TNS HopBurst® Nectaron® in the Brewhouse: BlackStack Brewing
Open since 2017, St. Paul, Minnesota’s BlackStack Brewing bills itself as a local craft brewery and taproom featuring soft and squishy IPAs, fruity sours, and crispy lagers. Hop-freaks far and wide love ‘em for their Hazies, NEIPAs, West Coasts, and more.
Having proven themselves most skilled with extreme hop charges, we wanted to find out what BlackStack could do with TNS Hop Oils in the brewhouse.
Formulated for improving beer quality, yield, margins, and more, TNS Hop Oils can be used to replace or complement whole cone or pelletized hops in any recipe. Keep scrolling to learn how they performed as a supplemental ingredient in BlackStack’s West Coast IPA “A Word From Our Sponsors.”
BSG: Hey! Thanks for hosting us here at your brewery! Could you tell us about Blackstack? What’s your story? What do you brew?
Murphy Johnson, Co-Founder, Director of Creative & Product Development: We started in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul going on six years ago. We’ve been cranking. We did 5500 bbl last year, which is a lot for us. We have a two-vessel 20-bbl system. We’ve been looking at a three-vessel 30, but we haven’t pulled the trigger. We’re figuring out how that would shake out. As for beer, we brew a ton of NEIPAs. We’re in and around that realm with singles, doubles, triples, DDH, what have you. We’re also extremely proud of our lager and mixed-culture programs. And we’re just getting to the point where we have enough barrel stock to be putting out barrel-aged stouts and ensure consistency.
BSG: Let’s get into the beer you brewed with TNS HopBurst® Nectaron®. What can you say about it?
Bella Ludwig, Production Manager: It’s called A Word From Our Sponsors. It’s a West Coast [IPA], and the main focus is the Nectaron hop oil. We paired that with some Mosaic T-90 in the dry hop. It’s about 7.2% ABV. For this one, we fermented with US-05 [Fermentis SafAle™]. We tend to use that with our West Coasts. It’s reliable and nice to keep on hand. I’m partial to West Coasts, and this is a good, bitter one.
BSG: Have you brewed with Nectaron hops before?
Murphy: We’ve had some difficulties getting our hands on T-90 Nectaron pellets. This was our first chance to play with the hop, and when we saw [HopBurst Nectaron] on your website we just pulled the trigger. It was exciting to try out a new product at the same time.
Editor’s Note: BSG has Nectaron T-90 pellets!
BSG: How did you approach brewing with HopBurst Nectaron?
Karl Eicher, Head Brewer: We started off just adding it along with our normal dry hop that we do for West Coasts. We stayed on the low end of the dosage rate to see how it would come through. For this one specifically, we brewed a 40 bbl into one of our 60s for tank space. We wanted to make sure the aroma would come through, so a few days before packaging we added another liter of Nectaron Hop Oil to boost it up. We tasted it the next day and saw the difference. Based on that – it was so easy. Just throw it in and get results.
BSG: Let’s elaborate on that. It’s applied directly to the FV, there’s no hauling pellets around the brewhouse, and no mixing the product once it’s inside the vessel. What else do you like about it?
Karl: Being able to boost that aroma so close to packaging is super helpful. Having it on hand makes us more flexible. We’ve dealt with CO2 hop extract too, and it’s so thick. You have to warm it up and mix it with water and I’m just not a fan of doing that. This is easier and cleaner.
Bella: This was ready to go, you just crack it open.
Cyrus DuVernois, Head of Brewery Operations: It matches the flavor descriptors. It does a nice job punching up the tropical and citrus aromas.
Karl: Our final beer was much clearer than we anticipated. We had more packageable beer in the end because there was less vegetal residue in the beer from hops. We’ve had to push back and delay previous West Coasts due to clarity issues, but this was ready right on time and reliable. And it improved yield.
BSG: How do you feel about using TNS Hop Oils in other beers beyond the West Coast IPA?
Karl: I was surprised by how well the aroma came through. It’s definitely something to keep on hand – especially for Hazies. If we’re not feeling that pop, if we’re not all the way there and it’s time to package, this [TNS Hop Oil] gives us a little something extra.
BSG: What would you tell a brewer considering TNS Hop Oils?
Bella: Like it says on the website, start with a low dose and work your way up. Note which aromas you’re getting as you keep dosing. Starting low and adding more later worked out great. It’s flexible and can fill a lot of your needs.
BSG: Changing gears. Y’all seem to have a lot of fun naming your beers. They’re interesting, people love ‘em. How does naming work at Blackstack?
Murphy: We have a ton of fun with naming. We take brewing beer seriously, but we like to take naming not-so-seriously. We have fun with the copy on the back, too. If you get the joke, that’s great. At this point we’re putting out one to three new beers each week, and that gives us a lot of canvasses to paint on with creative names.
BSG: Where did the name “A Word From Our Sponsors” come from?
Murphy: Back in the day before TiVo or any of this streaming stuff, you had to deal with commercials. You’d run to the fridge for your Hi-C and someone would yell, “The show’s back on!” and then you’d hurry back. We try to get back to these points of nostalgia and irreverence [with naming]. This was just an homage to that TV-watching experience: “And now a word from our sponsors” comes on and that’s your starting point to run to the fridge for your drink of choice before the show starts up again.
BSG: Anything else new or exciting coming up? What are you stoked on?
Murphy: We have a ton of fun projects in the pipeline. Mixed-culture projects, barrel-aged projects, stuff we put down 18 months to 2 years ago and it’s all coming to fruition. Sometimes you forget about them, and it feels like forever, but when they come back around it’s a treat. It’s a present to yourself.
BSG: Our thanks to the gang at BlackStack for their time, hospitality, and hoppy beers!
Ready to start brewing with TNS Hop Oils? We’re here to help.