Freshly picked hops are traditionally known to have an excellent aroma and taste. The Christmas beer used to be an example of this.
During previous harvests we tasted how to store the hops optimally: gently pressed, cooled in the fridge or in the freezer at -18°c. The latter of course produced the best results, but there were still losses, especially in the field of essential oils. These oils contain very volatile substances providing exactly that specific aroma when we refer to the term 'fresh hops'.
When we pelletize the hops during the picking within 24 hours:
• We can raise the quality to a higher level.
• We no longer need to dry the hops again which saves electricity and diesel.
• We can reduce transport costs by half.
• The harvest is available to the brewer within 24 hours.
We aim to maintain the highest quality while using a minimum of energy. Together with the Proefbrouwerij from Lochristi, we fine-tuned the pelletisation process during the harvest by measuring sample sizes by variety and bitter acids, hop oils and the Hop Storage Index.
Processing the hops during picking brings the quality of the hops to unsurpassed levels. For the smaller Belgian companies this is achievable. Because of the fast processing, the hops contain fewer oxidation components and there is less loss of bitter substances and hop oil (aroma). The brewer has to add less hops to get the same (or even better - because of the lower degree of oxidation) result.
Drying, pressing, storage in the open air, pelletising and packaging must be done with the necessary expertise, but nevertheless the quality during these processes diminishes, as it has already been shown that after one month the hop oils decrease by 25%. Direct pelletisation can exclude certain steps and reduces the risk of deterioration.
As the pelletisation of the dried hops is carried out in 3 steps during picking, the impact on the environment is considerable: the hops are no longer pressed, stored in refrigerators or dried again. Transportation is also reduced as we only have to transport ¼ of the pressed quantity.
We can convince Belgian brewers even more to buy high quality hops locally.
The uniqueness worldwide benefits the Belgian reputation of the beer abroad. This makes the Belgian hop grower an important player for the success of Belgian beer.
This project was realised in collaboration with the Proefbrouwerij from Lochristi that carries out the analyses, the Innovation Support Point that guides us through the difficulties associated with innovation and the Vlaams Landbouwinvesteringsfonds that offers the farmer a financial boost to turn a dream into reality and which is subsequently available to all hop colleagues to apply for a subsidy for the same investment.