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Cryo Hops seem to be popping up everywhere right now, and if you’re anything like me, you love to learn about a new hop! So let’s dive into our Cryo hops guide to see what exactly are they, where they came from, how they’re made, and why they matter.
What Are Cryo Hops?
The word ‘Cryo’ is inspired by the Greek word for ‘frost’: ‘kryos.’ Cryo Hop was coined by the company Yakima Chief in 2014 as the company began developing what we now know as the Cryo Hop. The product is a lupulin-rich powder or pellet derived from hops, used for brewing beer.
Step One: Lupulin
Before we discuss Cryo Hops specifically, we need to address lupulin. Lupulin is an oil found in all hops, which gives them that gorgeous signature hop scent and flavor that all of us IPA drinkers can’t get enough of.
Hops are the green buds that most people are going to recognize easily nowadays. But the hops green matter (or leaves) is just the beginning of flavor. The buds contain yellow lupulin glands, which look a lot like pollen and are exposed when you peel back the green leaves of the hops. That lupulin is really the objective of harvesting hops for beer because it contains such an immense amount of flavor. The leaves of the hops bring vegetal and grassy notes and often astringency to the beer.
So even before Cryo Hops were developed, hop sellers would sell their hops at a ratio of lupulin to what they call ‘green matter,’ meaning those green leaves pictured above. They specify the ratio with the format: T-55, for example, indicating how much lupulin to green matter is involved. The ‘T’ stands for ‘type,’ and the number which follows tells you how much green matter is in this particular package. So if you have a T-65 package of hops, that means that you have 65% green matter and 35% lupulin.
So while Cryo Hops are relatively new, the practice of upping the amount of lupulin to green matter in hops for better beer production has been around for a long time with the ‘type’ system.
In 2014 Yakima Chief coined the term ‘Cryo Hops’ and began production to make a concentrated pellet to fill the void of green matter to lupulin ratio. The goal of this project was to concentrate as much flavor and aroma into one product as possible. In 2016, Cryo Hops officially launched and saw an immediate demand in the brewing market. Everyone wanted to get their hands on this tiny flavor bomb. And they still do!
How is it Made?
Cryo Hops are made by many different companies utilizing different techniques to make their best version of these pellets or powder.
The reason why Yakima Chief named Cryo Hops after the Greek word for frost is that their process begins with freezing the hops to sub-zero temperatures. Next, they are able to break up the hops easily and can sift and separate the lupulin from the vegetal green matter more efficiently than if it were at room temperatures.
This process of bringing hops down to below freezing temperature in order to more easily separate the lupulin from the green matter is fairly universal in the Cryo Hop creation. From there, it’s all about how the company chooses to sift and separate the green matter from the lupulin.
Some companies make their Cryo Hop in pellet form, and some choose powder. This is up to the producers, and the preference depends on the brewer.
Did you know that hops were added to beer in the 1820s to better preserve the beer as it traveled via the East India Trading Company for six months to India? The bitterness of an India Pale Ale or IPA (yes, named after this journey it was created for) came from the hops, whose only role in beer at that time was to keep it from turning bad in the disgusting, hot hulls of the East India Trading Company’s ships.
That we moved away from the overly bitter and gravitated towards bitter but grapefruit bitter, and hoppy but citrus juicy hoppy, makes perfect sense. We are always refining and reforming our palates and our IPAs. Cryo Hops is a natural migration for our taste buds and the efficiency of the brewing process.
Why Are Cryo Hops So Popular With Brewers and Drinkers?
As discussed earlier in the article, naturally grown hops yield very little lupulin, and lupulin is what gives beer its hoppy flavor. This problem means that farmers and brewers need to grow and purchase more and more hops to keep up with the demand of the craft beer explosion in America right now. Cryo Hops helps solve that problem by concentrating the flavors of the lupulin into pellets or powder. So as far as the farmers and the brewers are concerned: this helps solve the issue of keeping up with demand. You can make more beer with fewer hops.
Furthermore, the leaves of the hops tend to absorb the beer in the brewing process. Cryo hops eliminate that issue, making the brewing process that much more efficient. Again: more beer with fewer hops.
As far as drinkers grow, they’re going to taste the difference of the concentrated flavor of a Cryo Hop beer. Cryo Hops have the ability to shine through a beer in a way that other hops do not. Of course, because hoppy beers tend to be IPA’s, Cryo Hops really do best in an IPA, where their hoppy burst of flavor makes sense and is wanted.
And to reiterate that the vegetative leaves in hops that won’t be present in a Cryo Hopped beer, those leaves tend to create an astringent taste. Removing them from the equation removes the astringency factor in your IPA. Pretty cool stuff!
The flavor profile of a Cryo Hop will vary with the hops used to produce the powder or pellet. Still, because it is a hop and used to enhance IPAs, you’re going to get the signature IPA flavors you’re accustomed to.
