Frozen Fresh Hops!
Hops. Quite simply, the lifeblood of the craft brewing industry.
The small ‘flower’ that grows as a soft green cone has been used for centuries to flavour beer. From the early days of brewing, used as a bittering agent, to modern brewing with hops bred for specific flavour and aroma profiles. They make our products what they are. Simply put, without hops, we wouldn't have the beer we know and love. They open the gates to a world of flavour.
With hundreds of varieties now available, from the likes of Simcoe and Citra, to the American classics like Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and more modern varieties like Talus and Sabro, everyone has their favourites. Hops are more often than not the deciding factor for beer lovers and their decision making.
Our “Suspended in…” range of regular brews has shown that we love experimenting with hop varieties, highlighting different hops each time. We’ve also had our “Sold my soul for…” range, which has delved more into the way hops are prepared and used. Each of those beers used 1 hop variety (Simcoe, for example) but in 4 different formats. Brewers have access to hops in various different forms, in a quest from hop companies and brewers alike to get the most flavour and aroma possible. Examples include Cryo, which undergoes a deep-freezing using liquid nitrogen to concentrate the oils.
As we mostly get our hops from the West Coast of America, one format that we haven’t had a chance to experiment with is fresh, whole hop cones. Normally, when a brewery uses whole cones, they are kiln dried… until now!
A few months ago, Yakima Chief Hops announced they would be providing some Frozen Fresh Hops, only a few hours off the vine and flash frozen at minus 80 degrees to preserve all the natural qualities. The ‘flash freezing’ is superior to freezing normally, as it helps to retain the delicate nuances by protecting the integrity of the lupulin gland. The Lupulin gland can be seen below - to the naked eye it appears as a yellow dust within the hop leaves. We put these Azacca hops under the microscope for a closer look:
The advantage to using “fresh” hops, over say kiln-dried, pellets, or any other format, is the really green and fresh aroma they provide. Lab and sensory analysis from YCH showed that the flash freezing had no adverse affects on this, in fact in most cases it helped to maintain the structure of the hop cone and could even produce better results.
This is a super exciting project for UK breweries and you’ve probably already noticed a number of Frozen Fresh Hop brews popping up in your local shop. All of which, we personally can’t wait to get our hands on! If you’re reading this in time, there’s a very exciting event at Mother Kelly’s in London from Thursday 20th January, with over 20 different Fresh Frozen Hop beers on offer.
For our first foray into fresh hops, we were delighted to get a shipment of one of our favourite hops, and something we’ve had a lot of fun making super hoppy beers with of late - Azacca.
Siren Head Brewer, Sean Knight, talking about brewing with Fresh Frozen Hops.
We couldn’t think of any better way to celebrate using these hops than the two aforementioned beers - Enter 7.2% Sold My Soul For Azacca and 4% Suspended in Azacca.
The first challenge was exactly how we use these hops. With fresh hops, as they’re normally coming straight off the field and into the brewery, they’re used in the ‘hot side’, in the boil - the initial stages of a brew. This ensures that any unwanted natural yeast or bacteria won’t cause us any issues. Unlike the concentrated pellets that we would normally use on the hot side, this adds unhelpful vegetative material in the wort, so we had to come up with a plan for using the whole cones. Luckily for us, our SpinBot was the perfect option. We were able to permeate the fresh wort, in and out of the spinbot, which was full of hops. This created a real hop soup, and the aromas were incredible!
There’s also a tradition with using whole hops that you lay a few hops on top of the malts - a chance for the return of Hop Bae.
Using the SpinBot allowed us to extract the maximum amount of flavour, creating an end product full of vibrant citrus, green notes and zesty freshness.
Sold My Soul For…
If you’re new to this series of beers, then let us introduce you. In 2021, we set out to experiment with the influx of new hop formats available. Traditionally, the hop cones themselves would be used. This practice has largely been dropped by modern brewers in favour of milled hop pellets.
The most commonly used hop format is the T90 pellet. Essentially, compressed dried hops into small tight pellets. This makes it a lot easier to transport hops en masse, and also deliver great flavours and aromas to beers without all the vegetative waste from whole cones.
Technology is ever evolving, and hop technology is no different; hop pellets themselves have also progressed. ‘Cryo’ format entered the game, essentially a freeze-dried pelletised hop designed to separate out more of the sought after lupulin, the part of the hop that helps deliver all that famous flavour.
We now also have concentrated liquid formats of hops, which means that none of the unnecessary vegetative part of the hop enters the beer. Essentially, it’s like a ribena of hops. Less wastage, more concentrated flavour. It’s not always the right way to go, but used well it’s a great tool in the brewing arsenal.
Combining these different styles of hop in the right way is a great way to get more of the desired hop flavour, without the additional bittering elements that might come with the theoretical amount you’re using. Clever stuff, and it makes a hell of a beer!
Sold My Soul gives you a 360° view of a chosen hop profile, with all the layers and nuance that comes with it.
Sold My Soul For Azacca is the fourth variety of this beer to date. Previous iterations are:
Citra - Incognito®, T90®, Cryo® and BBC®
Simcoe - Simcoe T90, Simcoe Cryo (both across two different harvests)
Mosaic - Mosaic Incognito, Mosaic BBC, Mosaic T90, Mosaic Cryo, Mosaic Spectrum
If you’ve not heard of our “Suspended in…” range then where have you been? We’d had a few experiments with series’ of beers, using different hops within the same concept. Head Brewer at the time, Kyle (now of Kings & Daughters back in the USA), always had a love for full of flavour low ABV pales and so that was the plan.
Each brew featured a focus on a different hop (and sometimes different malts). What started as a monthly feature soon became a regular new brew every two weeks. There have been almost too many different ‘Suspended In’ varieties to count, gracing bars up and down the country.
Normally, this is a keg (and sometimes cask) only special. During the first lockdown, with fresh Suspended in tank and no pubs for it to go to, we made the decision to start canning it. However, once pubs were back open, Suspended in Cans was put to bed, with the beers returning to their rightful place on the pumps.
With this version though, we felt it deserved a full launch, so we’re delighted to have Suspended in Azacca available not only in your favourite local bar (fingers crossed!), but also from the fridge at home.
Both beers are available now so check out the links below!