: That is awesome. Very interesting stuff that you point out there.
[00:41:18] GL: I think it’s definitely one of those unsung heroes of the hop world these days. It used to be in everything, I guess, in the 2000s, but sadly they pulled some acreage on it from my understanding that farmers were planting less of it.
[00:41:31] BE: Yeah.
[00:41:32] GL: Do you have any other examples of hops that have those great fresh hop characteristics besides crystal that folks may not know about.
[00:41:40] BE: Mount Hood is the other one that is just like the same, off the charts good fresh hops. I’ll also throw Sterling in there. Mount Hood, when used as a fresh hop beer, especially when there’s not a lot of hops to compete with, just tastes like watermelon. It’s crazy. Again, we love Mount Hood actually for tons of other beers, too for lagers and traditional English beers, just fun pub styles. As a fresh hop addition, it’s a really cool varietal that I think doesn’t get a lot of attention.
Sterling, too, is a little more like floral spicy fruity but has got some dankness if you use it at a high level in a fresh hop beer. Those are some ones that I think people will probably favor a mosaic or citrus as a fresh hop, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t sleep on some of those lesser varietals because I really think they deliver some of the field fresh aromatics in a cleaner way.
[00:42:34] ZG: You said seven or eight fresh hop beers you guys have in a lineup every year; how far ahead do you think about the varietals or the options you have? Is a lot based on what the grower is offering? How does that wrap into your development?
[00:42:49] BE: We start typically looking at it in May through right around now is when we’re finalizing our plan. In fact, I had in my email inbox today a couple of emails to respond to. I call the final plan actually the final tentative plan because harvest can change without a moment’s notice which changes what we have to do.
It’s a couple of month process we’re looking at which brands we want to do. We do have a handful at this point I think we commit to doing every year. We’ll always do fresh hop versions of Wanderlust, Breakside Pilsner, Breakside IPA, and of What Rough Beast. We have preferred varietals for those at this point.
There’s some continuity for us year over year now. We also try to mix some new ones just for fun, and some of that just depends on what we have access to, but Cascade, Centennial. I’m kind of iffy with Centennial, but we’re doing a Centennial one this year, so we’ll see how that one turns out. We have a strategy with it that is a little bit different from the past.
But Cascade, Centennial, El Dorado, Mosaic, Cinco, Mount Hood, Crystal, Sterling, and Strata, are the ones that we’re going to really kind of look to because that schedule fits nicely. It spreads itself across from the beginning of harvest through the end. They are all Oregon-grown varietals, and all had really successful varietals here. Those are the ones that we keep going back to.
But every year, we might pull one in and rotate one out just based on our feeling about what brands we decide to do.
[00:44:09] ZG: Have you had anything just completely bust as far as hey, this didn’t turn out well and not what we expected? Or have you guys had pretty good luck across the board every year?
[00:44:19] BE: We’ve definitely had ones that aren’t as good as others. We’ve never had anything that kind of tasted like that stewed veg type thing; I think we’re pretty good at avoiding that characteristic but definitely had some hops, brands, and hops, that haven’t worked together as well.
A couple of years ago, we had access at the last minute to this little bit of Oregon-grown hop called Triumph, which has not gotten tons of attention outside of the state. It’s a nice fruity light hop, and we did it in our gold mail, and it just didn’t really translate. I don’t know if it’s a poundage thing or if it’s first-year babies that didn’t have quite the aroma potential, or if the pick date was not great, but that lot didn’t go over that well.
[00:44:56] GL: I’ve had a great pale with Triumph, but it’s interesting to know about the fresh hop shot on it. That’s a pretty new one. Maybe it’s just a baby thing…
[00:45:06] BE: I think there’s so much that you learn by making a lot of these beers and being close to the farms. Maybe we don’t want to do Centennial this year because last year, the Centennial was picked a little bit too early. We don’t need to be the ones out of the gates because those first hops always seem to be a little too green, peppery plantees, and they haven’t really developed. They’re not ripe with aroma. You also don’t want to go too late on your fresh hop because then you’re going to pick up more of the allium character.
