What Is Lupulin Powder and Why Are Brewers Obsessing Over It?

Thank your lucky stars if you’re an IPA fan.

lupulin

For Other Half, lupulin powder gives beers a “cleaner, smoother flavor and a real brightness.”

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There’s no better time to stop and smell the IPAs. Not to mention drink them, too, especially if you’re a fan of orange juice. That’s because many of today’s ballyhooed IPAs are New England in style, possessing characteristics akin to pulpy fresh-squeezed OJ. The hazy appearance. The lush citrus and tropical flavors and aromas. The peach-skin-soft mouthfeel. The crushability. Moreover, there is a lower perceived bitterness—a harsh hallmark of the IPA of the early millennium.

Simply put, the New England-style IPA is craft beer’s Cronut. Loons queue for hours at breweries like Other Half in Carroll Gardens to buy these usually highly-limited nectars fresh in 16-ounce cans—which, in addition to being delicious, are also viewed as currency in online beer circles. The New England-style IPA has grabbed aficionados by the neck(beard) and captivated a new generation of beer drinkers that won’t even consider a hoppy pale that’s not opaque AF with a bouquet evoking a bowl of ripe citrus. And if that wasn’t enough, in recent months a growing number of the style’s brewers have been amplifying its adored flavor characteristics using a new hop product called lupulin powder.

Cradle a fresh hop flower in your palms and gently rub them together, separating the green leaves from the fine yellow powder inside. That soft stuff is called “lupulin,” and it contains all of the resin compounds and essential oils responsible for imparting hop flavor and aroma to beer. Lupulin powder, also referred to as dust, is thus a purified concentration of those compounds and oils. By removing the leafy plant material, brewers can dose large quantities of hops to achieve intense hop flavor and aroma without introducing the undesired astringent or vegetal flavors. It also increases yield, as traditional pellets and whole-leaf hops act like sponges, green matter soaking up precious beer.

Available in a handful of hop varieties, lupulin powder is best employed during dry-hopping, or the process of adding hops to the beer after the wort‘s been boiled to intensify fragrances and flavors, not bitterness. Dry-hopping has gotten so popular that many brewers of New England-style IPA are now employing two rounds of this amplification and denoting it by adding “double dry-hopped,” or DDH.

Thirsty yet? Here are three new IPAs hopped exclusively or primarily with lupulin powder you can find now, as well as their Brooklyn brewers’ experiences using it.

Other Half Brewing Company
195 Centre St., Carroll Gardens
Lupulin powder-hopped beer: DDH Powdered Cheese

Four new beers for this weekends release. Starting at 10am on Saturday 6/24 we will be releasing Powdered Cheese, DDH Powdered Cheese, DDH Double Mosaic Daydream and Watch It Fall Slowly. Powdered Cheese Imperial IPA(8%) brewed with our friend Drew from @18thstreetbrewery is our first 100% lupulin powder beer. Brewed with Citra, Simcoe and Tomahawk lupulin powder. $18 per 4 pack, 1 case per person. DDH Powdered Cheese Imperial IPA(8%) is the same as above but with a huge charge of extra Citra lupulin powder. $20 per 4 pack, 1 case per person. DDH Double Mosaic Daydream Oat Cream Imperial IPA(8.5%) is similar to Double Mosaic Dream but brewed with oats and lactose sugar. Mosaic at it's juiciest and creamiest. $20 per 4 pack, 1 case per person. Watch It Fall Slowly Pilsner(4.9%) is a non-traditionally hopped Pils with Citra, Palisade and Huell Melon hops and brewed with floor malted pils and oats. $16 per 4 pack, 1 case per person.

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Sam Richardson, brewmaster and co-founder: “For me and everyone I talk to who’s used it, we think it’s a less stable product. A beer hopped with 100 percent powder, the aromas and flavors drop off quicker than with pellets. So we like to use a mix of pellets and powder. Pellets keep the hop compounds in suspension longer, so the aromas and flavors stay longer. And they have different flavor profiles. Powder gives you a cleaner, smoother flavor and a real brightness. It takes beers that are already nice and hoppy and adds a really bright layer to it.”

Interboro Spirits & Ales
942 Grand St., East Williamsburg
Lupulin powder-hopped beer: Humlerridderne

Humler humler! Humleridderne DIPA tonight in cans and on draft… Come on in! Open til 11pm

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Jesse Ferguson, brewer, distiller and co-founder: “The first beer we did with dust was East Coast Overdose. That came out awesome. Since then there hasn’t been an IPA we’ve made without dust. So yeah, I’m all in. The beers taste better, more pungent, and as an IPA brewer that’s what you want. Look, if you’re going to play the IPA game today—and I don’t see too many breweries not playing—you have to be up to snuff. The competition is fierce. You can’t say you make IPAs and make a bullshit IPA.”

Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co.
7 N 15th St., Greenpoint
Lupulin powder-hopped beer: Yellow Cake

Erik Olsen, head brewer: “The yields for our batches have increased up to 20 percent. And we’ve noticed less of the vegetal, ‘cut grass’ notes you get from using a lot of traditional pellets. Overall the beer is cleaner, with a brighter profile, and has tons of suspended hop oils. Plus the bittering potential of powder is twice what it would be for the same weight in pellet, so a little goes a long way.”

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Niko Krommydas has written for Tasting Table, BeerAdvocate, Munchies, and First We Feast. He is editor of Craft Beer New York, an app for the iPhone, and a columnist for Yankee Brew News. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.