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Mission accomplished: fresh green hops all the year round

Sometimes you have to fly ten hours to Colorado in order to find out what sort of innovations are being created in Bavaria’s hop-growing regions. I noticed this when during the Craft Brewers Conference in a brewhouse in Denver I suddenly heard a familiar dialect, and shortly afterwards was sitting at a table with Martin Schmailzl – a hop farmer from near Ingolstadt.

Quite a bit of time has gone by since, but what he told me back then left a lasting impression on me. Martin, you see, sells his hops not solely in dried form, but also as “WetHop”, which he preserves in a special process. Now I’ve taken advantage of the quiet holiday weeks, and followed up on this topic.

Martin, in most cases, after all, brewers use hops in the form of pellets. What are the disadvantages involved?

Basically, there’s nothing wrong with pellets. The brewer is used to the aroma, and has plenty of experience with it. Until now, after all, there was no process known for preserving hops except drying them.

Unfortunately, however, pellets are “aged” hops. For drying them, you need a lot of air and heat in order to remove the hops’ moisture, which means the volatile oils are lost. This is also the reason why at harvest-time the entire Hallertau hop-growing region smells so wonderful.

The picture below shows very clearly what happens to hops when they’re dried. The left-hand image, you see, shows the aged lupulin glands of dried hops two weeks after drying – the right-hand image shows two-year-old WetHop still with the original moisture and freshness of the lupulin glands.

And you can preserve this freshness with your WetHop?

My WetHop contains all the aromas that are created naturally in the hop garden – because we grind and pack the hops in their undried state immediately after picking them. This enables us to “lock in” the multifaceted aroma, and is essential for preserving it. At the same time, the product is whirlpool-friendly thanks to the fresh hops being ground. Thus WetHop differs significantly from fresh cones, the brewer doesn’t have to use a hopbag. WetHop behaves like pellets in the trub. Nor is all that large a quantity required, because WetHop has already been pre-dissolved in “its own plant sap”, so we also have a better yield.

When did you start experimenting with WetHop, and since when have you been selling it?

Eric Toft from the Schönramer Brewery has always bought his hops from us to make his Green-Hop Pilsner. Which in 2013 gave us the idea (or at first just the wish) to make green hops fresh from the field available all the year round – with all their aromas, whirlpool-friendly, and for the generality of brewers.

It took us about five years to standardise the process, so as to be able to guarantee a consistently high quality. We’ve now been marketing the WetHop since the 2018 harvest.

At what points in the brewing process can a brewer work with WetHop? Primarily in cold-hopping, meaning dry-hopping?

Precisely. I recommend WetHop for cold-hopping or at a very late juncture (at casting). Otherwise, the volatile oils will be lost during boiling. But we’ve already used it for all hop strikes, and in every case we’ve had very “rounded”, fresh beers.

How easy is WetHop to use for the brewer? Does it require major modifications or elaborate calculations (in regard to the quantity required, for instance)?

It’s very easy for the brewer to use, since it doesn’t need any different kit from hitherto. In the brewing process, WetHop behaves like pellets. When calculating the quantity with analyses, the yield and strike in the brewhouse are determinant. In the cold range, after brief tests very good results can be achieved. As a rule of thumb, we state that in cold-hopping only about 20 % more in weight is used than with pellets.

Is it conceivable to work with a combination of WetHop and pellets when producing a brew?

Absolutely! For the first strikes, WetHop is wasted, due to the volatile oils – so a combination can be a very sensible option.

You have different hop varieties in your WetHop range – are you specialising in aroma hops here, or are you also selling bittering hops in their undried form?

We have ten different varieties in the range, also including the bittering varieties Hercules and Polaris. This imparts very appealing green-hop aromas to the beer (we’ve already single-hopped with Hercules), and the beers taste very mild and hoppy.

Currently you also have dry hops in your range. Have you planned to sell both forms in parallel in the future?

For the time being yes, until the brewers recognise the advantage of WetHop. In the case of WetHop, the CO2 balance is very much better than with dry hops – that is bound to be an important issue (besides the aromas) for all breweries in the future. Since the technology for producing the WetHop is not all that simple, we’re still on the way to becoming competitive with dry hops.

By the way: in order to talk to the expert directly and find out more, you don’t necessarily have to fly to Denver. Martin can be reached through his website, and in autumn at the BrauBeviale in Nuremberg. From 12 to 14 November, you will be able to meet him in Hall 1, Stand 132-1, and ask him all the questions that have not yet been answered.

A look at the roof during a classical drying process shows: in a normal hop-drying process many desirable aromas and oils disappear from the hops and are lost.


Pictures: Hopfen Kontor (Martin Schmailzl)


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