Abstrax Hops Quantum Series: Why Every Brewery Should Have It

Published: May 30, 2024
Promotional graphic for Quanutm Series from Abstrax Hops

Numerous companies worldwide are working towards creating products that help make the brewing process more efficient while also saving brewers and brewery owners money. For example, we’ve written about products like John I. Haas’ HopHaze, Incognito, SPECTRUM, and FLEX®, Hopsteiner’s Salvo™, Freestyle Hops’ SubZero Hop Kief, and Yakima Chief Hops’ DynaBoost. Recently, Abstrax Hops® released its own liquid hop products, including the Quantum Series.

We chatted with Abstrax Hops Director of Food and Beverage Innovations Ross Hunsinger and Highland Park Brewery R&D Manager Tyler Thurman to learn about the Quantum Series.

(Above graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops)

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Abstrax Hops Explains the Quantum Series and Its R&D

Promotional graphic banner for Quanutm Series from Abstrax Hops

Graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops

The Quantum Series by Abstrax is a hop-derived, varietal-specific extract that provides a burst of aromatics. Currently, Abstrax features ten varietals within the Quantum Series and plans to release more by the end of the year.

Hunsinger joined Abstrax from a soda company, starting as the director of brewing innovations before taking his current role. In his initial days, he thought of a way to make beer more controllable.

“I came to Abstrax with an array of ideas,” Hunsinger says. “Quantum was my baby.”

Hunsinger developed the Quantum Series from the idea of cannabis and extraction.

“We were thinking about how to expand the technology and changed from cannabis to making beer taste like that without using the plant,” Hunsinger says.

Hunsinger says they saw other flowable hop products and felt they could create a better solution.

“We were underwhelmed with CO2 extracts coming from cannabis,” Hunsinger says. “CO2 is the least-gentle process [of] extracting from plants.”

Hunsinger says that coming from cannabis—a comparatively nascent market to hops—Abstrax has known for a long time that C02 extraction poorly preserves hop aromatics and is limiting.

We were thinking about how to expand the technology and changed from cannabis to making beer taste like that without using the plant,
- Ross Hunsinger - Abstrax Hops

“The concept of flowability is weirdly one of the first things I fixated on in the genesis of these solutions as I had a background in brewing and was making soda pop at the time and thought, ‘These water-soluble flavor extracts and such are so much easier to work with than whole ingredients. I wonder if advanced hop products could be made like this?’” Hunsinger explains. “There are a couple of examples of truly flowable advanced products out there, but, by and large, we all know you’re going to need to throw your soup can of extract in a warm bath to make it flowable.”

He says the technology scaled up the best version of the extraction in cannabis and moved it to hops. Hunsinger credits Sierra Nevada’s Former Research & Development and Raw Materials Manager Tom Nielson (now the director of brewing and beverage innovation at Abstrax) and Lagunitas Brewmaster Jeremy Marshall with sending Abstrax toward hops.

“[Jeremy especially] egged us on in this direction,” Hunsinger says. “I don’t know where we would be without him. He’s a Fairy Godfather.”

Hunsinger adds, “Marshall is a very selective guy. … For us to be the best and redefine the space, he’s been an ace in the hole.”

Hunsinger says he’s not the most sophisticated sensory guy, but when he first was exposed to C02 extracts, he was blown away by how “infinitesimal” the differences were from variety to variety and how crude the form factor was.

“Through the lens of hops, C02 is pretty amazing at pulling alpha acids from the plant, but what it is not amazing at is preserving or presenting the most desirable aromatics from the plant,” Hunsinger says. “C02 is generally a supercritical process and we know that early boil addition hops are going to lose a lot of their aromatic qualities to thermal volatilization, so why would they behave differently in an extraction process?”

He adds, “Even when performed at a lower temperature, C02 still requires an extremely high-pressure system that ruins all those beautiful aromatics … [in this scenario] one can be more selective with the extraction, but scalability is hampered by that lowered solvent power, and the preservation of the volatiles is limited.”

Abstrax extraction, on the other hand, is a lower temperature, lower pressure, more selectable, and infinitely more scalable.

“Those are the hard facts,” Hunsinger says.

Highland Park wasn’t officially part of the R&D process, but Thurman says they heard about Abstrax from a podcast.

“There were keywords that he said that were talking our language,” Thurman says. “I emailed the general email. Ross got back to me, and we hit it off. They sent us samples, and we built a relationship with them.”

Highland Park got some Quantum Series before its release, sometime before the Craft Brewers Conference in 2023.

“We did a beer with [Abstrax] for CBC, and that was the first time we used Quantum,” Thurman says. “And we have used it for several beers since.”

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How Does the Quantum Series Differ From Other Cold-Side Flowable Products?

Promotional graphic for Quantum Series from Abstrax Hops featuring a bottle of El Dorado and Strata

Graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops

“The pressure and temperature at which hops are extracted has a direct correlation to the quality and volume of aromatic compounds that make it to the other side,” Hunsinger says. “It beats up the gentle volatiles because of temperature and pressure.”

