Tasmania-based hop supplier Hopco is experimenting with a new hop product designed to minimise hop wastage while packing a punch.
The product, knows as hophash, has high concentrations of Alpha and Beta acids as well as total oils and saves on food waste.
Pioneered in the US, hophash is a byproduct of the hop pelletising process and is derived from the residual lupulin glands, resins, and oils that gather on the pellet mill screen during pellet production.
Sometimes known as Kief, hophash has traditionally been removed from the pellet mill screen, and then discarded or reintegrated into the pellet stream.
Hopco, which has recently started distributing the product in Australia, says that changing market preferences have created a new use for this former waste product.
HopCo’s Heidi Skeels said that as the demand for concentrated hop products has increased, the value of hophash was soon realised and suppliers such as US-based Crosby Hop Farm and New Zealand Hops now package and sell it separately.
Skeels said that while the company is still new to hophash, it has recognised some of its key benefits.
“It’s beneficial in the sense that you’re not left with as much vegetal matter at the end of the brewing process,” Skeels explained.
“[Brewers] are getting on average a double dose of Alpha, Beta and Total Oil, so it’s a concentrated product.”
When hops are picked at the farm, approximately 80 per cent are processed into hop pellets.
“The pelletising process involves decompressing kiln-dried, whole leaf bales and milling them into a homogenous powder, before pressing through a pellet die,” she explained.
“Hophash is derived from the milling process, where the residual lupulin glands, resins and oils gather on the pellet mill screen as the hops make their way to the pellet die.”
Skeels said that hophash is similar to a T45 pellet in its concentration of Alpha, Beta and Total Oil.
The basic rule is the more oily the hop the more hophash produced.
At this point, Hopco is focusing on hophash varieties from New Zealand Hops as the company gauges whether this is a product the company will continue to work with in the future.
New Zealand Hops CEO Doug Donelan said that hophash is a novel product that is effectively a highly concentrated lupulin hop product.
“This makes it extremely potent when making hop additions so very strong hop flavour and aroma characters can be achieved by its use,” Donelan told Brews News.
“If used early in the boil it will give very high bittering levels.
“It’s insoluble so it needs to be added on the hot side of the process although it is possible to dissolve it in ethanol and mix it into fermentation to be used as a ‘dry’ hop product.”
Mountain Goat head brewer Ian Morgan first brewed with Idaho 7 and Belma hophash varieties in January 2017, which resulted in Mountain Goat’s Hashtag IIPA keg release in February 2017.
“We’d never used it before and there weren’t a lot of other brewers who had,” Morgan told Brews News.
“With most of our brews already we tend to go with whirlpool additions.
“We found that we were getting good hop-utilisation rates in the whirlpool and also preserving a lot of the hop character by adding it in not necessarily boiling it away for an hour but letting it sit hot and dissolve in the hot wort before we sent it to the fermenter.
“Half of it was added in the whirlpool and half of it we dry hopped with it.”
Morgan said that he didn’t dissolve the hophash in ethanol ahead of time but said that that may have been a good way to do it.
“I was pretty nervous putting it in because it looks like what it says, it’s sticky thick blocks of stuff.
“I thought it might sink to the bottom and just sit there but it actually dissolved in the beer quite nicely.
“It was a seven per cent double IPA so there was a lot going on there with alcohol content.”
Like Donelan, Morgan said that using hophash was “novel” but added that it wasn’t particularly easy to work with.
“With the stuff coming in these big blocks of hop material, dropping it in the whirlpool from the top it was going to sink to the bottom so we did end up chopping it up,” Morgan explained.
“I remember that being a very laborious process because it was like chopping nougat or something like that.”
Morgan said that he would consider using hophash again but would only use it on the hot side to avoid the effort of breaking it up.
“We haven’t seen much of it around so we haven’t had the chance to play with it again.
If the New Zealand hophash varieties are well received, Skeels said that the company will look to its US supplier and potentially some of its German suppliers to supply the product as well.