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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Two Cowboys: Getting Back to Beer Basics with Glacier Hops Ranch in Whitefish, Montana, USA

The Original

Sometimes, the way it's always been done is not necessarily the best way. Maybe, it is better to do it the way it was intended. For example, perhaps, our brewers are flavouring our beer wrong. There may be a better way. The way it used to be done, with fresh hops.

Heritage and culture are vital ingredients in identity. Communities are built around identities. Acceptable behaviours, a shared set of values, the types of food people eat, their behaviours, mannerisms, and the beverages they drink, are all part of what makes a community different from the next.



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Over the last few years, the craft brewing industry, the world over, has been challenging traditional norms in brewing and beer. Rules that may not be as traditional as many would have us think. Partly, because some of the true heritage of brewing was destroyed during the last century through market consolidation, over the top "identity" positioning, and through excessive regulation and prohibition movements.

The activity of brewing and drinking beer has gone from being in disrepute or simply being outlawed and over-regulated with a few providers of generally produced "bland" beverages, to becoming part of a cultural reawakening with a loyal community and following. The good news is that people are brewing again and drinking more craft beer. We are now benefitting from flavour experiences denied to most of us until quite recently here in Alberta. Unfortunately, not all are good. Many are getting better, which is encouraging. It can get much better.

This poses an interesting question. What was the intended flavour of beer before it all went wonky in the western world? If we should step back in time, one or two centuries, what would beer have tasted like, and if we could have tasted it, would we have like it?

As with all "old" and traditional recipes of a beverage, baking or dish preparation, the quality and state of the ingredients are essentially what determines its character. The method holds the key to success. You should not really mess with either. As far as technique goes, it can take a lifetime to perfect.

Here in lies the challenge. Can we brew beer with fresh ingredients? Yes, we can. Not many people have had the privilege to have tasted fresh beer, brewed with fresh malt and fresh hops. It is possible. We had it. It is amazing! Beer, as we know, has a limited lifespan. It is essentially liquid bread that goes stale over time, accelerated by exposure to light, oxygen. Some styles require maturation. Even in these cases, fresh ingredients make all the difference.

So, just how fresh can we get with ingredients for our beer.? We are brewing today with malt and hops that both went through preservation procedures that are of the oldest and most trusted methods in the world. Both are dried and shipped to brewers all over. In the case of hops, it fundamentally alters the characteristics of the ingredient, as we've learned from Tom Britz at Glacier Hops Farms. He's been on a mission to find another way to keep hops "pure" for the brewing process.

He's developed a non-destructive way to extract the hops parts we use for brewing through distillation. It opens up all kinds of possibilities that holds the promise of fresher and more authentic tasting beer. The question we were left with was, "does it taste better?".

The verdict: "For sure!" We are a fan, and we are so much a fan that we think it is going to change the beer world - for the next century, maybe. For next year, for sure!

Observations


Hops Oil (the way it is done by Glacier Hops Ranch under the brand name Hopzoil) is a pure essential oil made from fresh hops, steam-distilled right out of the field at harvest time. They are using a proprietary process to capture all of the fresh, intense, essential oils found only in fresh hops - the good stuff that is mostly destroyed through drying - and leaving all the biomass behind.

As we know, dry-hopping can be frustrating and expensive during the brewing process. Brewers that tried Tom's oil have learned that by using Hopzoil, they can reduce filtration losses, along with reduced labour, freight, and storage costs, and increase yield and aroma, leading to more profit out of every batch of beer brewed. This means it makes good business sense.

Does it make the beer better? Hopzoil™ provides an intense freshness that cannot be replicated with dried processed hops. The result captures the complex “fresh hop” aroma and flavour. This means that you can get a year-round freshly hopped beer taste for your beer. A taste that lasts longer than when you would have dry-hopped.

We tried it. It is a beautiful product, and in the Two Cowboys opinion, you need to buckle-up. This is going to change the (beer) world. We are glad to be part of the story.

Hendrik van Wyk 
Hops Cowboy

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