Podcast Episode 133: New Belgium’s Ross Koenigs Takes an Analytical Approach to Hops and Cannabis

Biotransformation is not just real, it’s measurable, says New Belgium's hops-focused innovation brewer in this deep dive into the mechanics of hops aroma and flavor.

Jamie Bogner May 4, 2020


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Hazy IPA is all the rage, but what’s actually going on when brewers pile pounds per gallon of dry hops into a tank still in active fermentation? It’s one thing to take the idea for a spin in a homebrew-scale fermentor; it’s riskier and costlier to do it in a 15-, 30-, or even 60-barrel setup. So what would happen if you filled a 1,700-barrel fermentor with hazy wort and an enormous pitch of Wyeast London Ale III, then dry hopped with pellets that measure as much as a ton?

New Belgium Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, reduces the guesswork and risk by taking a highly analytical approach, looking at how compounds in hops undergo transformation through the fermentation and dry-hopping process. In this episode, Ross Koenigs, New Belgium’s Brewing Innovation Specialist, dives deep into what the brewery has learned through extensive, quantitative testing throughout the hopping and biotransformation process. Additionally, he discusses everything from their innovation process, from the challenge of scaling for production; the impacts of lesser-known hops compounds (such as polyfunctional thiols) on hops flavor and aroma; how biotransformation impacts specific hops like Citra, Mosaic, and Chinook; how California ale yeast makes for the perfect biotransforming yeast; and much, much more.

Koenigs is currently working on a book about brewing with Cannabis (that’s capital-C Cannabis the plant, including industrial hemp), and teases some of what New Belgium has learned in developing their groundbreaking beer The Hemperor. The episode closes with a discussion of New Belgium’s new Sour IPA, and the process behind designing a juicy, hazy IPA that is then blended with soured golden ale from New Belgium’s famed foeder forest. Timing and acidity levels are crucial in maintaining ideal hops expression in these beers.

This episode is brought to you by:

G&D Chillers: As the brewing industry’s premier choice for glycol chilling, G&D Chillers has set the standard on quality, service, and dedication to their customer’s craft. For 25 years G&D has led the way on innovative solutions that match their brewing customers immediate and future needs. With a wide selection of custom built chillers; G&D offers the Nano chiller, the perfect solution for Nano breweries all the way up to their larger capacity units like the Vertical Air Chiller, built for higher volume operations. Contact G&D Chillers today for your chiller sizing needs at 800.555.0973. Reach out online at Gdchillers.com

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Old Orchard supplies craft juice blends from the heart of Beer City USA. As the industry blending experts, they supply major national brands and growing breweries alike. They've been the best-kept juicy secret in craft beverage for years, but now the secret's out. Breweries across the board are experiencing a seamless transition to Old Orchard as their new juice supplier. So hop aboard the Old Orchard fruit train; their sample kit starter pack is waiting for you at www.oldorchard.com/brewer.

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This episode is brought to you by Hopsteiner–your premium hop supplier dedicated to delivering quality hops and hop products in every package. Visit Hopsteiner.com for a complete list of offerings or select “shop hops” to start ordering today.

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Fermentis is the obvious choice for beverage fermentation. They’ve provided the beer industry, from large and small breweries to homebrewers, with the best fermentation yeasts since 2003. Their yeasts are easy to use—just pitch your Fermentis yeast directly into your wort, no rehydration necessary. To learn more about how Fermentis can improve the quality of your fermentation, and for the latest on their exciting new product releases, visit Fermentis.com.

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This episode is brought to you by Brewers Publications, publishers of “Small Brewery Finance” by Maria Pearman, “How to Brew” by John Palmer, and the forthcoming “Historical Brewing Techniques” by Lars Marius Garshol. Established in 1986, Brewers Publications has published more than 50 books of enduring value for amateur and professional brewers alike. Visit BrewersPublications.com today to browse the complete catalog of books and ebooks.

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].