Talking Green Hops With Scott Overdorf
This year, in the peak of harvest, boxes of wet hops made their way around the country.
And next year, we’re doing it all again. Fresh hops, straight off the bine, will be hitting brewhouses across Australia.
Gearing up for the season, we caught up with our friend, Tasmanian brewer Scott Overdorf to talk all things green hop and his thoughts on the industry.
Scott was first introduced to wet hop brewing whilst at Moo Brew. Brewing with fresh hops at the beginning of each season, Scott developed a taste for it and brought the passion over to his recently founded Hobart Brewing Co.
“Brewers don’t have a lot of opportunity to brew with fresh hops, so when the green hop program rolls around each year, we have the chance to educate ourselves on different hopping techniques and varieties that we can’t normally try.”
There is an art to brewing with fresh hops Scott tells us. Firstly, you’ll need to measure. Common knowledge dictates, that when brewing with wet hops, you’ll need a lot.
“What we have learned over the years is that using six times more than the amount we’d normally use as pellets creates the hop profile we are looking for. Quantities that other brewers choose to use is based on their own experience along with their brewhouse capabilities.”
As Scott explains, five kilos of hop pellets, is the equivalent to thirty kilos of fresh picked hops.
This brings about a big challenge, how do you contain such a large amount of hops from seeping into the pipe work and other brewhouse systems?
Over the years the technique has been refined. Originally trialling everything from steeping wet hops in mesh bags in the kettle during the boil, to dry hopping using large sanitised mesh bags that sat within the fermenter – which floated due to the buoyancy of the hops. We’ve attached mesh bags to PVC pipe which snapped from the buoyancy of the hops and have tried large stainless steel poles which finally worked for keeping the hops submerged in the beer to extract flavour and aroma.
Now Scott and his team through years of trial and error have decided to turn their mash tun into a whirlpool vessel, because of its slotted false floor. This allowed the hops to stay trapped above the pipework whilst the wort was being transferred in. Then when the wort was being transferred out, it allowed it to percolate throughout the hops and run off relatively cleanly.
“Part of the fun in brewing wet hop beer is getting our hands on the hops before the lab technicians run their tests. This means you’ll never know the exact data you’re going to get from what you’re brewing, it’s all based on gut feel and experience.
“Next season, I’m interested in using lesser known, or experimental green hops and seeing if we can make them shine. You can then see what it will be able to contribute to the beer, and have an idea of how to use it. That’s the fun of it, not knowing what you’re going to get.”
Located in Tasmania, Scott is able to visit Bushy Park Estate regularly.
“We feel really lucky that Hobart Brewing Co. is among a small number of breweries located in Tassie as well as the ones in Victoria that have hops growing ‘just down the road’. The hops grown locally here in Australia are now some of the most sought after hop varieties by brewers from around the world. When we originally started up Hobart Brewing Co. we thought it was time a local brewery focused on using those hops too.
“A highlight of each year is getting to go out and visit the hop fields during each harvest. Having the ability to walk amongst the hops with knowledgeable hop growers is a huge benefit to the brewery and to our team.
“Picking the hops straight from the bine, rubbing them in our hands and smelling the freshest aromas possible gives us a unique ‘growers insight’ and knowledge that we can take back to the brewery and put into practice.
“It’s a thrill to brew a fresh hop beer, because you only have one chance to get it right, once a year.”
The Green Hop Program is back for the 2017 harvest, and submissions are now open.