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Powder to the people

When it comes to hops, brewers are beginning to get left in the dust – and they’re loving it.

Lupulin powder – a purified concentration of the resin compounds and aromatic oils in whole hop flowers – is being test-marketed by Yakima-based YCH Hops (Yakima Chief-Hopunion).

The first area breweries to receive the new product are Perry Street and Trickster’s. Both are using it along with newly harvested whole hops in this season’s fresh-hop beers, and Perry has made it the focus of a just-released, revamped Citra Dust double IPA.

“We decided, let’s change the ABV, make it a big beer and dust it,” owner/brewer Ben Lukes says. “People are going insane over it.”

Lukes took his previous Citra DIPA recipe, bumped the alcohol by volume from 8 to 9 percent and dry-hopped with Citra powder after regular hop pellet additions. The result is hugely aromatic with a distinct, intense, non-vegetal hop flavor.

For his first fresh-hop beer of the season – just released today – Lukes used both Citra powder and pellets, and sandwiched some Mosaic powder in between a 300-pound layer of fresh Simcoe.

He plans to brew an all-powder beer sometime later this fall, “just to see how it reacts at every stage.” But in the long run, Lukes says, “I think what we’re going to find is that it’s best used in combination with pellets, to make the aroma and flavor pop.

“Overall, it’s an awesome product,” he says. “I think it has a lot of potential. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Trickster’s head brewer Evan Ruud – whose brother, Blaze, is YCH’s Northwest regional sales manager – was the first to use lupulin powder locally, in a collaboration Cascadian dark ale with Twelve String for May’s Spokane Craft Beer Week. That featured Simcoe in four forms: whole leaf, pellets, extract and powder.

Ruud added both Simcoe and Mosaic powder to his new fresh-hop ale, to be tapped Monday, which he calls a step up from last year’s. Like Lukes, he used 20 pounds of fresh Simcoe hops per barrel, or 10 pounds per keg – “enough to fill the keg all the way to the brim,” he says.     

“I was going so big with the fresh hops that I wanted to cut out the grassy flavors in any other spot that I could,” Ruud says, which is why he used powder for the other hop additions. That also allowed him to get some Mosaic flavor without the oniony and catty notes that can come from the whole hop, he says.

Along with cleaner flavors, Ruud says, lupulin powder also contributes a more complex mouthfeel and reduces perceived bitterness. "It’s just another tool in the bag for making good beer,” he says.

As well as boosting quality, lupulin powder can increase efficiency by reducing the amount of liquid that gets trapped in hop pellet sediment, called trub. Breweries so far have been reporting gains of 3 to 10 percent, with most falling in the middle range, Blaze Ruud says.

“It’s more sustainable, with less environmental impacts going down the drain,” he says. “That’s particularly attractive to larger brewers.”

YCH uses a proprietary cryogenic process to separate the powder from the leafy part of the hop cone. That’s also being sold separately as debittered hop leaf, to provide pure aroma along the lines of European noble hops.

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