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When brewers need to be quick off the mark: green-hop beer

If you’re travelling in the spacious Hallertau during spring or summer, you can see the hop plants climbing slowly but surely several metres up the frames erected in the hop fields. In the last ten days of August and the first ten of September, these normally tranquil spots are suddenly full of bustling activity. In this period of three weeks or so, the hop-farmers harvest the crop they’ve nurtured so carefully over the year.

Usually, what are called the green hops are processed immediately after being harvested. After being separated from the rootstocks, the soft and very moist cones are dried, and compressed into hop pellets. These pellets are highly popular worldwide for making beer, since with airtight packaging they have a very long shelf-life and are convenient for dosing.

A tight time window

During the brief harvesting season for the hops, there is a once-a-year unique opportunity to brew what is called green-hop beer. For this purpose, the fresh green hops from the fields are immediately after being harvested added to the wort boiler in the brewhouse. Time is of the essence here, since green hops wilt very quickly if they’re not treated, and will thus lose their characteristic aroma.

The uniqueness of this opportunity is simultaneously the allure of the unusual. And if the “green-hop time window” falls precisely in the time preceding the BrauBeviale, then that can hardly be an accident, can it? I took the timing as a signal and resolved to brew a green-hop beer for the upcoming trade fair.

Together with Dr. Florian Schüll of the Hop Processing Cooperative (HVG) from Wolnzach we meet up at a hop field in the early morning. He has chosen a particularly flavourful, aromatic variety for the beer.

While mist still lies over the fields, selected hop plants harvested by hand, and swiftly taken to a neighbouring hop farmer, where the cones are picked. During the immediate return journey to the Steinecker Brew Center the car is already filled with the fragrant aromas of hops and sets our taste buds salivating.

Hops meet wort

This is where our meticulously preplanned time schedule pays off: when we return to the pilot plant, the brewing process is already shortly before completion of lautering, with wort boiling is scheduled to begin in a few moments. This is possible not least because the BOTEC F1 process control system controlled and monitored all the processes involved fully automatically, while we were harvesting the hops in the field (entirely by hand). Talking of time schedules: I entered the important parameters for this special beer in advance, and thus laid the foundations for the brewing process. This meant that after the mashing process I had enough time for an outing to the Hallertau – and with the fresh hops I can upon my return immediately get straight back into progressing the process. It’s great to see how state-of-the-art technology can assist with brewing  – while still leaving scope for the brewers’ craft skills. I myself am permitted to “lend a hand”, but can nevertheless work flexibly, and enjoy the benefit of process automation and full-coverage documentation.

After being added to the wort copper, the green hops are now boiled with the wort. The wonderful aroma of hops is accentuated still further.

A bit of background knowledge at this point:

This procedure, known in the USA’s craft beer scene as “wet hopping”, is very popular, since many brewers have embraced the principle of “fresh is best”. And this alternative option for hopping, of course, also extends the bandwidth of aromas that the beer can possess when an experimentally inclined brewer is involved. In the case of green-hop beers, by the way, the style of beer is not fixed, so it can be a light beer, a wheat beer, or also a pale ale.

Et voilá: a green-hop beer

I want my beer to be themed around a full-bodied but nonetheless rounded hoppy aroma with grassy-green undertones. I’m accordingly brewing a light pilsner-type beer with only a small content of caramel malts. The original gravity of 12.5 °Plato ensures a harmonious body.

Classical bottom-fermented fermentation at low temperatures ensures a balanced taste and a quaffably sparkling beer. I deliberately refrain from filtering the beer, by the way: I want to preserve all the hoppy aromas in the beer, and serve it in all its natural goodness.

Talking of  serving it – you can join in! Come and visit us at the BrauBeviale in Hall 7A – the green-hop beer is ready for our guests, and awaiting the first eager samplers! I’m looking forward to feedback and exciting conversations.



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