Over the past few years, the craft beer landscape has undergone a seismic shift and industry growth trends have slowed after multiple years of double-digit volume gains. In the days of go-go growth, craft brewers could focus their efforts on producing the biggest and most flavorful beers, cost be damned. With the maturing of the industry, brewers’ attitudes towards production costs have begun to change. The conversation has increasingly turned to finding new ways to make flavorful, distinctive beers more efficiently and at lower cost.
Efficiency…cost savings…ideally, you would want to go after the low-hanging fruit that gives you the most bang for your buck. Hops quickly rise to the top of that list. In the world of highly bittered and dry hopped IPAs, hops are responsible for a large chunk of production costs. What people may not realize is that these cost pressures are felt not just in the brewhouse and cellar but throughout the entire supply chain.
All-natural FLEX® helps you squeeze efficiencies out of your process.
Anytime hop pellets are added to wort or beer, you’ll see losses due to the absorption of liquid by hop solids. In a real-world example, a well-known large craft brewery sees losses of 14 L (~4 gal) of wort/beer per kg of hop solids. In a 100 bbl brew, bittered to 35 IBU with 14% alpha acid hop pellets, wort losses of more than one barrel can occur. Based on a wort production cost of $70/bbl, the brewer incurred a loss of $100 on this brew. Over the course of one year’s production, this translates into thousands of dollars of wort lost. These losses are compounded by the fact that you would have less beer to sell, which would impact wholesale and retail sales revenues.
An obvious solution is to reduce the amount of hop solids in the brewing process to reduce the absorption of wort/beer. In the brewhouse, a great way to do this is to use FLEX® instead of pellets. FLEX is a 100% natural bittering product made exclusively from hops, but it contains no vegetative material. It is concentrated (65% by weight with alpha acids) and pourable at ambient temperatures.
The high alpha acid concentration and lack of vegetative matter in FLEX, enables the conversion of alpha acids into iso-alpha acids to be more efficient in comparison to pellet hops. This results in higher levels of alpha acid utilization during wort boil. While FLEX promotes brewhouse efficiencies, it provides savings in other supply chain areas as well. The lack of hop solids also reduces the amount of solid waste that your brewery generates. This translates into lower solids handling costs and helps make your operations more sustainable.
Easy to handle, easy to dose, easy to ship and store.
As a bittering tool for the brewer, FLEX is designed to be added at the beginning of wort boil. FLEX can be poured directly from the package into the kettle without the need for prior heating or expensive dosing equipment. This is extremely convenient and a lot less messy than some of the alternatives.
Since FLEX is a concentrated product, 3 kg of FLEX provides the equivalent bittering potential as a 20 kg box of 15% alpha pellets. This translates into lower shipping costs (up to 75% savings) and a significantly lower storage footprint.
FLEX is packaged in 2 and 10 kg plastic jugs. The jugs have resealable caps and are recyclable. Another functional feature of the packaging is that the jugs have handles which makes it a breeze to pour FLEX into the kettle.
The product is also extremely shelf stable. At 20 °C, both opened and unopened containers of FLEX show no significant amounts of alpha acid degradation over 6 months of storage. Further shelf-life studies are underway at John I. Haas and it is anticipated that we will be able to report a FLEX shelf life of greater than one year.
But ultimately, it’s all about the taste. (And brewers agree, 2:1)
All of this is good and well, but the most important question is, how do beers taste when brewed with FLEX? In our opinion, beers brewed with FLEX taste great! Don’t just take our word for it, listen to what other brewers have to say. At the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference Haas gathered a group of 94 brewers to blind taste test two beers of identical recipes which were bittered to 25 IBU. The only difference between the beers was that one was brewed with FLEX, while the other used CTZ hop pellets. After tallying up the scores, it was found that the brewers preferred FLEX beer over CTZ beer by almost 2:1 in terms of bitterness character and overall liking.
So there you have it, using FLEX instead of pellets offers multiple benefits to your brewery. FLEX will help you produce great beers, increase your sustainability efforts, while at the same time helping you save money.