The Quantum Series fixes the issues that can arise with that.

“Our process by orders of magnitude is lower pressure and temperature,” he says. “We are lightyears ahead of the hop industry with our tech, coming from the cannabis industry.”

Hunsinger adds, “We are a fast-moving, well-funded cannabis company. That’s the complete opposite of all the companies running the hop industry. … We have literally the most sophisticated instrumentation in the hop industry.”

The last beer we did smelled like a freshly opened hop bag.
My Name

From the brewing perspective, Thurman says one thing stands out about the Quantum Series: It differs from other cold-side flowable hop products.

“The brightness of it,” Thurman says. “I haven’t been able to find something that bright and pungent.”

Thurman adds, “The last beer we did smelled like a freshly opened hop bag.”

Hunsinger adds that Abstrax is not beholden to the hop plant, unlike the growers.

“That puts us in a powerful position,” Hunsinger says. “When we evaluate Quantum from a sensory perspective, we have a hard time verbalizing what we are smelling because we are pulling so much; it’s a different sensory experience.”

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What Are the Benefits of the Quantum Series?

A promotional photo of a box of Quantum Series collection from Abstrax Hops

Graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops

Simplicity is key for Thurman.

It’s so simple. I can add it even if the beer is carbed to dial in what we’re going for.
Tyler Thurman - Highland Park Brewery

“It’s super easy,” Thurman says. “I love that the beer can be totally done, and you can add a pinch more to reach the flavor you’re looking for.”

He continues, “It’s so simple. I can add it even if the beer is carbed to dial in what we’re going for.”

And even though it’s simple, that doesn’t mean the product doesn’t produce.

“The quality is one of the best we’ve found so far,” Thurman says. “It’s some of the best hop expression [compared to what] we’ve found in other hop products. It’s so bright and pungent. The quality is pretty amazing.”

Thurman says the Quantum Series also cuts costs and boosts yields, although that was not why they initially bought the product.

Thurman says about four hundred grams of the Quantum Series is the equivalent of an eleven-pound bag of T-90 pellets.

“I haven’t quite done the calculations yet, but if you are using expensive hops, it’s definitely cost-saving,” Thurman says, who finds the Quantum Series worth the cost. “And on top of that, we’ve seen much better yields compared to only using T-90s.”

Thurman adds that adding the Quantum Series down the line helps revitalize the beer.

“We waited six or seven months, then added Quantum, and it tasted super fresh,” Thurman says. “It was wild how it retained the flavor.”

Like many flowable hop products, the Quantum Series saves money, increases yield, and takes up less space in the cold room.

Additionally, Hunsinger says Abstrax can process any T-90 hops for a brewery to create the Quantum Series.

“If you gave us one pound of hops, you get five pounds in liquid form,” Hunsinger says. “It goes as high as fourteen times, depending on the variety.”

Bottom line: The process multiplies any hops you select, according to Hunsinger.

“You get your selected product that builds in those efficiencies, and you get flavor match,” Hunsinger says. “It puts meat on the bone. And extends the shelf life of hops.”

Thurman says they haven’t used this feature yet, but it’s in the immediate future plans at Highland Park.

“We are planning on sending hops to them next month, actually,” Thurman says. “I can’t speak to the process, but we are pretty excited to use our own hops in Quantum form for a hop water.”

Hunsinger notes that the consumer is currently overwhelmed with information and flavor desires, and the hop industry can’t keep up. He says Abstrax can bridge the gap.

“Flavor is where it’s headed. It’s not about proprietary genetics,” he says. “We’re moving to a different time and place, and we’re at the right place in time.”

Thurman is impressed with the Quantum options and quality, of which Highland Park has played around with about a handful.

Citra is by far my go-to choice, but I’ve also used Centennial, Strata, Chinook, and Amarillo,” Thurman says. “Some are closer to what I would say I imagine the varietal to smell like than others, but that could be said with any hops you rub during hop selection.”

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How Will the Quantum Series Affect the Current Hop Market?

A promotional photo for Quantum Series from Abstrax Hops

Graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops

Overall, for the last decade, the American hop market has functioned in two ways: contracting a certain amount over a period of time or buying from the spot market.

While the hops harvested are greater than ever, the demand isn’t there, and much of what is out there is on contract.

Alternative hop products like Abstrax’s Quantum Series offer a different solution.

“What if we gave every brewer the option to have their selected hops turned into an advanced product that buys them time on shelf life by converting them to a more stable form instead of that Hop Storage Index number creeping ever steadily, comes with all those built-in yield attributes, comes from the hops that they are already using and is cheaper in liquid form for the pound equivalent in vegetal form?” Hunsinger asks.

That’s what Abstrax did.

