Each year, we’re excited to see how the enthusiasm for hop flavors continues to grow among both brewers and consumers. And every year, we seem to get more and more questions about what’s on our minds and on the horizon. So, this year, we decided to gather a group of John I. Haas’ researchers, brewers, and sensory experts to discuss some of the most important industry trends emerging for brewers in 2018.
Enhancing overall hop flavor in beer while improving hopping efficiency and reducing process losses
Craft IPAs continue to be popular throughout the U.S., and these hop-intensive styles have certainly affected our industry. Achieving intense hops flavors (and dealing with the huge volumes of hops they require) comes with potential complications, and even some drawbacks—from lack of distinction in brand identity, to bitterness and aroma efficiency, to process losses. As major brewers worldwide begin to get into the IPA game, things will certainly get more interesting.
“The good news is, if you approach it properly, hop flavor enhancement and process efficiency can easily go hand-in-hand,” says Virgil McDonald, Master Brewer at the Haas Innovations Brewery. “You just need to be open to the possibilities and advantages that come with using hop extracts in addition to whole hops and hop pellets.”
It’s important to note that Virgil put a strong emphasis on “in addition to”. Hop solids contribute much to the distinctive flavor and mouthfeel of IPAs and other hop-forward beer styles. With minor modifications to a brewer’s hop bill, extracts can provide a significant improvement in hop efficiency. “This is going to be my mantra for 2018,” Virgil said. “Because, in today’s market, it’s all about enhancing flavor outcomes and reducing process loss.”
Victor Algazzali, our flavor and sensory expert here at Haas agrees. “Traditional hopping methods can be improved by new hop products and dosing techniques. There are ways to improve efficiency without making any sacrifices on flavor.”
Another important trend is efficiency when it comes to hop aroma and the enormous challenges associated with dry-hopping. Victor cautions, “Matching the flavors of dry-hopping with alternative hop products is challenging. The chemistry of dry-hopping is extremely complicated. The odor-active compounds of hops have varying levels of solubility in beer. In the fermenter, these compounds undergo oxidative, chemical, and biochemical reactions. The hoppy flavor of the beer is dependent on this dynamic system.”
Luckily, Alex Byelashov, VP of Innovations at Haas, believes there is a potential “quantum leap” coming in hop efficiency through the use of some exciting new products that Haas R&D has been focused on. Alex points out, “We already have a new product we’re running trials with that, if successful, could have a significant impact in delivering flavor with little or no liquid losses.”
Bitterness is an easy fix. At the Innovations Brewery, nearly all of our experimental brews use hop extract for base bittering. This eliminates much of the beer solids that end up in the whirlpool trub pile, which reduce the effectiveness of wort clarification and absorb a good deal of the valuable unfermented beer.
To counteract this, our Haas R&D team developed a new product that simplifies bittering from the use of high alpha pellets to FLEX®, which provides both flowability and flexibility. It is designed to efficiently provide hop bitterness to beer. Unlike other more traditional non-viscous bittering products, FLEX® is flowable at room temperature, greatly improving its ease of use. “We spent three years perfecting FLEX® and many of the brewers who were part of our trials are now using it in their flagship beers,” Virgil notes. “They were very impressed, not only with bitterness efficiency and the simplification of dosing, but with the quality of the bitterness in the beer.”
New hop variety development for distinctive flavors
Brewers are always anxiously anticipating what’s next, what’s distinctive, and what will be most impactful to their business. That’s why new hop varieties are consistently on our Top Trends list, year in and year out.
“It’s a challenging question, though, because of the long lead times associated with bringing commercially viable varieties to market,” says Michael Ferguson, Hop Breeder for John I. Haas. “It takes seven or eight years for new hops varieties to become commercially available to brewers—at the earliest!”
The good news is, we have quite a line-up for experimental varietals, all waiting to be named. “We’ve been particularly impressed with HBC 438, 586, and 692,” Michael noted. “These are some big, bold IPA hops developed in coordination with the HBC [the Hop Breeding Company, John I. Haas’ joint venture with Select Botanicals LLC]. We’re also very excited about HBC 472 and 692—which are part of the same lineage as 438.” If you love complex hops with hints of coconut and tangerine, Michael noted, “438 is for you.”
What are your top trends for 2018? We’d love to hear what’s top-of-mind for you and your team—and hope you have a great start to the new year.