Could freezing hops lead to tastier beer?
BOISE, Idaho (AP) A South Dakota man is trying to convince a skeptical mix of hops farmers, food-freezing companies and brewers that he has a way to a produce a tastier beer.
The Idaho Business Review reports that Steve Polley through his company Dakota Hops wants to become a distributor of frozen hops grown in southwestern Idaho.
"It's almost as if no one had ever tried freezing a hop," said Polley.
Idaho produces about 8 percent of the total U.S. yield, according to the USDA's 2011 national hops report.
Polley said freezing the hops will preserve more flavor for breweries and result in a higher quality beer. He's been working with the Deschutes Brewery in Oregon to test his hops on some different batches.
But farmers say they're concerned freezing will turn the hops mushy.
"I'm not going to bad-mouth them and say it won't ever work," said Diane Hass, a hops grower at Gooding Farms near Parma. "Maybe it will, but they have a lot of proving to do."
Food processing specialist Jeff Kronenberg at Boise State University said higher-quality freezing using liquid nitrogen could work, but commercial freezer owners will likely be unwilling to bring in aromatic hops that could taint other food.
"Liquid nitrogen is very expensive," Kronenberg said. "It is the highest-quality freezing technology. It is used on really fragile foods, like strawberries."
Polley said Dakota Hops has used some liquid nitrogen freezing at a 20-acre organic hops farm near Wilder. But he said they don't have the ability to freeze and package enough hops to make it profitable.
The last step in the process is to find a buyer for frozen hops. Besides the Deschutes Brewery, he's trying to find other breweries open to the idea of using frozen hops.
"I know we have a very long learning curve in convincing the hop (growing) people this will work, but we will have an easier time convincing the brewery people," Polley said.