Brandon Capps was stuck in a brewer’s conundrum.
He wanted to make a fresh-hop IPA using whole-cone hops that would be harvested and then flown to from Washington to Colorado, where they could be immediately dumped into his boiling kettle at New Image Brewing. But he also wanted to fashion the beer as a New England-style IPA, in which a significant portion of the hops wouldn’t be added to the cooled liquid until about a week later. This process, called dry-hopping, imparts powerful flavors and aromas to a beer, but without the bitterness often associated with IPAs.
But waiting a week would defeat the purpose of using fresh hops, since the aromatic compounds begin to fade after the first 24 hours, so the beer wouldn’t be entirely fresh-hopped and would lack the singularly pungent aromas associated with whole cones.
A first-world craft-brewer problem? Yes. But making beer is an art, and Capps, who founded New Image in 2014, is one of Colorado’s most creative artists.
The answer, he decided, might be found in a newish process being pioneered by another local company, Oast House Oils, which distills the aroma-containing oils, called terpenes, out of hops so that breweries can make intense beers by using just a fraction of the ingredients. Maybe, he thought, Oast could distill the oils from the same fresh hops within 24 hours of the harvest so that Capps could use them to dry-hop the beer a week later.
The results of this experiment are two versions of a beer called Live Resin Strata Fresh Hop Hazy IPA, which will both be available today at New Image, at 5622 Yukon Street in Arvada, on tap and in cans to go.
“Terpene beers are definitely different from regular beers,” Capps says. “I’ve had some I enjoyed and some I didn’t. But I always thought they would work with fresh hop beers.” To dial in the process even further, though, Capps wanted to use the same batch of Strata hops he had selected for for both the brewing and the distilling. Other hop oils are often distilled from leftover batches of hops, so the terpenes can vary.
The results, he says, “were pretty fucking awesome. It smells like a strawberry shortcake save for the vanilla, smoked in a good [marijuana] strain — but not unpalatably dank.”
“I’ve never heard of someone doing this,” Capps continues. “It’s hard to come up with a new idea anymore, much less a new name. … For hazy IPAs, everyone can do them now, and do them well. The process is out there and available. So, we asked ourselves how we could go back to 2015 or 2016 when brewers were making big leaps and discovering how to make things that were the only thing on the market that looked or tasted like something new. The only answer is to keep trying things. So, for us, terpenes are about doing that.”
While it's likely that no other breweries have used terpenes made from fresh hops in the way that New Image did for Live Resin, a number of other brewers have experimented with the terpenes in hop oils.
In Colorado, Station 26 Brewing has been working with terpenes for several years now, and last December, Telluride Brewing began working with Oast House Oils on a dedicated series of canned terpene beers called Galloping Juice. Each one of the Galloping Juice IPAs — there have been five so far — uses a different hop variety or combination for dry-hopping.
The first took just 36 pounds of hops to create the Cashmere hop terpenes needed for the beer. At the time, Telluride Brewing co-owner and head brewer Chris Fish said terpenes could be game changing, not just for the aromatics and flavors of the beer, but for sustainability when it comes to growing fewer hops. “In my career, I’ve never seen something so familiar, but revolutionary to the way beer is made.”
Telluride and Oast House debuted the beers at the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival in Breckenridge in January 2020, as Oast House creator Rob Kevwitch, the former head brewer at Grist Brewing, walked around, allowing people to sniff the oils.
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“Our 100-percent pure terpene extraction process allows brewers to put back into the beer only what is desired: pure flavor and aroma,” he said then. “Working with Telluride Brewing Company, a trusted, smaller-scale brewery with a history of producing incredible beer, means that our terpenes are incorporated to perfection.”
For Capps, though, the oils are more about pushing the limits of flavor and aroma than they are about hops as a resource. Live Resin is the fifth terpene beer that New Image has brewed (others included an Italian pilsner and versions of its Single By Choice and Coriolis Effect IPAs), and he plans to keep working on new ones.
“There is so much potential,” he adds. For instance, “we could make a lower-ABV beer that tastes like an 8 percent double IPA with that mind blowing drinkability.”
Live Resin will be sold in two versions, a hazy New England-style IPA and a more bitter West Coast IPA. Both weigh in at about 7.5 percent ABV.