With any kind of pick date that you would apply to lot selection for hop contracting, but for a lot of brewers—and I think you mentioned this before, Grant—you’re kind of just behest to the supply as if you’re out of the region. Whatever you give is what you get. Here we can be a little more discriminating, and I think that made us better at knowing, okay, which varietals will play well at a fresh hop and where within that we want to pick which farms.
We know this farm does a little early on their El Dorado. These folks wait a little while; these folks go early on Crystals. These ones wait a little while to pick their Crystals. There are things like that.
[00:46:07] GL: That’s quite the schedule right there.
[00:46:09] BE: Yeah, it’s just the nuance that you can’t really replicate unless you’re in the thick of it.
[00:46:13] GL: Got you. It’s like the vintages, if you will, of the hops that year are really important. Okay.
[00:46:19] BE: Yeah.
[00:46:20] GL: For those listening at home, alliums is a fancy word for onion-garlic flavor. We don’t want that.
[00:46:26] BE: Only a little bit of it. Just a little bit of it.
[00:46:29] GL: Just a little bit. Some people, it kind of plays well with that kind of that dank ripe flavor. A little bit of it can be nice.
[00:46:36] BE: I think that’s an important thing too. When talking about our process, with handling those fresh hops and the one thing that’s been one critique of our approach that’s been leveled against the […], they don’t taste fresh hoppy enough. They’re really nice beers, but by virtue of this additional processing, and because we get this higher surface area, we don’t use the same level, volume, or weight of plant matter and cones that a lot of people do.
I think that’s a totally fair critique. It leaves this interesting question about what makes a really legitimate fresh hop beer from the sensory point of view. I think that it has to be a great hoppy beer, to begin with, but it also needs to have this slight polyphenol dry texture to it that’s a little elevated that you can tell comes from the use of those hops.
It needs a little bit of dank, allium, and fresh field qualities that come from using hops in that state. I think that’s where you learn these little cues that trigger the minds and say, okay, that is the fresh hop. There’s that fresh hop character.
[00:47:41] GL: Right, it just kind of goes with style. I see what you’re saying. People like you, you’re an average craft beer drinker, your consumer, that is the point of quality of a fresh hop beer that the hop bits in the mouthfeel.
[00:47:55] BE: I encourage everyone to drink Breakside Beer. During the fresh hop season, we usually have the fresh hop version of our core brand and the same batch of that core brand without the fresh hop. On a side-by-side, and you can really taste the difference. That’s just the fresh hop.
[00:48:15] ZG: That’s cool. Really cool.
[00:48:16] GL: Man, that requires a lot of scheduling. If they’re flagships, having both of them on at the same time so that somebody can do the Pepsi challenge with it.
[00:48:26] BE: Typically, what we’re doing right is we’re taking, say with Wanderlust, 120 barrels of that. That batch goes through normal cellaring, gets carbonated, it’s clarified, it’s ready to go. Then when the fresh hops arrive, after we’ve frozen and processed them, we’re just transferring 60 barrels of that batch onto those hops. That leaves 60 barrels of normal ones and leaves those behind; then we have 60 barrels of fresh hop Wanderlust with fresh cascades.
[00:48:47] ZG: I’m assuming this is a taproom only for fresh hops beers, right?
[00:48:49] BE: Last year, we canned them for the first time due to the pandemic, and it was a huge hit, so we’re going to do them again this year in cans as well, but it goes quite a distribution. We do 500 barrels of fresh hop beer per year, so I’d love to be able to serve all that right on the tap if it’s not that quite busy.
[00:49:07] ZG: Awesome. Since I’m down in Norway.
[00:49:10] GL: Right, I’m about to request that Zach does a beer trade with me here soon then.
[00:49:16] BE: We’ll get a package down there.
