Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Indie Hops Supports Brain Altering Exercise

Adrenaline? Check.
Endorphin pump lit? Check.
Dopamine shooters? Check.
Serotonin uppers? Check.
Case of Indie Hops infused IPA on ice? Check.

We love sports, especially endurance sports, like cycling. Since inception we've sponsored the Mt Hood Cycling Classic, the Dana Point Grand Prix, and the granddaddy of all US pro-am stage races, the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon.

Todays marks stage 1 of the CCC, a breathtakingly beautiful route that takes the peloton up and over the rugged McKenzie Pass. The peloton will crest at the summit of a jagged lava bed, in full view of a shimmering glacier on South Sister, descend into quilt and rodeo-loving Sisters, and finish with a grueling 9 mile climb up the daunting Three Creeks Road. May the slowest among you generate the most pain-relieving neuro-chemicals! May the fastest (and most bike-addicted) among you share you euphoria with friends.

The 2011 CCC promises to be an unforgettable journey under banner blue skies. This old die-hard can't wait for Friday's road race that finishes on top of Mt. Bachelor. I've been tasting Heaven and Hell at this race for over 15 years and, like all bone fide junkies, continue to nurse the dream that instead of slowing down with age I'm instead getting faster, smarter and gosh darn it balder.  Click here for an article in the Bend Bulletin about the war horses of the CCC.

The Cannon is loaded!
A garmin rider prepares to blast off in the
 2011 CCC prologue. Powered by Indie Hops!
 If you're here in Bend, enjoy the race. If you're not, there's still time to drive over and catch the Criterium in downtown Bend on Saturday night. Find yourself a table on the course and catch the whiz-bang action while washing down baked salmon with your favorite libation.

Just as exercise can improve your self-esteem, enhance your mood, and provide a welcome escape from the clutter of life, we believe the right beer at the right time in the right place with the right blend of hop oils can do the same. Shoot, with the right beer, variables be damned. Isn't that when we need our favorite beer the most? When we've found ourselves in a pit of vipers, with black widows crawling up our necks, and hobgoblins burrowing into our brain?

Break out! Climb a mountain. Run along a river. Pedal through a rain forest. Paddle on a glassy still mountain lake. Nurse a double IPA and elevate.


Roger Worthington


Talk about Euphoria! No need to visit
the Alps when McKenize Pass, with 30 foot
snowbanks, is just a few huff and puffs away.
 This photo was snapped on June 13, 2011.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hop Oil: Is Bigger Better? A preview of ongoing research at OSU

Time to take a step back, scratch the chin, and ponder what it’s all about.

I’m talking of course about the Big Questions. No, not whether great beer makes you a better person (I think it does) or whether a beer with the right kind and amount of hops can make you live longer and happier (you gotta believe).

The Big Question for the moment is this: Is Bigger Better? That is, higher total hop oil content a reliable measure of the hop’s potential for great flavor?
Let’s break it down. It’s fairly certain that the same amount of whole cones will have a higher total oil content that even the best crafted pellet. Does this mean that the whole hop will add more millileters of total oil to your pint glass than a good pellet? Possibly yes, depending on the specific oil compound.

But does it mean that the whole hop will add more of the oil compounds we desire to your pint glass? Ah, that’s the question. Actually, it opens up a series of questions, the first of which is what oil compounds do we actually desire?

It would be so easy if we could crank up the high tech machinery, identify particular oils, measure the percentage of said oils in a given assay of hops and then conclude that one cultivar is “better” because it has more of the “more desirable” oil compounds. But, alas, god’s not in the machines, and really and truly there are as many gods as there are palates, although perhaps some flavor gods are more better than others (with apologies to the grammar gods).

Let’s look at the Cascade hop for a second. A Cascade whole hop can have 40-60% more total oil (in mL/100g) than an assay of your typical type 90 pellet. Looks impressive. And many brewers do have success in dry hopping with “big total oil” varieties (eg, CTZ). But let’s peel back the onion a bit.

Does the “big oil” hop deliver the “most desirable” oils? Again, lets look at Cascade. Between 70 and 80% of the total oil in Cascades is myrcene (roughly ~53%) and humulene (~26%). In a well designed pellet, the myrcene-humulene (M-H) content is approximately 35% and 26%, respectively. In short, the M-H content in a Cascade whole hop will likely gobble up between 75 and 80% of the total oils, but in a pellet, the M-H content is far smaller at around 55-60%.  

OK, so, two more questions. One, what’s wrong with myrcene and humulene? And two, all fine and dandy, but isn’t the real measure how much of the oil actually ends up in your pint glass?

"Odors Compounds" chart from OSU
Click here for a larger version
 Break it down. First, on the question of the desirability of specific oils, take a look at the “Odor Compounds” chart from Oregon State University. Myrcene is described as “Green, balsamic and slightly metallic aroma). Humulene: piny/woody. Certainly nothing wrong with those descriptors.

For perspective, take a look at some of the others, such as geraniol, limonene, citral, linalool, and we come across descriptors at least this drinker tends to find a bit more appealing (rosy, fruity, citrusy, floral, orangy, etc). Anecdotally, I haven’t heard too many brewers tout either myrcene or humulene as “target oils.” Then again, we’re huge fans of Odell and I’m sure their Myrcenary Double IPA is a knock-out!

On the second question – how much of the oil makes it in your pint glass – the answer is more complex, but equally interesting. A quick bit of background first (sorry for all the parenthetical chatter!) – IH is sponsoring research on the correlation, if any, between the medium of the hop (whole flower vs four vendors’ type 90 pellets) and the relative contribution of total and specific oils when dry hopping. The results should be forthcoming soon but we’ve already observed a thing or two of the eyebrow raising variety.

Even though the whole hop has about 70% more total myrcene than a typical pellet, the amount of myrcene from the flower that is dispersed into your pint glass appears to be substantially less (5.5 ml vs ~6.5 ml). A far lower amount of myrcene is “extracted” compared to a pellet (5% compared to 17%). It appears that a big chunk of the myrcene in the whole hop is lost. (Where did it go? Another question for another day).

Do the smaller but perhaps more flavorful oil compounds exhibit similar “volatility?” Does the design of the pellet (eg. average particle size , density and diameter) influence the expression of certain desirable oil compounds? Do certain oils have a “saturation point” where, regardless of the starting point of oil quantity in the flower or pellet, when added to a beer-like solution, is there a threshold for maximum solubility? Does the design of the pellet influence the rate of oil extraction? And how does all of this potentially impact what brewers do or should do in the brewhouse?

For those answers, and more fun questions, please stay tuned. In the meantime, viva la difference! Using the scientific method, with the aid of technology, we can draw verifiable and repeatable conclusions from the data. But, as we’ve said before, even the most sophisticated palates will disagree on the description let alone desirability of the oils from the same hop as they work themselves into your pint glass. See

July 4, 2011