We live in the age of the Internet, a time of seemingly limitless connectivity, access to information, and technological advances that outpace comprehension, so it no surprise that staying ahead of trends in the brewing industry requires constant attention to emerging technologies and research.
Over the last several decades there have been endless studies into the curiosities of the hop plant and the enormous impact hops have had on craft brewing, particularly in America. With new varietal development focusing on the creation of compounds that we perceive to impart bold tropical fruits flavors and aroma, the never-ending question of which compound is most effective and, therefore, most valuable to this end has driven innovation for years.
In recent years there has been a greater focus among hop researchers around bio-transformative compounds in hops, as well as other ingredients, that may be giving certain varietals an edge over others in the production of tropical flavors. Much of this research has centered around a group of compounds referred to as thiols, which produce unique and potent characteristics of exotic tropical fruit. Several of the most popular varietals of the last decade, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, Nelson, and Mosaic, include thiol precursors, compounds that can be transformed into thiols via biotransformation during fermentation, as well as free thiols, aroma active compounds that are soluble in beer. The presence of these compounds, alongside the complex array of terpenes and other essential oils present in several of these hops seem to give these varietals an edge when creating fruit-forward beers such as American IPAs.
Very recently, a company has emerged to create a product that focuses on increasing the content of thiol precursors in beer to promote intensified aromas of tropical fruit, especially in hoppy beers. The product is a powder derived from New Zealand Marlborough Sauv Blanc grapes which are rich in thiol precursors that are known for creating aromas of citrus, guava, and passion fruit. This product, called Phantasm, created by a company of the same name, has been incredibly allocated during its development but has finally become more widely available for experimentation amongst brewers.
We plan to use Phantasm in a variety of beers to see the greatest effect of experimentation, but for this first release, we wanted to focus on a beer that would combine as many thiol precursors and free thiol rich ingredients as possible, thus, Hella Phantastic was born. For this beer, we primarily used a wheat base to impart a soft and subtly sweet mouthfeel, New Zealand Cascade, which is known to contain one of the highest thresholds of thiol precursor, Nelson Sauvin, a varietal known to have high concentrations of free thiols and a custom blend from Freestyle Farms called “The Betty” which is their blend focused around thiol concentrated varietals. We added Phantasm to the whirlpool and an early dry hop addition to give this beer an extra boost and the result is a tropical fruit-forward beer, unlike any IPA we’ve made before.
We’re very excited about the ever-expanding universe of hop products available to us for experimentation as well as to share the results with you all and learn how to best use them as they become available."