[00:49:19] GL: Can we step back into that; I’m sure this is probably a proprietary process, and if you don’t want to share, that’s totally cool; I understand. But can you tell us a bit more about how you do your own cryo shatter? Do you have a big dewar’s flask of liquid nitrogen? Can you walk us through that?
[00:49:35] BE: It’s not proprietory because there are videos of it online. It’s pretty low-tech. We basically get dewars of liquid nitrogen, and we cut 55 gallons of drums in half, and we have these soil tampers, and it’s about a six-person process to do 120 to 180 pounds of hops and takes about 30 minutes. Basically, we have a few people pulling hops into the 55-gallon drum. One person is freezing them, and then people crushing them. Then we bag them up, and the body bags end up going into the right tank.
[00:50:08] GL: The body bags, that’s great.
[00:50:10] BE: I think that’s a CMG term; I think we got that on email when we used to buy, I don’t know if we still buy the mesh bags from you guys, but that’s where [00:58:43].
[00:50:18] GL: I don’t remember seeing body bags.
[00:50:20] ZG: I’ve never seen one in our catalogs.
[00:50:23] GL: Get that skew added.
[00:50:25] ZG: Run that through the NBI process, Grant? See if it’s going to be a winner? I need to search out those videos and see that happening. I’m assuming, Ben, there are videos floating around. Are you guys doing it?
[00:50:35] BE: Yeah, I think Breakside liquid nitrogen fresh hop video. I think you’ll find something on YouTube. It might not be the most current iteration of it, but it’s out there, and I definitely see it on our Facebook page. We usually post something about it every year.
[00:50:48] JT: I’ll say those are some of my favorite memories, those fresh hop days. Actually, crush those and take different positions. It was always an exciting day.
[00:50:56] BE: Yeah, everyone tries to be the best crasher.
[00:51:01] GL: Awesome. You’re saying you got this inspiration from other breweries. Did you talk about that already? You said Deschutes was doing something like this?
[00:51:09] BE: The inspiration is more to move from the hot side to the cold side.
[00:51:13] GL: Oh, okay.
[00:51:14] BE: I think there’s a lot of breweries who still do cold side but are not doing any for further processing of cones. They’re just basically taking the cones and throwing them into a bag, and throwing that into a serving bright tank, then soaking the beer on that before either kegging it down or serving it off that tank.
[00:51:29] GL: Okay.
[00:51:30] BE: It’s funny. I think that there seems to be more backlash against that method. I read about year after year now, people who were claiming that method just creates too much can and extraction, and makes the beer taste really plantlike and really the hot side, fresh hot thing allows for more varietal expression.
I try not to wade into that because we just don’t do either of those things, but I think some of those folks, it’s still a fairly common method in the NorthWest, but usually from folks who have come from Deschutes and Lorewood.
[00:52:02] GL: It’s one thing to be ah, we like what we like. We do it this way. We’re proud of our beers. Not even going to get into it, but you’ve got my gears turning in here. What if you did a hot side big hot bath steep basically on a lauter tun and then also did that? Have you guys ever tried that?
[00:52:20] BE: Yeah, we did. Last year we did a whirlpool addition of fresh hops on one beer that people really enjoyed. That was a very light fresh hop lager we did called ‘Up Top.’ It’s a collaboration with La Cumbre out of Albuquerque.
[00:52:33] GL: I know those guys well.
[00:52:36] BE: We used some Santiam hops, which are a very little-known varietal from Goschie Farms, and they’re pretty cool.
[00:52:43] ZG: That was nice, and I think using a light touch on that could be effective. To be honest, I find most of the beers that are made with hot side fresh hops just to be so stewy with that cooked plant vegetal character. I don’t really have a lot of interest in pursuing that for us.
[00:52:57] GL: For sure.
[00:52:59]] BE: That said, some people manage to pull it off, the hot side fresh hops very elegantly, and I applaud them.
[00:53:04] GL: Yeah, the pipework of getting that setup. It’s not something that’s just slapped together. You want to steep at a certain temperature and hold for a certain time to make it work.
