As the popularity of the American IPA has reinvented the beer lover’s palate, brewers have re-invented the mechanisms through which hops are added to beer. Mostly used for dry-hopping, the process in which hops are added after the boil to contribute more aromatics than bitterness, these are a few of the devices used by brewers and even bartenders for today’s IPAs.
Drawn up on a bar napkin, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Torpedo (pictured above) helps brewers in drawing out aromas when dry-hopping with whole-cone hops. Hops are placed into a perforated cylinder within a steel shell, carbon dioxide is pumped in to remove oxygen (to prevent staling), and beer is circulated through the tank to generate maximum contact with the hops. Sierra Nevada uses this device on IPAs including Celebration and, yes, Torpedo.
The Hop Gun
Like the Torpedo, the Hop Gun (which actually looks like a rocket) helps speed the process of dry-hopping, but is more suited to the use of hop pellets. Pellets are placed on the outside of a perforated screen, then two inlets of near-finished beer create a cyclone of movement and turbulence to break the pellets up and infuse them into the near-finished beer. The beer-hop slurry is then pumped back out through the screen and mixed back into the whole batch. Tröegs Brewing Co. uses the Hop Gun on its Nugget Nectar and Hop Knife beers.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Randall is meant for draft dry-hopping more so than industrial production. Beer on its way to draft service passes through a perforated chamber full of whole-cone hops, then pours into the glass with freshly enhanced aroma. The Randall works better with higher-ABV beers than weaker ones, for alcohol helps act as a solvent. The Randall can also be used to infuse ingredients such as chilies, cocoa nibs and coffee.
The AleSmith “Dry-Hopping Vessel”
Perhaps more sexily dubbed “The Agitator,” AleSmith’s dry-hopping mechanism uses an agitator blade to rouse and mix pelletized hops and beer into a potent slurry. This expedites and amplifies the infusion of aromatics into the mixture, which is then pumped back into a full fermenter tank and infuses the entirety of the batch of beer.
The Hop Rocket
Sold by Blichmann Engineering, the Hop Rocket essentially combines the Hop Gun and the Randall into one device that can be used for both production and point-of-service dry hopping.