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> Chat with Nigel Itson, homebrewer & domestic plug hop supplier
post Jun 28 2005, 02:33 PM
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Joined: 16-March 02
From: Mooresville, NC
Member No.: 201

Nigel Itson will be our guest this Sunday. We've all lamented the unavailability of domestic hop plugs in recent years. Well, Nigel has taken it upon himself to rectify this problem. He's now tooled up to plug domestic hops right here in the the USA in ½ oz. increments!

  As most of you know, Hop Plugs offer the best of both whole leaf and pelletized hops. They're compressed, so they're not as prone to staling as whole hops, yet they're not pulverized so they retain their aromatic qualities.

  This from Nigel...

American Hop Plugs began as a company as any good company should…because of beer!  Nigel Itson, owner/operator, is an avid homebrewer and is always on the look out for ways to brew a better batch of beer.  Knowing that plugs are the ideal way to go, he would use what he could get a hold of at our local brew store.
Then he got the idea…why not press hops into plugs right here in the United States…obviously hops grown and pressed here in the USA are going to be much fresher than the ones shipped to Europe and then shipped back…and we all know that fresher hops make better beer!
So…using some connections in the press industry, we developed a press just for hops…and voila!  We now have USA born and bred hop plugs.

ale: Our guest has arrived...
American_Hop_Plugs: Good evening ... thanks for the chance to chat!
twocents: I don't have a question.. let lord go
twocents: at least not yet
twocents: hi american
lord1234: Who is your daddy? and what does he do?(use this as a chance to tell us about your upcoming products)
ale: go coplink
colplink: I have heard that there are VERY few Hop plug manufactures in America... How many are there?
American_Hop_Plugs: As far as I know, we are the ONLY hop plug manufacturers in America...
twocents: ?
twocents: now I have a q
American_Hop_Plugs: A good homebrew is the daddy of my idea =)
kernel_panic: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: which is why we started plugging in the first place
ale: end....?
JDonovan: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: end...for now
ale: Go Aeneas
Aeneas: What is the source for the AHP's whole hops and will some of the newer varieties, Simcoe, Amarillo, Sterling, etc be available as plugs after the next growing year?
Kent: ?
kernel_panic: ?[followup]
American_Hop_Plugs: We use Yakima Chief exclusively because we did some research and they are sticklers for freshness and quality...as are we...
Chauvan: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: we definitely plan to carry some of the more popular varieties as soon as they become available again (such as amarillo) in the fall
American_Hop_Plugs: (end)
Dave_Chase: ?
cj_in_j: ale who's next?
lord1234: ....
ale: Go Lord1234
lord1234: Why are hop plugs better than pellets or whole leafs? And what is the process for making plugs from whole hops?
lord1234: yay for the 2 part question
American_Hop_Plugs: Plugs are the best for many reasons... they are not processed like pellest so they are not destroyed by heat and grinding...
tjthresh: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: their lupulin glands remain intact so you get the best flavor and aroma...unlike loose leaf, plugs have a smaller surface area volume so less gets oxidized and you get fresher, better quality...not to mention a pre-weighed volume.
American_Hop_Plugs: in general, flavor stability is better in plugs and they can be easily used in dry hopping (they fit nicely in carboy necks and bung holes)and again, pre-weighed volume
kiwicanoeboy: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: as opposed to pellets, whole hop flowers (again, best in plugs) make a great filter bed..
twocents: ?
ale: ...end?
American_Hop_Plugs: hop plugs are made by pressing choice whole flower hops...high pressure creates plugs but keeps the lupulin glands intact... we press as soon as we open a package so our plugs remain as fresh as possible and we have a high quality vacuum packer to ensure
American_Hop_Plugs: lasting freshness
American_Hop_Plugs: end whew! =)
ale: Go twocents
twocents: do you hae a web site? are plugs available for a limited part of the year?
ale: (IMG:style_emoticons/brewboard/biggrin.gif)
Chauvan: ale, I retract my ?. 2 cents asked it.
American_Hop_Plugs: plugs are available all year and the website is www.americanhopplugs.com (though it is still under construction and not very exciting yet) Plugs are only sold wholesale by us so talk to Ale for requests
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: go Kernel_Panic. Panic also has a followup question.
twocents: ty
kernel_panic: how many varities do you offer as of now? [ie. american, brit, etc.]
tjthresh: Ale, I take back my ?
American_Hop_Plugs: we offer cascade, crystal, fuggle, hallertau, and golding although we also happily accept special requests...end
cj_in_j: American fuggle?
cj_in_j: American hallertau>?
cj_in_j: Or imported?
cj_in_j: (sorry to jump the line)
American_Hop_Plugs: yes...everything is American (grown by Yakima Chief) end
Chauvan: cj<-----post and chat whore. (IMG:style_emoticons/brewboard/wink.gif)
ale: Go Kent
Kent: What is the viability of the hop plug,mainly what is the loss of alpha acids,flavour and aroma in storage?
