This being pretty much what I said as I opened and tasted the first can of the new Pyramid “Yeah, Baby!” CryoHop IPA that came with that intriguing little tag line:
“CryoHop IPA”. Cryo Hops? Well, here’s a thumbnail sketch…
“CRYO Hops are the concentrated lupulin of whole-leaf hops containing resins and aromatic oils. It is designed to provide intense hop flavor and aroma.”
That from Pyramid’s own description page. The inventors of the Cryo process went further…
“LupuLN2® hop powder is the concentrated lupulin of wholeleaf hops containing resins and aromatic oils. It is designed to provide intense hop flavor and aroma, enabling brewers to dose large quantities of hops without introducing astringent flavors or vegetative material. The estimated dosing rate for LupuLN2® hop pellets is 50% of T90 hop pellets by weight…LupuLN2® beers showcase pronounced juicy and resinous flavors with reduced grassy characteristics. As a result, some brewers recommend using LupuLN2® in conjunction with T90 pellets to ensure the complexity and flavors of the whole hop cone are retained.”
The short version is that whole-leaf hops are near frozen and the cold stabilization is used to extract the lupulin oils and resins – those chemicals that make hops both bitter and aromatic – which are then processed into a fine powder that’s formed into pellets.
It’s the first time that the essential lupulins have been successfully separated and quantified for brewing and the difference between using conventional pellets and dried flowers is immediately obvious. The “hops flavor” – which is what craft newbies call any significant hops presence but which is actually hundreds of flavors – is gigantic; the depth of flavor that would normally be achieved by adding pounds upon pounds of the T90 and T45 pellets that are normally used. With CryoHop, it’s often less than half of that.
BUT, since the cryo process extracts only the lupulins, they’re still used with cones or pellets to add in the crazy-ass range of secondary flavors and grace notes that come from the pulp matter of the rest of the flower.
Got that? If you don’t, don’t worry about it. If you have taste buds, they’ll tell you all the important stuff.
The main virtue of CryoHops, for me, is that they achieve about 90(ish)% of the immediacy and fresh resin flavors that you get in that sub-style of beers that make me sit up and bark, every autumn: Fresh or Wet hopped ale. I become literally swoony at the first sip of nearly any fresh-hop ale, (there has been ONE, out of hundreds, that I’ve found that just fell flat) and the difference, if you haven’t tried a fresh/wet, between those ales and your regular dried cone or pelletized hops ales is instant and stunning. If you like subtlety, there’s plenty of that in fresh-hop beers but there is also, atop of all that nuance, a full-facial intensity. The great ones sweep a wave of resiny aromatics up your retro-nasal passage, producing a sinus-clearing crispness and mouth-watering acidity that are ridiculously seductive. They are also, frequently, more full-bodied that the usual IPA and, in Yeah-Baby!, that essential body announces itself with the first mouthful.
This is a big, creamy, almost viscous IPA. It paints the tongue and delivers an impact and aromatics that are strongly suggestive of fresh-hopped ales. Here, the hops used in the cryo process are the muscular Eukanot (formerly named “Equinox”) that was hybrided at The Hop Breeding Company/John I Haas, Inc., in 2014. Its irreplaceable range of flavors – including melon, berry, citrus-lime, apple, papaya, and sweet peppers – has been a mega-hit with breweries everywhere since its release and the core of that list, the lime and melon and papaya, hit the palate like a lovely little hammer in Yeah, Baby, with notes from the pelletized Nugget, Denali, Simcoe, and Calypso illuminating the whole profile.
For all that full-frontal intensity, though, this is a wonderfully drinkable and compelling ale; one that really needs no specialized knowledge to appreciate. It’s rich, against all odds, and complete and rib-sticking and not insanely high in octane (6.5%), with a delicious, caramel-tinged malt core that holds the bitterness in civilized check, without eroding its immediacy.
This is a masterful job of incorporating a popular new technology into a traditional framework like the American Single IPA and coming out the end of the process with something better than the sum of its parts.
Bottom Line: Pyramid “Yeah, Baby!” is an absurdly fine IPA, regardless of category, and gives all us fresh-hop freaks something we can geek out on during those dismal months of our beer year that are not September and October. If this is what this new cryo process is capable of, we’re all getting set to pass the next milepost in the evolution of the American-style IPA…and it’s going to be a delicious journey.