When we first launched Hopzoil back in 2016, the concept seemed simple enough. Extract the oil from fresh hops via steam distillation and voila! Put it into beer and you have all the aroma and flavor without the pellets or biomass. It made sense to someone who had never done it before (yours truly) because the same oils are steeped from pellets and are completely dissolved and suspended in beer via dry-hopping. A funny thing happened on the way to innovation. Steam-distilled oil in its native format is pure essential oil, and as such…, it floats on water. Brewers tried it and while it smelled great in a glass, being able to replicate it in a brewed beer with consistent aroma and flavor, proved elusive, to say the least.

In 2017, one of our brewers said “I know how to fix that. I just blend it with ethanol and it will be water-soluble.” “Ethanol? You mean like high-test Everclear grain alcohol?” “Yup”. Well in hindsight, it sorta worked for a while. Pure oil can be soluble in high-proof grain alcohol, but that was an imperfect solution at best. Ethanol mixed with a hop extract has an exemption in the U.S. by the TTB, but the imperfect solution went further. Ethanol is still not allowed in many other countries, in any amount. For a Non-Alcohol beverage (NA beer or soft drink), it is verboten. But most importantly, there are some compounds in the pure oil that simply will not emulsify with ethanol. Finding the Holy Grail, it seemed, was the equivalent of an oxymoron: water-soluble oil. Pre-emulsified Hopzoil, to be specific.

Three promising technologies emerged from 2019 to 2020. Out of those three, one kept improving through literally hundreds of reformulations and led to what is now our MAJIK and HAZY fully water-soluble Hopzoil. What do customers think? Well, it seems there’s more to it than just water solubility. Clean-up is a snap. It’s more consistent. The dosing rate is the ballpark the same as PURE Hopzoil (although some use a bit more, some use a bit less to suit their recipe sensory). But by and large, the oxymoron has worked. Certainly better than Jumbo Shrimp.

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