Bittering is crucial for a balanced beer. Cost savings and brewing efficiency are crucial for a balanced brewery budget. Davin Bartosch, co-owner and brewmaster of Wiseacre Brewing Co. in Memphis, Tenn., discussed how they achieved both via FLEX, a flowable bittering hop product derived from pure hops from HAAS. Below are some highlights, but check out the full conversation here.
Why is bittering important?
Bartosch: Bittering beer is important because anytime you have malt in beer, there’s sweetness that comes with it—and you need to balance that sweetness with bitterness. Beer’s a social beverage, so you want something that’s snappy and clears your palate, so you have to have bitterness to balance the sweetness. I think a pilsner is the epitome of balance. You want something that has sweet malt but also clears your palate really fast, and is nice and bracingly bitter as well.
What stands out about FLEX?
Bartosch: The biggest thing for me was that we liked it better—it tasted better. You ask any brewer, the preference is always going to be for what tastes better, so that was initially very attractive. After the trials, we found out that we actually save a little bit of money using it, primarily because the storage and shipping is so much less. The amount of hops that we would have to store to make the amount of bittering that we get out of FLEX is prohibitive.
You don’t often associate alpha hops with flavor, what tasted better about it?
Bartosch: With FLEX, we noticed that there’s a cleaner, more specific bitterness—less earthy vegetal bitterness. A lot of times, especially if you’re using very large loads of bittering hops, lower alpha, lots of quantity, you end up with… like a ‘cooked broccoli’ type bitterness, not a very specific bitterness. I think FLEX gives you a very specific bitterness; it’s just bitterness without flavor. We have tons of other things that provide flavor, we don’t want to muddy it up with broccoli water.
How are you saving money?
Bartosch: FLEX is much higher in alpha acids, so it’s a much more compact version of the bittering hops we’d normally use. And FLEX stores in neat, little, very stackable jugs as opposed to bags and boxes that take up a lot of space. The same thing with shipping, you can get so much more of it on a pallet than you can on traditional hops. It ends up being space for aroma hops and things like that. Cooler space is limited for everybody and being able to have more cooler space is a better situation for us.