American_Hop_Plugs: Eventually integrity will be lost but we try to minimize that by pressing as soon as a bale is opened and we immediately seal each package in oxygen/light barrier bags with strong vacuum packing. We also keep all hops (before and after pressing) at 32 deg
American_Hop_Plugs: end
American_Hop_Plugs: oops wait
ale: Go Kiwi
kiwicanoeboy: allready answered, thank you! =)
American_Hop_Plugs: plugs should stay fresh for at least a year due to their nature...end for real
ale: If I may interject, how long will your hops store in your packaging?
American_Hop_Plugs: Our plugs should stay fresh for at least a year as long as they are kept frozen
American_Hop_Plugs: in the vacuum package...end
ale: I did notice that you include the harvest date on your labels. Very Cool
ale: Go CJ
cj_in_j: No question, already answered.
American_Hop_Plugs: we are all about the freshness!
American_Hop_Plugs: we include harvest AND plug dates on all our packages...European plug just can't compete
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: Did I miss anyone? If not, I have a couple of questions.
kernel_panic: go Ale =)
tjthresh: ?
ale: Nigel, are your plugs measured by weight or volume?
American_Hop_Plugs: weight!!!! we hand weigh each plug do the nearest thousandth of an oz...there is some variation but we ensure it is kept to a minimum
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: Go Thresh
kiwicanoeboy: ?
tjthresh: What is the general retail cost. What does each package weight
TimothyT: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: Each package is 2 oz... our sugg. retail is $4.50 / 2 oz package...and we guarantee you'll love them! We like to consider then gourmet plugs... end
ale: Go Kiwi
kiwicanoeboy: so how much does one plug weigh? (tried checking your site but it is not up yet)
kiwicanoeboy: or now, how many plugs to a package =)
American_Hop_Plugs: Yeah sorry...we are still under construction so it's not very exciting yet... each plug is 1/2 oz...4 plugs per pkg...end
BFB: ?
ale: Go TimothyT
TimothyT: Thanks:
TimothyT: 2-part question:[/color] I know one uses less pellet hops than leaf hops in order to get the same amount of IBU's in a boil, and am wondering what differences you see between
TimothyT: using plugs and whole hops in utilization and aroma; Also, what, if any, disadvantages are there to using hop plugs as opposed to pellets or leaves (aside from the # of varieties offered)?
ineedacatscan: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: Plugs actuall should offer more aroma and flavor even than whole hops because they are able to remain fresher due to less oxidation because of reduced surface area...plugs are ALWYAYS better than leaves and truly they are better that pellets...
American_Hop_Plugs: pellets tend to be more bitter because they have more stems and leaves and the heat processing decreases ability to flavor and aroma...you get a less desirable bitter and not as much flavor and aroma...plugs really have NO disadvantage, it's the ...
American_Hop_Plugs: best of both worlds...that's why we started using them several years ago...and why we are so adamant in providing decent ones for everyone to use...end
ale: Go BFB
TimothyT: Thank you.
BFB: Is it possible that someday you might entertain selling in larger volumes, at a bulk price, for us guys that are maybe a little bit more obsessed than others? Like say a pound at a time??
twocents: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: welcome T ... we also sell 1 lb bags...but keep in mind that integrity could be lost once you open our vacuum packing...like I said, we have a pretty cool vacuum packer...end
ale: Go CatScan
ineedacatscan: just curious what is the general diameter of the plugs? for those that don't have a standard diameter opening on our fermentor
American_Hop_Plugs: Our plugs are 1 1/2 inches in diameter (no variation)...end
ineedacatscan: thanks
ale: Go twocents
twocents: can you use these plugs in these randall thingumies?
twocents: and if we can reseal with a vacuum food sealer
twocents: woudnt' that help?
ale: (IMG:style_emoticons/brewboard/biggrin.gif)
Spectre: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: uh oh...randall thingumies? Help!
American_Hop_Plugs: =)
twocents: uhhh, did I say something there?
twocents: this guy at our octoberfest was running the beer thru hops
twocents: made a real mess
ale: A randall is a hopback that pushes finished beer through the hops at the dispnsing end.
American_Hop_Plugs: You can repackage and refreeze...that's great and should help...but our vacuum packer is more than food grade, it is industrial grade
twocents: ok
American_Hop_Plugs: cool...never tried it...we'll experiment! =)
brewmaster808: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: Go Spectre
Spectre: This is a very off the wall question, I've read in the past that a strong "hop tea" works very well as a sedative and also as a cold/flu remedy. Any thoughts on this?
