Brewers are always tinkering with new ways to get the most out of hops. It’s particularly noticeable this time of year, when breweries source just-picked “wet” or “fresh” hops from the annual hop harvest; they’re able to extract more oil, which boosts a beer’s hop flavor and aroma. These are called fresh hop IPAs, and are easily my favorite seasonal offerings. But, Sierra Nevada is working on a process that would bottle up that vivid once-a-year fresh hop character for year-round use: steam distilling.
“What we’re working on is a process to steam distill wet hops directly in the field, minutes after harvest,” said Sierra Nevada’s communications manager Ryan Arnold. “Our vision is to capture and use that super pure, powerful hop oil in concert with whole-cone hops in the brew kettle and our Hop Torpedo to make a killer IPA.”
The first offering using the technique will be Hop Hunter: Although there’s no solid release date, the brewery, which just opened its new facility in North Carolina, says to expect the beer sometime in early 2015.