So for flavors from the Cryo, expect juicy, hoppy, resinous, and a little bitter. The degree of bitterness, citrus, juiciness, etc.. will all vary with the hop varietal you’ve chosen. All those flavors will be enhanced or muted depending on what the brewer wants you to get from their beer.
Still, the flavor difference is noticeable, to say the least. Cryo Hops are nothing short of flavor bombs, well worth giving them a try whether you’re just tasting a new beer or looking for a new home brewing project.
How to Brew with Cryo Hops
For those of you homebrewers, Cryo Hops is a different game. Many homebrewers enjoy that there is no vegetal matter to deal with during their brewing process. As discussed earlier, the leaves of the hops tend to absorb beer and can be really difficult to work with when dry-hopping. Cryo won’t do that, so you won’t experience a loss of beer during your brewing process. Who doesn’t love that?
What Are Some Cryo Hop Beers To Try?
- HDHC All Citrus Everything by Trillium Brewing Company utilizes three different Citra Hops, one of which is Citra Cryo, in this collaboration with Other Half. This double IPA is full of citrus and pineapple with a strong hoppy profile, all without being overly bitter.
- Mosaic Cryo and Simcoe Cryo by Other Half is 100% lupulin powder. This is a great IPA to try as you dip your toes into the Cryo Hop pool. It will certainly show you what Cryo Hops can do, entirely on their own! (Spoiler alert: it’s delicious!)
- Drop To Dakota by Alvarado Street Brewery. A double IPA brewed with Vic Secret, New Zealand Cascade, Centennial, & Mosaic Cryo Hop; this is a citrus-forward with papaya, guava, and kiwi-strawberry notes.
- High Vibration by Collective Arts Brewing. This double IPA was made with Cryo Ekuanot, Idaho 7, Hallertau Blanc hops for a big, bitter taste with pineapple and papaya notes. The fruit-forward hoppiness from the hop blend gives the bitterness that makes it a balanced but flavorful double IPA.
How Can I Find More Cryo Hop Beers?
Most breweries will have search engines on their websites. If you search ‘Cryo,’ you should be able to easily find their selection. You can order beers online through websites and apps or check out your local liquor store for their selection! I’m sure if you ask for something specific, they’d be happy to order it for you!
Question: How do I store my Cryo Hops?
Answer: By storing any hops in an airtight container in the freezer, you can extend their lifespan up to four times.
Question: Do you use less Cryo Hops when homebrewing since they’re so flavorful?
Answer: Some sources do recommend using less, but some say not to. At the end of the day, it really depends on what you’re looking for in the beer. I’d recommend experimenting with different amounts and seeing what works for you.
Question: Where can I buy Cryo Hops?
Answer: I recommend only reputable sellers. If you already have a hops supplier that you like and trust but who doesn’t carry Cryo Hops, ask them if they recommend someone who does. If you don’t, Yakima Chief has a large selection and coined the term ‘Cryo Hops,’ so that’s a good place to start!
Question: Are Cryo Hops more expensive since they’re manufactured?
Answer: Yes. But wait, don’t run away yet! Think about it: you’re paying more for a concentrated version of the hops you want. You will waste less beer because there won’t be the vegetable matter sucking up the beer in the process, and you won’t be tossing all that green matter that isn’t contributing to the flavor or aroma. The lupulin has the flavor, and that’s really what you’re getting with Cryo Hops, and it’s what you’re paying for.
Question: Do Cryo Hops have any additives we should know about?
Answer: Do the research as this could be an issue with an unreliable supplier. The supplier should be able to tell you exactly what’s in their Cryo Hops, and it shouldn’t be anything but natural. If you see something that doesn’t look right, then take your business elsewhere.
Question: What hop varietals can I get in Cryo Hops?
Answer: There’s a huge selection available! You can get Citra, Mosaic, Azacca, Simcoe, and Cascade, to name a few. Again, it depends on your supplier, but it’s a huge, exciting world out there!
Cryo Hops: My Final Thoughts
The first time I heard about Cryo Hops, I was not interested. I have always been a purist, uninterested in rapidly aged whiskies using pressure, for example. I saw Cryo Hops as something like that: a manmade shortcut to brewing a proper beer.
I was wrong.
Cryo Hops are simply a manmade solution to the demands of our current brewing industry. Experts have figured out how to safely isolate and extract flavor in an efficient manner that creates less waste.
Furthermore, the methods for producing Cryo Hops does not (or rather, should not) introduce any unnatural or toxic ingredients. The process is to separate the flavor bombs of lupulin and give the buyer more of that than the wasteful vegetal matter.
And that’s not even taking into consideration how much Cryo Hops can make their respective hop flavors pop. These powerful pellets and potent powders bring the house down with flavor upon flavor. In short, I recommend it.