LEM (affectionately named after its striking resemblance to the Lunar Excursion Module) gives us incredible flexibility in how we utilize hops. It is built for both whole cone or pelletized hops. We have been currently working with whole cone hops in our Extra Pale Ale. We devised a system of using hops in their natural whole cone form so that we could extract an obscene amount of aroma and flavor without the huge bitterness that would normally accompany them if using pellets. With the XPA being a sessionable 4.8% alcohol beer, the huge bitterness would overwhelm the lighter malt body. Our use of whole cone hops allows us to “steep” the hops for just a moment before separating them from the wort. This pulls only the volatile flavors and aromas out, because the bitter compounds take extended contact. LEM is a device we concocted that gives us the ability for an ultra-late hopping, whereby we pass the hot wort through the whole cone hops on its way to the cooling unit. This means the glorious, but volatile, aromas and flavors are captured because the wort is cooled within seconds of passing through the hops.
As if that’s not enough, LEM also allows us to dry hop with pelletized hops. Through a reversed flow system, LEM will swirl and hydrate the hops so they can be recirculated into the finished beer. At Switchback our beer is naturally carbonated by the yeast. As a result, all of our beer is under pressure, which means we cannot just open a port and pour dry hops in. With LEM we recirculate the hop slurry into the tank while under pressure. The recirculation is highly efficient at maximizing hop/beer contact for exceptional dry hop character. Being able to do this under pressure means we can continue to carbonate our beer completely naturally.