I like goofy weird things - I'm not afraid to admit
I'm also not afraid to tell you that I love novel uses of things like liquid nitrogen. I'm just jealous I didn't think of this first! The brewers at Garage Project in New Zealand decided to play with using liquid nitrogen to separate "pure" lupulin from a bunch of Nelson Sauvin hops and then use that to produce their Hop # IPA. It's fairly novel and looks fairly straightforward.
To explain the process, they crafted a loving tribute to Breaking Bad.
So what do we see here? WARNING - Liquid Nitrogen is hazardously cold (-196C/-321F). Don't be a knucklehead
- Weigh out your desired whole leaf hops
- Mix with liquid nitrogen in a safe container.
- Muddle the hops to thoroughly mix and lightly crush the hops
- Strain the hops from the LN.
- Pulverize the hops with a food processor into hop dust
- Pass the dust through a sieve to remove the less friable plant matter
- Add the resulting lupulin dust to the boil
To what effect? In their BeerAdvocate posting, they say they've used the process through the boil and yielded a smoother bitterness and delicate aroma. (Hey, aren't those the same words used by First Wort Hop advocates?) I would suspect that part of the smoothness and bitterness effect is what they attribute it to - removal of plant matter. I would also suspect that it's because you're not getting the oils and beta acids.
The method they've struck upon is much simpler than the typical supercritical CO2 process that is used to create hop extract like people find in Northern Brewer's "Hop Shots" or straight in the can from Yakima Valley Hops. For that you expose the plant matter to extremely high levels of CO2 pressure (1500-4000 p.s.i.!) and receive out the other side a thick goopy oily extract. It's potent as hell, but check out this video for why I still haven't tackled my own extractions at home. It's sorta terrifying to have that much pressure laying around in a homemade contraption.
What do you think? Would you be willing to play around with "pure lupulin"? Lord knows I'll be getting some liquid nitrogen, because why the hell not?
Edited to add - Long time Falcon and now Portlander, Russ Dragon commented on Facebook that Breakside Brewery in Portland used a very similar technique with their fresh hop beer. Doing a quick search yields this article in "The New School". And another one here from firstwefeast.com Bonus points - there's even a video
Looking at Breakside's process, they're using liquid nitrogen as a shattering agent to break open lupulin and not separating it from the green matter. Should yield a very different result, but it's still no less interesting.