HopKick® Product Spotlight with Shae Maloney
HAAS® is excited to announce a new hop flavor and aroma product for beverages, beer, and beyond called HopKick®. We sat down with Shaelyn (Shae) Maloney, a brewing solutions specialist at John I. Haas to discuss the development and early trials of this exciting new product.
Shae, for customers who might not know you, what’s your background?
Shae: I came to HAAS in early 2022 as a Brewing Solutions Specialist on the Innovations team. Previous to that, I was a professional brewer at Goodlife Brewing and Worthy Brewing in Bend, Oregon, and I did some QA as well. I graduated from Colorado State University where I was part of the first class of the fermentation science program they have now.
And what’s your role here at HAAS?
As the Brewing Solutions Lead on a new product launch like HopKick, it’s my job to get a really good understanding of the product and how it works in the brewing world—and the wider beverage industry. Then we work with the rest of the HAAS team to come up with all the product specs and data. So, I’ve observed the production process, and worked with it in all kinds of applications to determine the dose ranges—through bench tops, sensory panels, and our formal panels—as well as shelf-life studies and things like that.
So, what is HopKick? Where’s it used?
HopKick is a 100% hop-derived, hop flavor product. It’s clear, flowable, and completely water soluble. It allows for really nice flavor and aroma amplification.
And there are a whole lot of applications for HopKick, right?
What we’ve been seeing over the last couple years is this wave of seltzers, RTDs, hop waters, teas, and other products that are really blurring category lines. It’s as if brewers are moving towards becoming more beverage companies, and we’re also seeing beverage companies break into the bev/alcohol space. We wanted to come up with a product that could be used in a less traditional way than you’d expect from HAAS, to fill that gap for those flavor applications, but, at the same time, still provide the quality, variety-specific hop flavors we’re known for.
What’s interesting though, is that, depending on how you dose it, HopKick affects beverage flavors in different ways.
That’s really interesting—how does it work?
Well, at higher dosage rates, you get a true-to-type, variety-specific flavor addition. Citra® HopKick tastes like Citra T-90s, Mosaic® HopKick tastes like Mosaic. But when you have lower doses, you get this flavor modulation. For instance, we’ve found that if you add it to something that already has an artificial sweetener or artificial flavor in it, HopKick has this tendency to reduce some of that artificiality and almost naturalize those flavors. There’s this broad range of uses that is really, really phenomenal for alternative and non-alcoholic beverages.
When you say it naturalizes flavors…what do you mean, exactly?
First off, I just want to say that this is completely anecdotal. But we’ve seen it through many different benchtop trials and sensory trials that we’ve run with different types of products—whether that’s an already flavored hop water or tea, or a malt beverage, like a hard lemonade. What you often pick up with those beverages, there’s quite a bit of artificial sweetness—whether it be Stevia or aspartame—it kind of leaves that specific sweetness. When we added little bits of HopKick—on a scale from low to high, dosing it in that low to mid-range—we would see that HopKick took that sweetness and rounded it out so that it wasn’t quite so harsh.
Does it affect artificial flavors too, or just sweeteners?
Both, actually. For instance, take watermelon flavor. It’s often artificial and one dimensional. When you add a little bit of HopKick, like El Dorado®—which is often described as watermelon Jolly Rancher—it takes those watermelon flavors and makes them a little bit more juicy and natural, more complex.
Were you expecting those types of effects?
No, no. It wasn’t really a feature of HopKick we were aiming for. It’s just something throughout trials that we noticed that we thought was really cool that ended up happening. The main features of HopKick and the purpose of its design was to provide a flexible flavor and aroma ingredient that was “clean label” that could be leveraged in this new, complex lineup of beverages that are crossing and blurring category lines.
So I understand the clean labeling from a beer perspective, but a lot of these beverages are using artificial flavors anyway…?
I think it’s just a nice benefit. Consumers are really looking for those clean labels, and this product is just hops and water. When you use HopKick, you can just put “hops” on your label and that looks a lot cleaner and more consumer acceptable.
How is HopKick different from other competing products?
Very often hop oils or flavor compounds use a carrier to hold the emulsion and carry those flavors through. One that is most commonly used is propylene glycol, which is also called PG. But HopKick has no carrier, it is just hops and water, it’s 100% hop derived.
Also, it’s clear and water soluble and flowable—it has about the same viscosity as water—so it’s really easy to dose and it doesn’t change the color of your beverage. It doesn’t add a haze, it doesn’t add a color, it doesn’t have any sort of carrier like PG in it. So it’s just adding hops in a really condensed, essence-like way.
Where do you think some of the biggest applications will be?
The initial target space is things like water, seltzers and teas—it’s about bang for your buck. The impact is just really great at a very low dose rate. I think that’s the best application and the best value.
In light, low- or non-alcoholic beers, HopKick is a really efficient way to amplify flavor. I’m sure you know, non-alcoholic beers have a worty taste that always seems as if it’s missing something. HopKick brings that back to something more similar to real beer (laughs).
But we know brewers are the ultimate experimenters, so I can’t imagine someone isn’t going to try HopKick in the brewing process.
Oh, of course. We’ve had people use it in beers and love it just as much. But I guess that kind of depends on the brewery’s intent, right? You could use HopKick as a completely new offering, like to offer a tap of hop water or kombucha. But you could also use HopKick as a cold-side application. You could take a really light-base beer, like a pilsner, and then you could take that beer stream and split it off into three tanks. So you could have a regular pilsner and then you could have a dry hopped Citra El Dorado and Mosaic one, just by dosing those ones with HopKick, right? So it could be a line extension application where you’re dosing it in the cold maturation side of things and basically create a variety pack without having to make four different beers.
That’s a really interesting idea. And I’m sure you could use it for adjusting flavors—kicking things up a notch, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Or for course correction. You know, maybe the brewer, they made a beer and it gets to the bright tank and it’s not quite what they wanted, right? And so HopKick can also be used as a little tuneup. If something didn’t quite go right, or the dry hop didn’t come out quite as vibrant as you expected, this is a tool that you could use as a way to top things off or adjust flavor and aroma to get it exactly where you want it.
Are there any other interesting applications that people have been brainstorming?
We wanted HopKick to be really convenient and flexible to provide something that fills in a bunch of spaces in flavor and aroma application. During our trials, the majority of people have focused on an NA type beverage or a hop water—hop waters are all the rage—or THC or CBD-based seltzers. But also, kind of surprisingly, we’ve had a handful of success in like completely different beverages like kombucha as a non-alcoholic option, where they’re using HopKick to either enhance other flavors that are in it or to add a specific flavor. HopKick can be used in a wide variety of beverages. However creative they want to be with it, HopKick allows them to do that.
To learn more about HopKick, visit our product page. To give HopKick a try, contact your HAAS representative, or your favorite HAAS distribution partner. And, please, let us know what you think!