American_Hop_Plugs: I've heard that..but we've never tried it personally...lots of literature on line...
American_Hop_Plugs: throughout history hops have been used for medicinal reasons..gotta love it!!!
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: Go Brewmaster808
brewmaster808: How does the alpha count compare to whole and plugs?
ale: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: Can't speak for European plugs but our plugs should be pretty darn comparable to the harvest alpha that is shown on our labels
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: Nigel, from what I understand, AHP is now one of only two plugging operations in the WORLD. Is this true?
twocents: ((((((dan)))))))))))
American_Hop_Plugs: as far as we know! Morris Hanbury (if they are still called that...heard they got bought out...) and us...and we plan to stay around a while!!!! Our goal is to expand daily and provide for the needs of our customers...end
ale: ?
ale: Have You ever visited M.H.?
American_Hop_Plugs: No, but I'd like to...heard it's beautiful out there!!!!! end
ale: I've heard that the Plugging process is extremely labor intensive...
ale: ...and that's why no more growers are doing it...
American_Hop_Plugs: Yes it is...extremely!!! You have to be very careful with temperature and you can't compromise the lupulin glands...but we enjoy it and we've actually gotten it down to a science... =)
ale: ...what's your thought? Did You build a better wheel?
Spectre: ?
American_Hop_Plugs: Our wheel is actually round and it keeps on going!!! =)
American_Hop_Plugs: We are state of the art
American_Hop_Plugs: we have modern ideas and concepts and we aren't afraid to improve...end
TimothyT: ?
ale: Cool. Go Spectre
Spectre: Throughout history men have been using different ingredients to flavor their beers. Some good, some not so good. Example being hops vs. henbane. Is there anything new and exciting that we could expect to be brewing with in the future?
American_Hop_Plugs: as far as we are concerned...lot of hops!!! =) Hops are good because they add preservative qualities to the beer and lend an antiseptic quality...they also offer a nice contrasting bitterness to the sweetness of the malt...end
Spectre: No new plants that brewers are experimenting with?
Listermann: ?
ale: I think that what Spectre was referring to is th possible inlusion of gruit somewhere down the line.
American_Hop_Plugs: Sorry Spectre, not that we are woking with now...though we are always on the lookout...but I have no specifics...anything is possible ...but I guess in the future we could press anything...end
Spectre: Ok, thanks.
ale: Nigel, got time for a couple more?
American_Hop_Plugs: sure! Just give me a minute for another cold one...
ale: it's now 9:00 and you're off the hook (IMG:style_emoticons/brewboard/biggrin.gif)
American_Hop_Plugs: we're good for a few more... =)
ale: Go TimothyT
TimothyT: (thanks again, ale/ahp) Right now, as I am sure you know, it is difficult to find many varieties of hops available in plugs when compared to the variety in pellets. Variety is key to homebrewers,
TimothyT: as we are not restrained by huge batch sizes. You mentioned earlier that you plan to offer Amarillo plugs this year; what is your target number of varieties to be offering after this year's harvest?
American_Hop_Plugs: We have 5 we keep in stock at all times...as we acknowledge the demands of the customers we'll add to that and as we said before, we welcome special orders so as long as our supplier has the hops, we will plug it...we'd like to offer as many plug varieties
American_Hop_Plugs: as there are pellets
ineedacatscan: ?
twocents: plugging the product.
American_Hop_Plugs: as we grow, so will our on-hand varities...end
ale: Go Listermann
TimothyT: Thank you, I look forward to it!
Listermann: Did I miss a description of the plugging process? If not, can that be done? I envision something like the bailing of hay.
TimothyT: (must go, thank you for a very informative chat)
American_Hop_Plugs: We hand weigh (for accuracy) 1/2 oz of hops and we run it through a specially designed press for a beautiful plug...and repeat...and repeat...and repeat...then we vacuum pack the 4 and freeze the package...end
ale: Go Catscan
ineedacatscan: is there a surcharge for a special order?
American_Hop_Plugs: no but for now (until we get a little bigger) there will be a 10 lb minimum (we have to order 10 lbs at a time)...and we will press anything as long as it is grown in the USA..end
ineedacatscan: fair enough
ineedacatscan: thanks=)
American_Hop_Plugs: no prob....
twocents: ?
ale: Nigel, I assume that your process is extremely automated. Can you give us a basic rundown?
American_Hop_Plugs: sure....give me a sec. to pute my little ones to bed....one min.
American_Hop_Plugs: put even
American_Hop_Plugs: back...
American_Hop_Plugs: we are automated...
