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Monday, April 15, 2024
Unique frost-hopped beer on tap at NC Teaching Brewery


What started as an unexpected crop loss for hop-grower Mireille Allard turned out to be the unlikely inspiration behind the Niagara College Teaching Brewery’s frosty new brew.

Allard co-owns Houblonniere Lupuline hopyard in the Chapeau region of Quebec. In the fall of 2015, an unexpected September frost rendered a portion of her Chinook-variety hops, which had remained on the bine, pink-coloured and unusually aromatic. Curious about the effects of letting the hops freeze on the bine, Allard send samples of the hops to a lab. The results showed much higher of alpha acids and oils compared to the unfrozen hops. “Everything was boosted up,” said Allard

Niagara College Brewmaster Jon Downing saw potential in that accidental experiment, the fruits of which are now available for sale in the NC Teaching Brewery. To create what Downing has christened a ‘frost-hopped beer,’ several bines of hops in NC’s own on-campus hopyard were intentionally left on the bine until the first frost of the year. In a manner reminiscent of the much more famous making of icewine, Downing and several students harvested the hops the morning of the first frost, and kept frozen until added to a batch of NC’s Zwickelbier. “We ran out there and pull the hops off and plucked the cones before they had a chance to thaw. Our fingers were freezing the whole time,” said Downing.

To measure the effects of ‘frost-hopping’ the beer, batches of the same beer were brewed with conventionally harvested hops, also from the NC hopyard.  Comparing them side-by-side, Downing found that frost-hopping produced an aromatic beer with a strong citrus flavour and more pronounced hoppiness than its conventionally hopped counterpart.

Allard paid a visit to College in November as a guest speaker, imparting some of her knowledge and experience as a hop-grower to students in NC’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Technician program. She also got to taste the new frost-hopped brew, which she described as woodsy, hoppy, “and so much more aromatic.”

“I think it’s really exciting, I remember [Jon Downing] mentioning doing it but I didn’t think [he]’d actually do it,” joked Allard.

The unique brew is the latest in a long line of innovative and experimental beers that NC’s Teaching Brewery is famous for. On Dec. 6, final semester students in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Technician program will host Winter is Brewing, the latest edition of Project Brew, in which students each create their own unique small-batch beer, sold on-tap at an evening event at St. Catharines Market Square.

“Innovation and creativity are central to how we approach education in the Brewmaster program,” said Downing. “Allowing the students to experiment and tinker with ingredients, processes and technology produces some fantastic experiential learning opportunities, and often results in delicious beer as well.” 

NC’s Frost-hopped Zwickelbier is now available for a very limited time in cans and on-tap at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery retail store at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus. Visit www.ncteachingbrewery.ca.

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