[00:53:16] BE: Exactly, yeah.
[00:53:19] GL: I had some questions about designing fresh hop brewers here, like doing East and West Coast. I believe you guys have both. You’ve probably done a fresh hop both on the east and west coast. What are the considerations around each of those?
[00:53:34] BE: One thing I’ll say, just a general piece, with our ales I find that we really like to do, because fresh hops are additive like I said before, for us we’re taking an already finished beer and adding the fresh hop on. Because fresh hops don’t necessarily have the same oxidative aroma constituents that pellets do, we tend not to see the alpha exchange that you see when dry hopping with pellets.
Again, we’re adding bitterness, and because of that, we need to have some level of the residual body, and that can be in the form of TG or in the form of alcohol and glycerol to help balance the beers. For that reason, we really migrated towards doing all of our fresh hop beers, being stuffed with 6.5% in higher.
In this 6.4%-7% range because then we feel there’s enough body and glycerol to balance that added tannin polyphenol character from the fresh hops. When you look at it from hazy IPA versus the West Coast IPA thing, I think that with hazy IPA, you face this additional challenge of the haze functioning to emulsify even more hot compounds than what you get in a West Coast IPA.
In my experience, the hazy IPAs are just incredibly intense and in your face, not always in the most pleasant ways. There are already some rough edges. I think that hazy IPAs run the risk of falling into this. I think fresh hop hazies are especially prone to that. We make […] every year, and one of the challenges of that beer is to not have it be too over the top, and often it’s too over the top. It takes a little while to mellow out.
I think that they’re more prone to some of those, especially the hops that people tend to use in their fresh hop IPAs. I think you’re really prone to some of that garlic, allium, and onion, and chive characteristics which can take that beer that should be soft, pillowy, fruity, and tropical and make it really grungy and savory in unpleasant ways.
One thing we do is that we really try to back off the amount of hop that we use in that beer, fresh hop wise, and that has helped us keep it a little cleaner.
[00:55:38] GL: You mentioned with the cryo shatter not having to hop at a high rate. Can you give us a ballpark range? Obviously, it depends on the beer, the hop, the style, but can you give us a ballpark that you guys like in terms of pounds per barrel or something for your fresh hop?
[00:55:55] BE: In terms of additive hop, we’re talking about fresh cones, two to three pounds per barrel.
[00:56:01] GL: Two to three? Okay.
[00:56:02] BE: You’ll see some people doing some crazy numbers like seven, or eight, or nine per barrel on the hot side. I think it’s part of when you’re using that much plant matter; it’s going to translate to the beer. You might get some more hop flavor, it might be a bit more fresh hop flavor, but you’re also getting all these other things that come into it. I think that’s one way that we keep that plantiness out of the fresh hop beers is by not having to use as much.
[00:56:25] ZG: Tell me again when you expect some of these beers to be out in the market for the listeners.
[00:56:28] BE: With Centennial harvesting starting on, I think, the 14th, two weeks away from the start of the harvest year. We’re going to do a Centennial beer this year, and that will be our first one out. That should be out probably by August 22, 23, so probably three weeks from now.
[00:56:44] ZG: That’s great, and start peppering them over the next three or four weeks or so.
[00:56:49] BE: Exactly. Like I said, one thing that’s really beneficial for us and to be able to do this whole program is that we like to do a range of hops from stuff that’s very early harvest, to mid-harvest, to late harvest. In that way, we can spread it out over the course of a six-week period. I would guess that Centennial and Strata will hit first. Our Sterling pils will hit pretty early as well.
Those will all probably land before labor day, and then from labor day on, that’s when we will usually see, around the 20thor 25th of September, our Mosaic What Rough Beast style.
[00:57:21] ZG: Listeners, go support Breakside. I wish I lived closer, and this damn thing called the pandemic is still holding us back in some spots.
