The Other Side of the Hop: Homebrewing with Debittered Leaf

BYOB by | May 2019 | Issue #134
illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

Walk into many breweries today and it seems half of the beers use the same base malt with a different hop blend added as kettle hops. The goal: Deliver the most hop oil humanly possible straight into your mouth and nose.

Last year I wrote about new concentrated hop products like Cryo Hops and Hop Hash from Yakima Chief Hops. They certainly deliver on their promise of more aroma and flavor, but what of the subtler side of things? What about all of the other hop material that falls by the wayside in the pursuit of concentration?

In the spirit of finding use for waste, Yakima Chief released an “American Noble Debittered Leaf” version of a number of its varieties. Basically, it’s the other half of the Cryo process. Where Cryo Hops up the alpha acids (along with the oils) into the 20 percent range, the “American Nobles,” are lower—imagine Citra at 2.5 percent alpha. This leftover leaf material still has plenty of oily goodness without the big punch of bitterness.

That intrigues me. I’m burned out on the big, bold, brash, so-much-hop-oil-your-teeth-feel-coated thing we’ve got going on in the US now. I love our hop characters, but I want something different, not just more.

So here’s what I did—I made an American Saison, one that has those fruity, peppery, lovely notes of Loral. Except I was a bit more shy with them and focused on whirlpool additions to maximize oil extraction. The combined effect of their softer oil content and other leaf contributions like hop polyphenols made for something new and yet “Old World.” Yakima Chief also recommends playing with stacking Cryo and Noble together to dial in your characters, but I haven’t gotten that far yet!

Loral Canyon Saison
For 5.5 gallons at 1.058 OG | 32 IBU | 5 SRM | 6.5% ABV

7.0 lbs Pilsner malt
4.0 lbs wheat malt
0.5 lbs aromatic malt
0.5 lbs sugar

Single infusion at 150°F for 60 minutes

0.75 oz Magnum | 11.4% AA | 60 minutes
1.0 oz Loral “American Noble” | 2.3% AA | Whirlpooled 20 minutes

Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison

Open ferment at 63-65°F for 2-3 days, then raise in temperature to mid 70’s°F. When krausen falls, add airlock and ferment to terminal gravity ~7 days.