Join HPA’s Owen Johnston as he discusses brewers’ increasing focus on the provenance of their raw ingredients with David Stokie and Reid Stratton from Bright Brewery.
A full transcript of this podcast is available below.
Owen Johnston: Brewers brew beer year-round, but there is something special about March. Each harvest, hops are picked from the bine and sent straight to breweries across the eastern seaboard of Australia for immediate addition in fresh hop beers. It’s a great opportunity for HPA to connect with brewers who value the provenance of their raw ingredients and to remind beer drinkers of the link between Aussie beer and Aussie agriculture. Today we’re teaming up with Bright Brewery, to walk you through our Green Hop Program and the beauty of brewing with green hops.Reid, what makes Bright Brewery different?
Reid Stratton: As a small brewery, we get to have a lot of fun experimenting with different locally sourced ingredients. And as the closest brewery to HPA’s Victorian farms, wet hop beers in particular are really close to our hearts. They allow us to celebrate our corner of the world and challenge us to capture the flavour of the valley.
David Stokie: It’s awesome to have such a close working relationship with one of our key ingredient suppliers and we always receive such a warm welcome from the team when we come past the farm gate to pick up our hops.
OJ: We certainly love having neighbours who make such great beer. So we’ve picked up the hops and it’s time to put them into the brewhouse. Making beer with fresh hops presents some unique challenges in the brewery, how do you overcome that?
DS: Obviously green hops are 80 percent water, therefore they expire extremely quickly. That only gives us 24 to 48 hours to get them in and use them in the tank. So that doesn’t allow us enough time to get the analyticals that we normally get with dried or pelletised hops, so therefore it makes it quite tough.
OJ: So how do you deal with this lack of analytical information?
RS: Well we don’t know the alpha acid or the oil content of the hops we would normally use when we design a beer recipe so our biggest challenge is working with the unknown and trying to get the most out of the hops. In addition, we only get one chance a year to brew a fresh hop beer so we really try to focus on honing our process and just building on what works.
OJ: It’s convenient to use cooking as an example to illustrate the difference between dried and fresh ingredients, with a similar impact in fresh and dried herbs, as dried hops and fresh hops. Dried or pelletised hops can be used throughout the process at different addition points whereas fresh hops tend to go in here on the hot side and you typically have to use more of them.
RS: That’s exactly right. Fresh hops are a lot less concentrated than dried and pelletised hops, so we have to add a lot more of them to achieve the same level of flavour. They also contribute a fresh, grassy flavour without the bitterness you would normally associate with popular beer styles that have really massive hop dosage rates.That’s why most fresh hop beers are pale ales or IPA’s typically, though we do sometimes see other styles.
DS: This year our style of green hop beer is a Hazy IPA using green Galaxy hops. We hope that it’s a fresh, well balanced and juicy beer. Hopefully, picking up some of those lesser volatiles that are sometimes lost in processing.
OJ: There’s 100 different ways to make a green hop beer, from kettle to whirlpool, using improvised systems in the lauter and dry hop additions. How are you guys going to approach it this year?
RS: We’re going to use a popular method where we use our lauter tun as a giant hop-back to contain the fresh hops while we steep them in hot wort. Once we’ve extracted all the flavour from those hops, we’ll transfer the wort to the fermenter and begin fermentation as usual. We’re trying to really push the boundaries and make our fresh hop beer bigger and bigger every year.
OJ: So you can trust your process but you never quite know what you’re going to get. It strikes me as much more about the romance than it is about targeting that final outcome particularly when you’re pushing out key high-selling beers week in, week out. It must be a nice opportunity to slow down and really test your skills.
RS: Exactly. I think brewers and beer drinkers both understand it’s really about focusing on the green hops and celebrating the harvest season.
OJ: It’s worth remembering how rare fresh hop beers used to be. But as the trend to support local businesses continues to grow, so too does interest in fresh hop beers, with festivals popping up all over the country. It’s still a once a year thing, so when you get the chance to brew or drink one, you should take it.