On the Road to Berlin: Hop Gun

Welcome back to the weekly blog of this particular aspiring brewmaster. Things are definitely percolating in the VLB Certified Brewmaster Class of ‘21 this week. There is a bit of nervous buzz in the air as the snow falls on Berlin, the weather continues to delight here in Israel, and we prepare for our first week of exams. Our upcoming exams are in Barley, Hops, Malting Technology, Chemistry, and Brewery Arithmetic. I must say that our professors have cracked the whip of biblical fear upon and have everyone quite nervous about the difficulty of the exams. So this weekend I’ll be self-imposing a lockdown, not for the Corona Virus, but to shut out the temptations of friends and beautiful weather.

This week I want to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart and some new methods I learned for an old trick. We had a fascinating guest lecture this week about dry hopping. Here in Israel, dry hopping is a common practice. Every Israeli brewery that I have ever set foot in has used this practice with at least one of their staple beers and the Israeli beer drinking public seems to love it.

Photo Cred: Kegerator Learning Center

Dry hopping is a common practice with pale ales and IPAs. It can be used with any beer style but it feels most at home in either of these categories or their derivatives. To understand the practice of dry hopping, you must first understand the process of “wet hopping.” As I explained in my Exploding Hops blog a few weeks ago (check it out after you read this one), all modern beers have hops in them. Hops are responsible for bittering and aroma notes in our finished product. Traditionally, we’ll add hops during the hot side of brewing or during the 60-90 minute boil. But for some folks those simple hop additions are just not enough. Sometimes, we want to incorporate even more gnarly hop aromas into our beer. And, for that we’ll add even more hops into secondary fermentation tank on the cold side of the brewery. This is called dry hopping.

Now here’s where the fun comes in. At every brewery I have worked at and from my earliest days of homebrewing, dry hopping has been done in a stagnant way. In other words, we either drop our hops into the tank or rack(transfer our beer into a waiting vessel that is already loaded with hops and CO2. And then we wait. You see, it takes several days for the hop pellets to absorb the existing beer, expand, and then go over their saturation point to fill the entire tank with hoppy goodness. Sometimes we let them sit for a few days but, as I learned this week, full permeation and utilization to the maximum potential of our hops actually takes around 3 weeks. But real estate (tank space) in the neighborhood (brewery) is valuable! And time is money! That’s 3 weeks that we could have fermented an entire other beer in! By now you are saying to yourself, “Self, there must be a better way…” Well, you are correct!

Introducing this handy little piece I learned about this week- THE HOP GUN.

Photo Cred: YoLong Brewtech

The principle behind the hop gun is actually incredibly logical. If we put hops in our beer, they’ll get to full permeation eventually. But if we supercharge the process and put our beer through the hops, the movement and turbulence will extract what we need from the hops faster, freeing up valuable tank space. What we do is set our pre-loaded hop gun down next to our fermentation vessel, hook up a pump and blast the beer through the gun and back into the tank again. When we dry hop in this way, we can achieve the same permeation in less than 24 hours than we do in 3 weeks the old fashioned way! Pretty cool.

That’s my sharing time for the week. Hope you enjoyed the hop gun and learning about it’s obvious advantages. I think it’s a pretty cool piece of equipment. As they say here in Israel, “If you’re going to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.” Catch you on the other side of exam week!

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