Like it says on the can, while each brew we create is in partnership with our awesome hop providers, this new beer is particularly special, because we got to work with a friend who’s now part of the Yakima Chief Hops family!
The YCH crew came around briefly this past spring to visit us, but this is the very first time that we’ve had the chance to collaborate with one of our hop providers directly. We chatted with Production Planning & Specialty Brewing Manager Brian Hink, Brewer Mike McGrath, and Culinary Ops & Cellarperson JP Thomas about how the collaboration went and what they think of this new hop.
Prior to joining the Yakima Chief Hops team earlier this year, our new rep Josh Wurzbacher was a brewer with Yards, a team right in our backyard that we’ve known and worked with for quite some time!
He was excited to come join us for a brew day, and we were stoked to have another brewer on the brewhouse floor to geek out with.
“It was nice to talk shop, eat some grains, smell the hops, and hang out in the brewhouse together. He got some pizzas for everyone afterwards, so we all hung out in the breakroom after work and had a beer. After all, what’s a collab if you’re not drinking a beer?” Brian says with a smile.
Collabs are still tough in COVID times. Previously, we’ve worked with whole teams for multiple days, but this was still a great experience to get to host Josh in our brewhouse for the day.
“Yakima Chief donated a lot of hops for this collab,” Brian says. “Cryo Pop is a new hop we’ve never used before, and the other is a trial hop, HBC586, that we’ve used in some experimental batches in the past.”
This new Cryo Pop hop doesn’t just have a cool name, though.
“Cryo Pop is a blend of hops for them, and it’s a blend of hop components to showcase survivable hop compounds and get nothing but the pure, raw hop character into the beer,” Brian says.
As for the experimental hop, HBC586, part of the reason that it’s unnamed is that it’s still in the trial phase.
As Brian tells us, officially named hops are often years in the making. We’re talking decades, even. After all, when a new batch or varietal is created, you have to make sure that it’s viable and replicable year after year and that it can create a steady, consistent character.
“For them to release an experimental hop like this, it’s often already at least five or even ten years in the making,” Brian shares.
“All of those hops that everyone knows now--Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic--they all got their start as a random number,” he says.
(Ed. note: Fun fact! Did you know Citra currently takes up the most hop acreage in the U.S.?)
If the thought of a hop brand taking decades to come to fruition is difficult to grasp, Brian compares the process to something similar: types of apples, many of which often are twenty years in the making in order to become the Fuji and Honeycrisps that we know today.
There are definitely ways to try out these experimental hops while they’re in development, though, whether that’s using them in a Tasting Room-only release, a one-off, or even trying out how well they play with others as part of a double dry-hop.
September is a special time for this release, too.
“It’s not coincidental that this is coming out while hops selection is going on,” Brian says. “That way we can share it with YCH and some other brewers.”
Yakima Chief is by far our largest supplier of hops, and we contract out large quantities of Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, Sabro, Comet, Motueka, and others from them.
While we normally fly out to Yakima Valley for hop selection ourselves, just like last year, we’ll be checking out the hop samples from home this time. Keep an eye out for that coverage soon!
After chatting with Brian about some of the recent environmental effects on hops (which we’ll explore later in another blog), we headed into the brewhouse to catch Mike McGrath and JP Thomas.
We spotted Mike first, brewing up some Mop Water. Mike and Josh worked together directly on the hot side to brew up psYCHed up!.
“Josh is comfortable with the whole brewing process since he worked at Yards for a while,” Mike says. “He was on the deck with me the whole time asking me questions.”
“He’s basically like a Cape May alumni now,” Mike says with a smile.
For Mike, this was one of the first times that he worked on a collaboration with a fellow brewer, which is pretty cool!
“He was talking about his new job at Yakima and all the things he does now,” he says. “He talked about the different places he was going and some other collabs for this particular hop.”
“I think people will really like this one. It’s very drinkable,” Mike says.
“It definitely turned out exactly how Josh said it would,” he says, referring to the new Cryo Pop hop.
“The whole cryo process for this new hop leaves behind all of the vegetal matter, like the stems and leaves, leaving behind the extreme aromas and flavors from the hop,” he explains.
“A lot of our hoppier beers are smooth, but I feel like this one is extremely smooth and drinkable,” he says.
“It’s tropical and citrusy. I got more of the, not the bitterness of grapefruit, but the fruitier, danker aspects of grapefruit,” he says. “I really liked that. It almost reminded me of Galaxy hops.”
While we used some of the hops on the brew side, much of them came through on the dry-hop side, which is JP Thomas’ domain!
“I dry-hopped it. It was a nightmare,” JP says, in his typical Roy Kent-esque demeanor. “There’s no vegetable matter in it, because it’s a lupulin hop, so it’s all just the crystals. There’s no bitterness. When it goes through the dry-hopper, it grinds up the hops, so without that sediment, it just grinds the stickiness up. It was horrible. Way too hoppy. Pain in the ass.”
(Ed. note: Ok, so there was a bit of a learning curve trying out this new hop, but the final product is pretty great, right?)
“It tastes hoppy. It’s strong. There’s no bitterness, so that’s nice. There’s a really good mouthfeel,” he says.
“It has a really nice, pillowy mouthfeel. It’s like velvet, whereas most beers are clean and crisp like water,” JP says. “I think that’s from that Cryo Pop hop.”
“It’s nice; it’s a nice drinking beer,” he says with a shrug.
“It’s tropical. It has almost a mango-apricot aspect to it. It’s not pineapple and coconut, like you usually see with tropical flavors,” he says. “There are some peach notes, too.”
It’s pretty rare for a hoppy beer to get some praise from JP, who’s more of a fan of our brown beers now. We don’t know about you, but this makes us really excited to try it out!
If you’re looking to grab a 4-pack of psYCHed up! for yourself, this New England-style IPA will only be available for a limited time in our Cape May Tasting Room.