Area Hopping – A tincture of Wild Hops

IN

Mark found hops growing wild on the Galloway coast near his home.

This is unusual in Scotland, however hops can be found growing wild more frequently in England and locations around the world endowed with longer daylight hours and less erratic temperature shifts.

Hops are currently one of the trendiest ingredients in craft bartending thanks to the craft beer movement. As these were wild hops I unfortunately did not know the specific strain, however I immediately saw potential in the incredibly full-bodied, chocolatey aroma. I called upon my friend Jehad Hatu from Glasgow-based progressive craft beer popup Grunting Growler for help with identification, and he found the same coffee and chocolate notes, as well as a distinctly ‘cheesy’ aroma, before explaining the balance of alpha and beta acids within the chemical structure of hops and the huge effect this can have on your end product.

Bitterness is much sought-after in cocktails, with classic ‘bitters’ such as Angostura being used from the early days of the art.  They are heralded by bartenders for the complexity and depth they can provide in a single dash. These wild hops, led by categoric bitterness, suggested the potential to be used in a similar vein. Their aromatic depth was striking, with bright, soft, autumn-fruit notes bursting from underneath the darker prevalent flavours.

To process the hops, I first placed them in the dehydrator at 35 degrees for 48 hours, turning twice daily. This ensured that they were fully dried and suitable for use and storage,  It eliminated the risk of mould, wilting or a rancidness that can be found if hops are left wet. I had a good harvest, so I vacuum packed and froze the excess for use at a later date.

When making drinks, particularly in a bar environment, consistency is one of my greatest concerns. To produce an ingredient from these beauties I wanted to ensure that the process is easily replicable so I set out to make a tincture that would capture their best qualities.

My recipe for a basic hops tincture is constructed from one found in ‘Liquid Intelligence’

My recipe for a basic hops tincture is constructed from one found in ‘Liquid Intelligence‘, the new book from trendsetting chef-turned-mixologist Dave Arnold.

In it, he explains that the breakdown of the alpha acids within the hops when boiled creates an incredibly bitter final compound, but the loss of their delicate aromatics.  It is however possible to adjust the processing to control the character of your final tincture – cold processing will produce a heavily aromatic, less bitterend product while hot processing will result in a strikingly bitter tincture with little to no aromatic quality.

Alternatively, using both methods and infusing the liquid in two stages (one for aromatics, one for bitterness) proved to have the best results for Dave, and gave the best results for me too.

Hops Tincture:

Ingredients:

  • 50grams dried wild hops (into two piles – one 30g one 20g)
  • 250ml High-proof neutral spirit

Equipment:

  • iSi Siphon  with three N20 Chargers

Process:

  1. Combine hops & neutral spirit in iSi siphon
  2. Charge with one N20 charger
  3. Shake for 10 seconds to disperse N20 around siphon
  4. Place in simmering water for 30mins, heating the compounded ingredients inside
  5. Move into iced water bowl to chill to room temperature
  6. Vent siphon to expel N20
  7. Open siphon & add additional 30g hops, re-adding any lost liquid from venting
  8. Charge twice with n20 to further ‘rapid-infuse’ cold hops, shaking each charge for ten seconds.
  9. Allow to rest in siphon for 1hr, agitating lightly throughout
  10. Vent siphon & strain compound through Chemex or any good coffee filter
  11. Bottle!

Note: Dave Arnold recommends storing the tincture in the dark, as light may cause a photochemical reaction that can quickly ‘skunk’ your precious liquid!

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