On Green Hops: Ben Kraus, Bridge Road Brewers
Wet hop brews are seen as a holy grail to many in the industry. We asked Ben Kraus of Bridge Road, who has been using our fresh hops for a number of years, for some advice.
As you may have seen, this harvest we sent our green hops out far and wide, straight off the bine.
Over the years we’ve supplied a few of our local brewing neighbours, but this year we made our fresh hops available to commercial brewers across the country for the first time.
Ben Kraus has been brewing down the road from our Victorian farm, Rostrevor Hop Gardens, for more than a decade. Naturally, as neighbours, we’re keen to keep across what each other is up to. Ben’s been brewing with our green hops for years, and we have been happily drinking them!
So we thought we’d pick his brewing brain on dealing with one of the most difficult ingredients available.
“For years we’d been hearing about these amazingly fresh, green hop brews in the US. Coming from a winemaking background I loved the idea of dealing with hops that were reflective of the season and also a little more volatile, a bit unpredictable.
“Essential hop oils start decreasing right from picking, diminishing further during the drying and pelletising process. By getting hops fresh from the field, you’re virtually eliminating any processing which means you preserve a maximum amount of volatile oil component, maximising the flavour you can get from the hops.
“So in 2007, just our second production year at Bridge Road, we did our first brew and we’ve been refining the brew process ever since.”
Need to know
Ben’s key tips for dealing with the notoriously difficult to manage whole cones?
“Research and organisation. You’ve got a short window, once a year, to learn how to properly brew with fresh hops.”
Ben and his team have spent a fair amount of time poring over our scientific chemical analysis, showing alpha and beta acids and different oil contents, to see which of our proprietary varieties they want to use.
“It took us about six years to create our own system, using specifically-designed pumps and valves, so it is worth taking your time to appreciate how to handle wet hops.”
Ben’s other tips?
- Use a tonne (not literally) of hops. Yes it’s more expensive but it’s the only way to get enough flavour. Use about 5 to 10 times the weight of hops you’d use dry, because of their higher percentage of moisture.
- Factor in the large amount of hops. Many a brewer has come to grief trying to fit in the sheer volume of hops cones required for impact.
- Agitation is the key to getting the best flavour out of wet hops – you need to get movement through the liquid.
- Be careful not to leave the hops in contact with the beer for too long – this is when you’ll get the unpleasant vegetal characters. Think cauliflower and broccoli.
And a final piece of advice for anyone thinking of brewing with wet hops?
“Embrace the wet hop character. It’s hard work, but creating beers with fantastic, clean leafy flavours and vibrant aromas – that’s worthwhile.”
Keen to try one of Ben’s wet hop brews? Look out for Bridge Road Brewers’ wet hopped beer The Harvest, out now.