Lets talk about one of the four key components of the Reinheitsgebot(the German Beer Purity Law for those unfamiliar); Hops. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and forms. Grown all over the world. And one of my favorite hop varieties is the legendary Cascade hop. But I don’t want to just talk about cascade as a hop, I’d also like to talk about a new up and coming form of processing cascade hops, CO2-hop extract.
The process of extracting Cascade hops is produced using a supercritical CO2 process which extracts the soft resigns and essential oils of Cascade hop pellets. During the process, solid particles are filtered out while the CO2 is recovered and reused. The end product is a pure resign extract, which is then packed into tin cans of varying sizes. Cascade CO2-hop extract has an alpha acid percentage of 35-42, compared to the typical range of 5.5-9% for pelletized Cascade. Beta acids come in at 35-40% as opposed to 6-7.5% and oil levels are at 4-7%, up from 0.8-2.5%. Although the technology has been around a couple decades, the idea of craft breweries using hop extracts has really only begun gaining popularity over the last few years and there are still very few who do. The reason for this really comes down to something simple; brewers resistance to change. But the positives for using hop extracts far out weigh any cons.
- Increased brew house yields through reduced kettle trub
- Reduced hot-side brew kettle foam formation during the boil
- Bitterness, flavor, and aroma via late boil additions
- Variety specific hop character and related notes in beer
- Reduced vegetal and polyphenol flavor contribution
- Increased alpha utilization
- Excellent stability of alpha acids, beta acids and hop oils
- Extended shelf life and reduced storage requirements
Cascade was conceived 1956 and released in 1972. Having derived from Fuggle seedlings, it has floral, spicy, citrus notes and a very well balanced bittering potential. As a CO2-hop extract there are two common methods of introducing Cascade. The first being to remove the lid and pour the contents of the extract into a grant during runoff. The second being to mix the extract with with hot water/wort in a secondary vessel and pouring the resulting mixture into the kettle during boil. They’re plenty of different methods however, it’s important to remember that just like whole hops and pellets, CO2-hop extract doesn’t become isomerized until it is boiled. The packaging of hop extract is very convenient, they come in FDA approved, food grade coated tins. Typically, tins are packaged based on GMA(grams of alpha acid). And it is best practice to calculate your hop additions in whole tin increments.
In summary, it boils down(get it?) to a philosophical debate on whether or not to use hop extracts as a Brewmaster. However, you simply cannot argue that hop extracts aren’t a more consistent, uniform, and stable product.