Craft Brewers Go Hi-Tech

craft hop

The dirty secret behind today’s IPAs: There’s little dirty about them. Brewers are sourcing their signature bitterness in sterile labs, not muddy hop fields.

The hop plant contains oils and resins that give beer its bite; lab-made extracts of those flavorful and bitter oils and resins were once relegated to Big Beer’s industrial toolbox, while craft brewers stuck to cramming whole cones of the hop vine into the brewing kettle. No more. Not that industrial hop extraction is anything new. In the 1870s, the New York Hop Extract Company supplied brewers with hop resins made by soaking flowers in gasoline. Today, labs use liquid CO2 as a solvent, boiling hops to extract oils and then venting the gas away. The liquid that remains is clean, shelf-stable and concentrated, easy to preserve and to ship. “Extracts have better longevity [than raw hops], particularly in countries with developing logistics or harsher climates,” said Alex Barth, CEO of John I. Haas.

Still, the new wave of extraction is small. Robert Bourne of Extractz makes variety-specific extractions in an Ohio garage. He supplies a few local brewers but admitted he’s on the fringes: “It’s more of a home-brew thing.” Even when they come from a garage, extracts haven’t quite shed their industrial associations. The Hop Stoopid label shows a rustic barn; the fine print proclaims the “mountain of extracts” in the beer. “People read the label and call us up saying they won’t drink it,” says brewmaster Jeremy Marshall . “They think it’s some industrial, nonnatural thing.” Others maintain that whether from a leaf or a vial, flavor trumps all.

Read more here.

England’s Restaurant Business ‘Regrexit’

Bibo-Restaurant-Lounge-Substance-1

Add this to the roughly 1 million bad things the U.K’s “Leave” coalition should’ve seen coming: Brexit is having a adverse effect on England’s restaurant industry. In a story today featuring reporting by chief restaurant critic Richard Vines, Bloomberg essentially gave prominent restaurateurs free rein to grumble about their compatriots’ vote to leave the EU, and they say business is already getting hammered in this post-Brexit world where “bean-counters keep closer tabs on expense accounts, a weak pound raises prices of imported food, and eateries struggle to hire workers from the EU.”

The country’s dining scene had actually been doing pretty well up till now, too — Bloomberg says the number of restaurants jumped by 21 percent over the past five years. But even in advance of the vote, sales growth industry-wide nose-dived by half. One restaurant group immediately scrapped multi-million-pound plans to buy four pubs in Scotland. Stats show there’s been 12 percent less corporate credit-card spending since the referendum, while many chefs worry the worst is yet to come because they fear already-costly products like Spanish jamón ibérico are going to climb even higher. Richard Corrigan, a celebrated chef, expects the price of French wine to jump by 15 percent and so has given staff very clear instructions to stock up on the Bordeaux.

Read more here.