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Hops are the cone-like flowers of a climbing vine that is native to the temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia. The species has separate male and female plants and only the female vines produce the cones. The vines will climb 20 ft or more up any available support and are commonly trained onto strings or wires when grown commercially. The leaves resemble grape leaves and the cones vaguely resemble pine cones in shape but are light green, thin and papery. At the base of the petals are the yellow lupulin glands which contain the essential oils and resins that are so prized by brewers. ***
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What Is Lupulin Powder and Why Is It in Your Favorite IPA: From Amarillo to Zeus, there are more hop varieties showing up in your favorite beers than you can shake a stick at. Seriously, it’s enough to make you dizzy without drinking any beer at all.But if you’re into hoppy beer, you might have noticed a new sheriff in town: Lupulin powder. Breweries across the country are starting to experiment more and more with this new hop format. Which begs the question: What is lupulin powder, anyway.For starters, it’s not a new hop variety but rather an entirely different way of extracting flavor and aroma from popular, existing hop strands like Mosaic, Simcoe, and Citra.Typically, hops are harvested and then pelletized to preserve their character and make them easier to transport in large quantities. Lupulin powder, on the other hand, is the result of a “proprietary cryogenic separation process” dreamt up by Washington hop producer Yakima Chief-Hopunion.“LupuLN2 is the concentrated lupulin of whole-leaf hops containing resins and aromatic oils. It is designed to provide intense hop flavor and aroma, enabling brewers to dose large quantities of hops without introducing astringent flavors or vegetative cone material,” writes the company.LupuLN2, the name given to applying this process to a host of different hop varieties, is gaining popularity among brewers looking to introduce intense hop flavors and aromas to their beers without the added vegetal characteristics of the rest of the hop flower.“LupuLN2 offers twice the resin content of traditional whole-leaf and hop pellet products,” while using about half the tradition amount needed by weight during the brew process.Lupulin powder can be found in beers made by breweries such as Long Trail in Vermont, Boston’s Trillium Brewing Co., and Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn***
Hops have been cultivated for use in brewing for over 1000 years. The earliest known cultivation was in Central Europe, and by the early 1500s, cultivation had spread to Western Europe and Great Britain. At the turn of the century, about one dozen varieties of hop were being used for brewing; today, there are over one hundred. The focus of breeding programs has been to maintain desirable characteristics, while improving yield and disease resistance.***
Hops are a natural preservative and part of the early use of hops in beer was to preserve it. Hops were added directly to the cask after fermentation to keep it fresh while it was transported. This is how one particular style of beer, India Pale Ale, was developed. At the turn of the 18th century, British brewers began shipping strong ale with lots of hops added to the barrels to preserve it over the several month voyage to India. By journey’s end, the beer had acquired a depth of hop aroma and flavor. Perfect for quenching the thirst of British personnel in the tropics.***
Beer wouldn’t be beer without hops – hops provide the balance, and are the signature in many styles. The bitterness contributed by hops balances the sweetness of the malt sugars and provides a refreshing finish. The main bittering agent is the alpha acid resin which is insoluble in water until isomerized by boiling. The longer the boil, the greater the percentage of isomerization and the more bitter the beer gets. However, the oils that contribute characteristic flavors and aromas are volatile and are lost to a large degree during the long boil. There are many varieties of hops, but they are usually divided into two general categories: Bittering and Aroma. Bittering hops are high in alpha acids, at about 10 percent by weight.***
Aroma hops are usually lower, around 5 percent and contribute a more desirable aroma and flavor to the beer. Several hop varieties are in-between and are used for both purposes. Bittering hops, also known as kettle hops, are added at the start of the boil and boiled for about an hour. Aroma hops are added towards the end of the boil and are typically boiled for 15 minutes or less. Aroma hops are also referred to as finishing hops. By adding different varieties of hops at different times during the boil, a more complex hop profile can be established that gives the beer a balance of hop bitterness, taste and aroma. Descriptions of the five main types of hop additions and their attributes follow.***
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An old yet recently rediscovered process (at least among homebrewers), first wort hopping (FWH) consists of adding a large portion of the finishing hops to the boil kettle as the wort is received from the lauter tun. As the boil tun fills with wort (which may take a half hour or longer), the hops steep in the hot wort and release their volatile oils and resins. The aromatic oils are normally insoluble and tend to evaporate to a large degree during the boil. By letting the hops steep in the wort prior to the boil, the oils have more time to oxidize to more soluble compounds and a greater percentage are retained during the boil. Only low alpha finishing hops should be used for FWH, and the amount should be no less than 30% of the total amount of hops used in the boil. This FWH addition therefore should be taken from the hops intended for finishing additions. Because more hops are in the wort longer during the boil, the total bitterness of the beer in increased but not by a substantial amount due to being low in alpha acid. In fact, one study among professional brewers determined that the use of FWH resulted in a more refined hop aroma, a more uniform bitterness (i.e. no harsh tones), and a more harmonious beer overall compared to an identical beer produced without FWH.