It’s not unusual for brewers to trade information about new hop varieties and text or email one another about how to best use experimental varieties. The products usually involve a big hop company that has heavily invested in a years long research project, sending the new varieties out for testing to a few select breweries. But some ingredients fly even further under the radar.
Phantasm is one of the lowest key ingredients out there. Very difficult to source, challenging to find information about, word of Phantasm spread largely through the brewing underground in the past year.
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Created by Jos Ruffell of Phantasm.NZ and the owner of Garage Project, a brewery located in Wellington, New Zealand, Phantasm is an extraction from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc grapes, is loaded with thiol precursors, and gives a solid boost to the tropical fruit aromatics in your beers.
Volatile thiols impact aroma, releasing notes of guava, passion fruit, and grapefruit, while precursor forms require the assistance of specific yeasts to result in biotransformation and optimum usage.
Phantasm is made from leftover organic material after the Sauvignon Blanc grapes are pressed, including the skins, pulp, and stems.
The underlying science gets geeky pretty quick, but brewers and scientists are continuing to study how thiol precursors can be released during brewing and develop best practices to achieve efficiency and capturing hop aroma intensity.
Thiols are present in Sauvignon Blanc must and that is where Ruffell started his work. Produced in powder form, Phantasm allows brewers to help boost the presence of thiols in their beers. The powder can be added late in fermentation to help create biotransformation and to increase the tropical aromatics in the beer.
Similar to Cryo hops, the additional sugar present in the must powder must be given time to ferment out but the process largely mimics dry hopping. More recently, reports from brewers and yeast companies recommend that the powder be added directly to the whirlpool on the hot side.
Using Phantasm to help boost the tropical notes in the aroma of your beers can also, when done correctly, help reduce your need for hops.
But getting the product dialed in with tweaks to the brewing process can be a challenge.
A small number of breweries, such as The Veil, Trillium, WeldWerks, and New Image Brewing have played around with the powder with solid results. But it’s a process. Brewers recommend using the powder in tandem with hop varieties that already produce a solid base of thiol precursors, such as Citra, Nelson Sauvin, and Mosaic.
Another key is using Phantasm together with a proper thiolized yeast strain to assist the powder in bringing out the full range of tropical aromatics. An often-recommended strain is Cosmic Punch from Omega Yeast, which is a thiolized version of the popular British Ale V strain. Used together, Phantasm and Cosmic Punch help to fully express the thiol aromas, resulting in notes of passion fruit, melon, and guava.
Omega recommends mash hopping with Phantasm when used with Cosmic Punch and using lower alpha acid hops to avoid over-bittering. Omega suggests that mash hopping with Calypso, Cascade, Mittelfruh, and Saaz works well but also recommends considering other hops loaded with precursor thiols, such as Apollo, Eurekam Hallertau, Nugget, and Perle.
Beyond hazy, juicy IPAs, the future of Phantasm also looks strong for use in dry-hopped lagers. Ruffell’s Garage Project just released its own Phantasm Pilsner and has been experimenting with other lager styles.
Phantasm is produced after harvest each year in New Zealand so it’s a somewhat limited, seasonal product. Ruffell is slowly growing the brand, largely through word of mouth, text messages, and through his Instagram account (@phantasm.nz). He is also excited to announce the Phantasm Cup, a competition to find the best thiol forward beer in North America. The winners get a paid trip to the 2023 New Zealand hop harvest.