03 Oct Crazy Horse Hops and True Essence Foods: On the Vanguard of Year-Round Wet Hop Beers
The hops have been harvested for 2022, and now we are enjoying unique beers using those hops. One of the benefits of the hop harvest is wet hopped or fresh hopped beers, ie. beers that use freshly picked hop cones, whether it be in the boil, the whirlpool, the fermenter, or after fermentation.
Using freshly picked hops gives unique flavor and aroma to beers; just like with other foods, fresh is best (this is my opinion, I do know people who don’t like wet hopped beers). There can be a delicate, green or grassy feel and taste to wet hopped beers, and while some people love this, others are put off by that character. In terms of aroma, volatile oils that could be lost due to time or kiln drying are present in maximum quantities in wet hopped beers. Boiling fresh hops still volatilizes oils, but more are retained than in dried hops, and using wet hops for dry hopping (called wet dry hopped beers…for pete’s sake), are aromatic beyond belief.
Traditionally, aroma hops are generally harvested a few weeks before bittering hops, and the when this occurs in the August/September range is really a matter of where the hop farm is in the country. The bines are cut in the morning and processed immediately afterward so that the time between field and finished product is minimized. The reason for this isn’t a mystery, it’s water. Hops are about 80% water, and they are harvested in the warm time of the year. This means that fungus and bacteria can be active and can contaminate the hops very quickly.
In just a matter of hours to days, a hop can lose oils to the atmosphere and grow microorganisms that will throw off the flavors and stability of the hop. Therefore, hop processors can deal with this situation; 1) get them to a brewery within hours for use within a day, or 2) kiln dry them to stabilize them by reducing the water content to about 9%.
All of this means that if you like wet hopped beers, you better drink them while you can. Depending on the size of the batch and the amount of fresh hops a brewery can procure (a wet hop beer uses about 4x the volume of hops as compared to a pelleted hop beer), wet hop beers can be found most of the fall and perhaps a bit into winter for a large brewery. Just like for an aggressively hopped beers, you don’t want to pick one off a shelf that has had time to even start gathering dust.
At least that’s how wet hopping has worked up to this point in brewing history (really, only American craft brewers have taken to wet hopping), but technologies and processes are being developed that might allow for wet-hopped beers to be made all year round. Fat Heads Brewery in Ohio has a wet-hopped version of Head Hunter IPA that now comes out twice or three times a year, and we might begin to see some local beers made with wet hops coming out at unusual times of the year. The reasons for this are two (as far as I found so far), 1) flash freezing, and 2) a proprietary process from True Essence Foods in Indianapolis. Let’s talk about flash freezing first.
I spoke to Will Kmetz, the innovation brewer for Fat Heads Brewery in Middleburg, OH, about the use of flash frozen hops. He said, “we use a relatively new technology offered by Yakima Chief Hops called Fresh Frozen Hops (click here to learn more from Yakima Hops).” Will explained, “These hops are individually quickly frozen, just as a lot of frozen produce is, with flash freezing. This helps maintain vine fresh hops as long as they are kept frozen. We have a freezer we store them in allowing us to brew fresh hop beer year round.”
Since Fresh Frozen Hops are now available commercially, more breweries are choosing to use them to produce wet hopped beers at different times of the year. I don’t know if they will take off in terms of popularity, but look to pay more for those beers since; a) you use more hops/beer, b) you have to absorb the costs of the process, c) you have to store them indefinitely, and d) you have to pay to store them frozen until they are used.
Wouldn’t it be nice if some of these aspects could be managed or eliminated, so that using wet hops could be both time independent and economical? Well, this is where True Essence Foods and Crazy Horse Hops enter the picture. Together, they have developed a hop product that can be used for fresh hop beers any time of the year, and is shelf stable.
True Essence Foods grew out of SoChatti Chocolate in Indianapolis, with a tasting room in the Circle City Industrial Complex (CCIC – the same place where you can find Centerpoint Brewing, Fowling Warehouse, and 8th Day Distillery). A few years ago, the team behind SoChatti Chocolate developed two patented processes by which they could produce a shelf stable, highly aromatic and flavorful, vegan chocolate without bitter compounds.