They looked into the Quantum Series with scarcity in mind, specifically how the company could multiply the yield or availability of varieties that are agronomically challenged from either acreage or lackluster harvest year perspective.

“Turns out that it totally works from that angle by virtue of that fact that we make an emulsion that delivers more survivable compounds to finished beer because it doesn’t see the hot side and have all those aromatics blown off,” Hunsinger says. “That emulsion is not one hundred percent oil and thus acts as a multiplier for whatever oil is present in the emulsion.”

Hunsinger says that on their worst day of extraction and emulsification, if Abstrax extracts one hundred pounds of hops and emulsifies the resultant oil, they create five hundred pounds in liquid-equivalent—so five times the initial amount.

“On a good day, with high oil content hop, we have seen that number as high as thirteen times,” Hunsinger explains. “And it comes in this format that has all the mythical attributes of every advanced product like lessened yield loss from absorption, not having to haul two pounds per barrel of hops on a five hundred-barrel batch, cleanup, etc.”

Hunsinger says that farmers could be affected by the influx of flowable products on the market. Abstrax makes a point of thinking about the farmers and how the Quantum Series can help.

“We respect the base,” Hunsinger says. “For the farmer, this can help them cut out the middleman. It turns varieties that may not be viable and makes them viable.”

Additionally, Hunsinger says over time, there may be a concern that farmers grow fewer hops, but Hunsinger says there will always be a need for hops.

“Hops and hop farmers will always be one of the cornerstones of beer,” Hunsinger says. “The hope here is that our model creates mechanisms of leverage for the farmers and the brewers who need it most from the financial perspective,” Hunsinger says. “And to provide the artists in the brewery with new pigments with which to create.”

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What Is the Dosage Rate of the Quantum Series?

A promotional graphic of Centennial Quantum Series from Abstrax Hops

Graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops

Abstrax recommends a half ounce of the Quantum Series solution per pound of T-90 in the dry hop.

A little goes a long way.
Tyler Thurman - Highland Park Brewery

“If you’re getting five pounds back, you’re looking at two and a half ounces of Quantum,” Hunsinger says.

Quantum should be used as close to the end of the process as possible, preferably in the brite tank.

Every application is different.

“For a West Coast or hazy IPA, we use about sixty grams per barrel, but a little bit more in a hop water,” Thurman says. “A little goes a long way.”

Thurman says that trialing is the most time-consuming process. But from testing, they determined that for dry hopping, they like to use sixty percent T-90 pellets, with the Quantum Series taking up the rest.

One thing Thurman adds is to give the Quantum Series some time.

“I’ve found that it takes a couple of days after adding it to fully integrate,” he says. “It sometimes can taste terpy or artificial, and two to three days later, it gets fully immersed in the beer and is bright.”

Even Hunsinger says that there are multiple phases in the brew process.

“Literally any point works,” Hunsinger says. “We don’t recommend hot side because there’s no acid, but personally, I’ve seen full send in the whirlpool on the tank. I’ve seen it put in a hose to send it from one tank to another. I’ve seen it dumped to the top of the fermenter tank.”

He adds, “We like to say to use thirty to fifty percent, but people are doing a one hundred percent replacement. I’ve tried that, and it was great.”

Hunsinger cautions against a one-hundred percent replacement because Quantum won’t deliver certain vegetal components found in T-90 pellets.

“So you should add [T90 pellets] to get those because Quantum doesn’t have acids or chewiness that T-90s have,” Hunsinger says.

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Which Style of Beer Works Best with the Quantum Series?

A promotional graphic for Azacca Quantum Series from Abstrax Hops

Graphic courtesy of Abstrax Hops

Thurman likes it in any hop-forward beer.

“It’s great in a West Coast pilsner,” Thurman says. “Anything where you want a bright, hoppy character. … Anywhere you dry hop, this works great.”

In his experience, Hunsinger says the product works across the board. He saw breweries that used the Quantum Series for their creations recently at CBC.

“Each brewery did wildly different beers from each other,” says Hunsinger, noting a smoothie beer and hoppy lager. “Wherever it’s needed, it’s getting applied.”

Hunsinger adds, “I personally think it rips in a West Coast pilsner. I like it on the lower-ABV beers.”

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Ollie author headshot for Giovanni Albanese, Jr.

About The Author

Giovanni Albanese

Giovanni is a content writer for Next Glass, contributing to the Ollie blog. He is a writer by day and a brewer/business owner by night, owning and operating Settle Down Brewery & Taproom in Gilroy, California.

Giovanni is passionate about a number of things, including history, documentaries and sports, but none more than reporting/writing and brewing beer. After receiving a radio broadcasting degree then a journalism degree from Salem State College in his home state of Massachusetts, he relocated to California in 2008.

Then, his writing career kicked off – covering sports, business, politics and more along the way – while concurrently dabbling in home brewing. The home brewing turned pro in 2021 when he launched SDB Brewing Company. Settle Down Beer officially opened in February.

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