Sometimes you see something and think to yourself, “Ya know, this is astoundingly cool! This could change everything. How the hell did they ever think of this?” Well, that was pretty much my reaction when I first saw Cryo Hops®. So different, so out there, that it seemed like we were entering a new era of brewing.
In the late summer of 2016, I attended the YCH HOPS Hop and Brew School in Yakima, WA. As part of the course, we visited various parts of the YCH hop processing facilities. In one warehouse, there was a small machine set up. Our group went over to look at it, and were told it was the beginning of a proprietary process and we weren’t allowed to take pictures. But that mass of science-y machinery was cranking out some of the first batches of Cryo Hops and all of us were tremendously excited by both the process and the potential.
OK, let’s back up a little….what ARE Cryo Hops? Well, hops cones are frozen with liquid nitrogen, then the lupulin glands are separated from the now nearly completely debittered leaf, or low alpha bract. The glands that make up Cryo Hops are the concentrated bittering and oil containing portion of the hops. They are extremely high alpha acid, but using them just for bittering is kind of a waste. The real beauty of them is the intense aroma and flavor they bring to your beer. Without the vegetative material that traditional hop cones and pellets contain, Cryo Hops sucks up less of your precious beer and doesn’t give you the astringency you can get from traditional cone or pellet hops. If you love to brew NEIPA, this is the hop product for you. Because of the heavy load of late hops in the style, many people find them to be astringent. Cryo Hops eliminates that issue.
The additional product made during the Cryo Hops process is what’s called “American Noble Hops”. It’s the debittered leaf and concentrated bract of whole hops that has been separated from the lupulin glands. It’s low alpha and retains the aroma and flavor characteristics of the source variety. Think of it as a Pacific Northwest variant of traditional noble hops. It’s available in pellet form.
So far, I’ve brewed (3) 5.5 gallon batches with Cryo Hops. I’ve used them both in the whirlpool and as dry hops. I found both uses produced outstanding hop aroma and flavor.
My first use was as dry hops in a light summer ale. It was made with 5 lb. each of pale and pils malt to an OG of 1.055. I bittered to 35 IBU with traditional Horizon pellets, a hop with a kind of neutral bittering quality. There were no other hop additions other than about .5 oz. of Ekuanot® Cryo Hops used as dry hops.
Because I dry hop in the serving keg, I really appreciated the reduced vegetal matter. It kept the beer cleaner, added no astringency, and didn’t suck up a quart of beer like dry hopping with whole hops. Not to mention that there was a huge, fresh hop aroma that I hadn’t experienced before.
I then started testing them as whirlpool hops. I made an American pale ale using 10 lb. of Eureka malt from Gold Rush Malt in Baker City, OR to an OG of 1.057. This malt is a bit like Munich, in that it can be used as a base malt but has a big malty flavor. For these batches, I started with bittering to 25 IBU using some traditional Horizon pellets. The low bittering level meant that I’d be able to tell how much added bitterness I was getting from the whirlpool.
Whirlpooling required a bit of experimentation. For a whirlpool trial on this batch, I added them when the wort was at 180F. For chilling and whirlpooling, I use a JaDeD Brewing Hydra immersion chiller, fitted with their Whirly Bird whirlpool arm. When the wort reached 180F, I turned off the water flow through the chiller, but continued pumping wort through the arm to keep the whirlpool going. When I tasted the finished beer, it was obvious that I’d gotten a metric buttload (that’s a scientific brewing term!) of bitterness from the .3 oz of Simcoe® Cryo Hops and .5 oz. of Ekuanot® Cryo Hops pellets I’d added. What I’d run into was the isomerization of the Cryo Hops. Since they have a concentrated bittering power (22ish % AA, anybody?) I had added them at too hot a temp and had gotten a huge increase in bittering from them.
For my next try, I used them in the whirlpool for an American IPA, once again using 100% Eureka malt to an OG of 1.071. I once again used traditional Horizon pellets to bitter to about 25 IBU. I intended to add the whirlpool hops this time when the wort reached 160. That’s a very popular temperature for whirlpool hopping, so I figured I’d give it a try. As it chilled, I turned my back for a couple seconds to grab the hops. Due to efficiency and speed of the Hydra chiller, in those few seconds the wort dropped to 120F. Rather than heat it back up, I just dumped in the whirlpool hops. This time I used .3 oz. of Simcoe® Cryo Hops, 1 oz. of Loral® Cryo Hops, and .55 oz. of Ekuanot® Cryo Hops pellets. I shut off the water flow and let them whirlpool for about 20 minutes. By that time the wort temperature had dropped to around 100F.
Sometimes serendipity beats careful planning, and this was one of those cases. Not only did the wort have a huge hop aroma going into the fermenter, but the finished beer had an upfront hop aroma and flavor that just blew me away. The flavor was especially wonderful. Because I wanted to just test the whirlpool effect, I didn’t dry hop this beer. 2 months after kegging, the aroma and flavor are just starting to diminish. That’s far longer than I get from other types of hops. From now on, 120F is my whirlpool temperature!
I’m also pleased to report the long term results of this beer. Four months after brewing, it still has the delicious tropical fruit flavor that it had when fresh. A bit subdued, to be sure, it’s holding far better than it has with any other form of hop I’ve tried.
My next test will be a whirlpool addition at 120, followed by dry hopping with the Cryo Hops. Now that I’ve tried each technique individually, I’m ready for a big hop punch by combining them!
After that, I’m gonna dive into the American Noble Hops. For the last 2 years, I’ve been working on developing a recipe for an American Mild. I’m aiming for a lot of the characteristics of a British mild, but using all American ingredients with an American flavor slant. So far, my attempts have yielded something that tastes kinda like bitter water with a bit of malt. But the American Noble Hops should help a lot to alleviate that, combined with some of the great malt from Mecca Grade Estate Malt.
One last point….YCH says that because of the concentrated oils in Cryo Hops, you should use half as much as you would of another form of hop. I don’t know if I can verify that, because I don’t have a usual hop amount other than a lot! I can tell you that for my tastes, the 1.85 oz. of Cryo Hops I used in my last batch was just about right for an APA. For my whirlpool/dry hop trial I intend to bump it up even more. For hops this good, I want all I can get in there!
So, there are my initial thoughts on Cryo Hops. I’m really looking forward to more experimentation with them. Go get some and try them yourself!
A Few Words From Drew
My co author, co podcaster Drew Beechum recently had a chance to brew with some American Noble Hops. Here are his thoughts on it…
Drew here - gotta step in and help Denny out with American Noble Hop knowledge. In it's normal form, Loral® hops provide a peppery, topical flowery fruit character to the beer. It stands out and waves in a dramatic fashion. Taking YCH's description of them as "noble like" to heart, I went right for my comfort zone - a saison. Specifically a new one - Loral Canyon Saison. (I live in the Los Angeles area, I couldn't resist the geographic pun. Sue me.) Building on a variant of my standard Saison base with a little more wheat and a bittering charge of Magnum, I initally wanted to whirlpool these into play, but instead I added them as a dry hop. The end result is a beer that's distinctly different - neither American nor Belgian. The Loral® characters are definitely there, but muted in such a way that they let the Dupont yeast shine through. It's a really neat trick and offers a whole other dimension to play with.
Stay tuned for more information coming soon on American Noble Hops!