American_Hop_Plugs: we weigh out hops, dump them in the loader, and then the press presses them at a certain pressure and ejects it...and we have great looking plugs...the rest is secret, we could tell you but we'd have to kill you =) =) =)
American_Hop_Plugs: end
twocents: hahahhaha
ale: Go Twocents
twocents: any job openings? (not that I can take one...)
Spectre: ? (Since Nigel is away)
American_Hop_Plugs: not yet...but wait a few months...we are growing every day end
ale: Go Spectre
Spectre: What is the major difference between plugs and whole. I missed the first part of the session, sorry.
twocents: thanks
American_Hop_Plugs: This'll take a minute...
American_Hop_Plugs: okay first...plugs are pre-weighed and smaller volume (more convenient for recipes)...
American_Hop_Plugs: also, they stay fresher because as a plug, there is reduced surface area and it oxidizes more slowly so it stays fresher longer and retains both aromatic and flavoring properties...
American_Hop_Plugs: so there is more flavor stability...also it is great for dry hopping because they fit nicely down carboy necks and bung holes (huh huh huh...he said bung hole...)
American_Hop_Plugs: end
ale: One More?
Spectre: Ok, makes sense.
American_Hop_Plugs: sure...
ale: My understanding is that the last US plugging operation was destroyed in a fire in the '90s
Spectre: ?
ale: ...since then, MH was the only one left...
ale: ...any comments on the history of plugging? Do any commercial breweries use plugs?
American_Hop_Plugs: I've heard rumors of some small plugging industries in the US but I don't think any are still around (the whole too labor intensive thing) I think MH is it except for us...whew, kinda scary! ...
colplink: ? I must ask...
American_Hop_Plugs: commercial breweries tend to use pellets because they are cheaper...but we are trying to convince them that plugs are better...also for them, cost of changeing there system to accept plugs instead of pellets is expensive...
American_Hop_Plugs: as far as plugs in general, they are a fairly new thing, a recent innovation and we love them and want to keep them around (best thing since sliced bread and all...) end
ale: Thanks. Go Spectre
Spectre: What is the highest number of these plugs that you used in a 5 gallon batch and did it come out decent? (aka Killer IPA)
American_Hop_Plugs: Personally, 6 cascades...very nice...very hoppy!!!...don't worry, be hoppy... sorry...tune running through head...ouch! end
ale: Go Colplink
colplink: So tell me Nigel, you have opened a bail of hops, and jumped right in and rolled around like a madman... I am sure you have...
American_Hop_Plugs: buck naked...ha ha!
colplink: Indeed... End...
ale: Brewers can be a crazy bunch lol
American_Hop_Plugs: well, duh! =) We wouldn't have it any other way! end
American_Hop_Plugs: don't worry , be hoppy...yup song still stuck in my head...
ale: Nigel, Do you have any more time? Enough to tell us a bit about your brewing history?
American_Hop_Plugs: sure...
ale: Why you decided to step out on a limb and stwrt your own plugging company?
American_Hop_Plugs: I haven't actually been brewing for very long, about 4 years...my wife got me a kit for my birthday and it went from there... I fell in love with dark beers and had to brew my own...
American_Hop_Plugs: We liked using plugs which we got at our local brew store but quality and availability was a little shaky so we decided why not, let's make our own...(and we have some connections in the press industry, that helps...
American_Hop_Plugs: my wife's grandfather is a world renowned press consultant and he spent 3 years working with us to develop a press for hops...end
twocents: good night alll
twocents: thanks for the chat
twocents: and thanks from dropping in americanHP
twocents: hope to see you again some evening.
twocents: byeeeeeeee
American_Hop_Plugs: night twocents, talk to you soon!
twocents: ty
BobH: nite 2c
twocents: byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
ale: Just got off of the phone with Nigel. He needs to call it quits for tonight...as do I.
BobH: thanks Nigel
samscott: yeah, thanks Nigel. and thanks for hosting a great chat ale!
colplink: Thanks Ale and Nigel!!!
huleoo: thanks Nigel!
ale: He had a great time and is willing to come back.
Jon_S: ale:[/color] where is Nigel's operation located?
ale: Thanks to all of you for joining in.
American_Hop_Plugs: welcome BobH, we had fun!...thanks everyone, we had a blast and the questions were great...Ale, great chat and awesome website...everyone look for American Hop Plugs at Homebrew Adventures Yea!
ale: Jon_S, Right here in NC.
Jon_S: cool
American_Hop_Plugs: ..beautiful down town Wake Forest... lol! G'night and thanks again! Hoppy Brewing!
American_Hop_Plugs: AHP has LEFT the building ahh huh huh
ale: This guy is fading fast. Thank You all for joining in. I have another guest tentavely scheduled next week. Over and out.
BobH: nite ale, nite all I'm out of here too
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