During our ongoing conversations with innovative brewers across the country, we had a chance to catch up with Dr. Christina Schöenberger, our own Head of Innovation and Education, to discuss Provoak, the innovative new hop pellet recently released by John I. Haas and the Barth-Haas Group.
What is Provoak, exactly?
Dr. Schoenberger: Provoak is a mixture of hops and wood that comes in pellet form. It’s made from a proprietary blend of hops and U.S. white oak that has been inspected to the highest food-quality standards. Basically, it’s processed like a normal T-90 or T-45 hop pellet and has similar properties. It’s used for both late hopping and dry-hopping in the same way you would use standard hop pellets.
What were some of the ideas that led Barth Haas to develop Provoak? What “problems” were you trying to solve?
Dr. Schoenberger: It’s no secret that barrel aging is a huge trend in craft brewing, and we’ve been seeing a real explosion in new flavors and experimentation with those deep wood notes. But we realized that when these beers are dry-hopped, those fragile hop flavors had no chance to survive the barrel aging process. So we set out to find something that would bring in those wonderful barrel flavors into the beer without detriment to the dry hop flavors.
What are some of the benefits of using Provoak over barrel-aging?
Dr. Schoenberger: Obviously, it will vary from brewery to brewery but the big benefit is time and space savings. Barrel programs are a lot of fun to work with, but they are costly to get up and running and can take up a lot of space. With Provoak, you get that barrel-aged flavor without the barrel, so you save that entire footprint. Also, the potential savings in time and resources are huge. For instance, there’s no need to transfer from the lagering to barrel tanks. Instead of months in the barrel, with Provoak, you only need up to 7 days in the maturation tank.
Another thing is creative flexibility. Barrel aging is tricky in terms of microbiological safety, so brewers are limited to high ABV, dark color beer styles. Provoak can be used for every beer style while maintaining the highest process safety and consistency.
When you began trials with Provoak, what was the reaction? Were people surprised by the result?
Dr. Schoenberger: From the beginning, we had very positive reactions and feedback from brewers. They were all hugely surprised by the authentic woody flavor impact of Provoak. Of course, it’s a question of philosophy. It’s great to work with real barrels and to see the flavor complexity you can get from using different types of barrel. Provoak may not compete with all the flavors you might get out of barrels—but it can certainly make your brewing life easier and it gives you the opportunity to combine complex hop and barrel aromas in ways that are totally new. So I think they see it as a great thing to have in their toolkit.
Are there specific beer styles you recommend using Provoak for?
Dr. Schoenberger: Yes, all of them! Really, I tell brewers to just play around with the dosage. Small amounts might give your wheat beer, for example, a uniqueness in flavor without being overly dominant. Of course, Provoak works excellent with ales, but also lager beers work perfectly. And because of the great balance of hop and wood aromas, it still fits to common barrel-aging beer styles like imperials, doubles and barley wines.
Is it currently available for distribution?
Dr. Schoenberger: Absolutely. Brewers can order Provoak at John I. Haas and any of its distributor partners. Our technical brewing solutions team is always happy to help with questions about applications, dosing, and the overall brewing process. We think people are going to love it, and we hope it helps brewers re-think what’s possible with barrel-aged beer styles.
To learn more about Provoak, call your Haas Sales Representative today. Better yet, brew a batch with Provoak pellets for yourself and let us know what you think. Cheers!