When Hops Are More Than Just Hops

Hops have traditionally fallen into two categories – bittering or aroma (or both).  At Chilliwack Hop Farms we believe that hops can also be an amazing vehicle for adding adjuncts into your brew.  Adjuncts are those ingredients that don’t fall within the four traditional ingredients for brewing beer: malt, hops, yeast and water.  Common adjuncts are fruit (often seen in lambics, wheat beers, and even IPAs), coriander and orange peel (common in gose beers), chili peppers and coffee beans (in many IPAs and pale ales).  These are obviously ingredients that fall well outside the Reinheitsgebot, the famous 1516 German Purity Law that restricted beer to just the four ingredients of water, yeast, malt and hops.  And way further outside the 1516 German lawmakers purview: even more obscure adjuncts such as oysters, kelp, hemp flour, and even vegemite.  These adjuncts are typically added during secondary fermentation or added to a cask several days prior to serving.

But how do you add a flavour profile such as smoke or spruce that require adding either something artificial (liquid smoke) or a potential contaminant (spruce tips)?  Smoke is often added by brewing with smoked malts to make a German rauchbier, smoked porter or smoked stout.  However, this requires making an entire batch of smoked beer.  Our answer to this question is to add these adjuncts to our hop pellets as we make them.  We basically turn special runs of hop pellets into vehicles for carrying adjunct flavours and ingredients.

On the smoky side, we have made apple-wood smoked Golding (for a stout), cherry-wood smoked El Dorado (for a pale ale), and maple-smoked Nugget and Cascade.   The cool thing about this is that a brewer can brew a large production run of stout, for example, and add the smoked hops to a cask or keg or two as an experimental brew.  This allows the brewer to play around with the smoky flavours without devoting an entire brew to the experiment.

On the spruce tip side, we slowly feed fresh spruce tips into the pelletizer at the same time as the whole hops, thereby creating a hop pellet completely infused with spruce tips.  Again, this can be added as a dry hop to a cask or keg of a brewers regular pale ale, for example, so that there is no interruption to a brewers regular production schedule.

Other infusions we have made are hemp flour infused and lavender infused hop pellets.  Other experiments on the horizon are dehydrated banana and clove (to imitate a hefeweizen yeast strain), chilis and kelp, among others.  In further blog entries, we want to go into more detail how we make these infusions.  In the short term, we are excited to promote hops as an awesome vehicle for adding interesting flavour profiles into your brew.

In this way, we think hops can be more than just hops – they can be a real vehicle for adding fun and interesting flavours into your beer!