Believe me, the result is a series of fantastic chocolates that are farm specific and very different from one another based on where the cacao beans were sourced. All the molecules that overpower the unique flavors of each chocolate have been removed, allowing the subtle characteristics to shine through. Building on this process and a couple of other patented processes developed by the team behind SoChatti Chocolate for fruit nectars and other foodstuffs, a new and overarching company was formed – True Essence Foods. True Essence is using two general processes, which they called Flavor Balancing and Flavor Symmetry, to revolutionize fresh food and other food products.
One of the products currently available in the market using the Flavor Symmetry technology is their Fruit nectars. Flavor Symmetry uses molecular sieves and filters to remove much of the water from a food, making it shelf stable. The end product for the fruit nectars are amazingly fresh tasting fruit flavors which can be stored on the shelf indefinitely, and which I think are going to make some amazing fruited beers. They are even better tasting than fruit purees or and much better than syrups.
On the other hand, Flavor Balancing technology maximizes the use of sieves and filters to remove off flavors and let the real food shine through. By balancing that pressure and the filters, you can adjust flavors and aromas to heighten the features of the products. One amazing application for this technology is in spirits, where hot and harsh molecules can be removed to give any spirits a much smoother flavor and feel, and let the pure flavor of the spirit shine through. Fusel and other alcohols can be blown off, correcting for distillation problems, or to provide an altogether product – you could even increase the heat and bite of a spirit if you wished.
The Flavor Symmetry technology, used in combination with the Favor Balancing processes can very much change the way we think about fresh foods, working to increase food sustainability worldwide and product wide, including hops. The process increases life greatly, reduces weight for shipping, reduces volume needed for a product, with less spoilage. All of this reduces cost and energy for the end product and is very green.
True Essence Foods is looking to scale their processes for larger clients and now has current and potential customers that work in beer, cannabis, fruit, coffee, wine, herbs, spirits, and of course, hops. Crazy Horse Hops in Knightstown is the largest single plot hop farm outside of the Pacific Northwest, and they grow more than a half dozen hops on their 110 acres. Tens of thousands of pounds of hops are harvested at Crazy Horse (more each year), including a huge amount used for many wet hopped beers in Indiana and other states – Rhinegeist Beer uses a huge amount of Crazy Horse Hops each year for their wet hop beer.
Robert Kirch from True Essence Foods reached out to Ryan, Heather, Scott and Nicole from Crazy Horse and asked if they would like to have a tour of the facility at CCIC. Heather told me, “They gave us the tasting room experience, explained what preempted this business venture, and how they were sourcing their chocolate from all over the world.”
She added, “The owner, Matt Rubin then took us on a tour and showed us their equipment involving the chocolate. At the end of the tour, we were shown a new technology they were working on—drying foods to retain fresh flavor. They asked us if we wanted to try it with hops. Did we think there was a market for it? We did, so Matt and Ryan began talking.”
In 2021, Crazy Horse partnered with True Essence Foods to test out their processes on a small volume of fresh Cascade hops. After the drying process (not really drying, but we can use the term), Crazy Horse steeped both wet hop and dry-wet hops into steeps and taste tested them. They couldn’t tell the difference at all, meaning that the mechanism of processing retained all the best of the hops, and lost the portions that would make them spoil and take up so much volume.
Based on these results, True Essence was contracted to work their magic on 400 pounds of freshly harvested Crystal hops. Now Crazy Horse has something completely new – a shelf stable, small volume fresh hop that retains all the flavor and aroma of the short-lived wet hops traditionally used. Breweries take note, you can order these for use now and be on the cutting edge of wet hop beer evolution.
Crazy Horse and True Essence Foods – two innovative Indiana companies working to push the envelope in their respective and overlapping worlds. Crazy Horse is expanding all the time, including this year’s first harvest of hemp, their apiary to produce honey, and their new and experimental hops varieties that they are growing. True Essence Food’s growth has been astounding in the last year, and though they are looking to expand. With the acquisition of more office space as well as research and development space, they fully intend to grow their home at CCIC in downtown Indianapolis.
Ask your local brewery about trying the shelf stable fresh hops, and definitely get out an about to visit the SoChatti Chocolate Tasting Room/True Essence Innovation Lab at CCIC and Crazy Horse Hops in Knightstown. This new technology really is a big deal, and these two Indiana companies reallyare leading the world in their fields.