[00:57:30] BE: Hop harvest is a great year to visit Oregon. I think that’s one of the cool things too that now there are more brokers, specifically in Oregon where you’re starting to see brewers come to Oregon at Willamette Valley for hop selection as well and not just going to Yakima. I think that’s been a fun change in the industry in the last decade is to see that Oregon has a little bit more magnetic pull for folks now just because they can add this on and can visit Portland and visit the farms down here.
The farms down here are very different. You think about the Willamette Valley; we’re basically a very wet, low-lying valley, sea-level valley that is 60 miles from the oceans versus Yakima, which is on the dry side of the cascades and is at elevation, so it’s very dry. It’s a completely different environment and sub-region for growing hops. It’s cool to see the differences.
[00:58:21] GL: I’ve heard a little bit about that from YCH before because they pull from some Oregon farms as well. It’s neat to hear about the different growing regions.
[00:58:31] BE: I think again, the closer you are to it, the more you nerd out on it, the more you begin to see these regional differences, and I think now YCH is really digging into these subregionals and OSU down here in the subregional differences of tier one. Looking at how different is Mosaic grown in Washington versus Oregon, are there certain conditions that bring them closer together, certain soil types that lead to them being further apart? It’s pretty cool different stuff.
[00:58:58] ZG: I’m throwing a curveball in here, but Oregon, that area, if you will, obviously has some fantastic hops. But is there anything you’re doing as far as fresh additions outside of hops? There are apples and all kinds of other fruits pretty readily available fresh. Have you done anything or done anything with the fresh additives outside of hops?
[00:59:21] BE: Yeah, we always do an apple bear. Yakima is actually better for apples than the valley, but definitely some great apples in Oregon toward the Gorge. We always joke about how we should go up to Yakima for hops selection. We should also just get the apples for the apple beers that we make because they’re beautiful and ready to go, those Washington apples.
We try to pull fruit from Oregon and Southern Washington around whatever is in season. Peaches, nectarines, just have apricots on a sour beer right now. Hops are obviously the main focus for us with our overall production of beers. Fruit and other ingredients that we can pull seasonally from farms nearby are a big part of the fun.
[01:00:05] ZG: Just a general question that we ask all of our guests and obviously being in the brewing world and around beer all the time. What’s your go-to beverage? It doesn’t necessarily have to be beer, but what’s your go-to adult beverage this day?
[01:00:16] GL: Yeah, what’s on your beer fridge?
[01:00:18] BE: I mostly drink beer. I have a little bit of liquor at home, but I’m a beer drinker and an equal opportunity drinker, but I do prefer beer on occasions. When it’s not Breakside beer that’s nearby, I drink a lot of […] here. I think they’re making really fantastic beer. Flametills are usually near at hand; those are a few that I look for a lot.
[01:00:41] ZG: Very good.
[01:00:43] TT: Very good. Ben, I really appreciate you jumping on. It’s been a very cool show, and some really cool stuff is coming out, and it’s really educational. I appreciate you coming on. I look forward to getting out there at some point and time appropriately so I can enjoy some of these beers.
[01:00:58] BE: Yeah, for sure. You should nudge Zach to get a care package together for you and ship them overnight. Better than the fresh hops. How about some fresh hop beer?
[01:01:08] ZB: Texas-Oregon Beer trade.
[01:01:11] TT: We can get it done.
[01:01:13] GL: Alright, again. Ben from Breakside Brewery. I really appreciate your time, and I know your time is valuable, so we appreciate it. Hopefully, we can catch up soon.
[01:01:20] BE: Yeah, total pleasure. Thanks for having me and letting me nerd out about fresh hop beers.
[01:01:25] TT: For those that are listening, stay tuned for the next release of the BrewDeck Podcast. We got some interesting stuff on the horizon. Everybody, click subscribe or plan on downloading us every time we see a new episode coming out. We look forward to having everybody joining us next time. Thanks, everybody, cheers.
[01:01:42] BE: Cheers, thanks y’all.