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What would a hop named Elvis smell like?

Yesterday I asked this question on Twitter: Which one of this is not a hop variety?


Sadly, voter turnout was low, but curiously the oldest variety here was the one selected most often as the invention and it took a while before Joshua David Hicks came up with the correct answer. Best I can tell, nobody has trademarked Elvis as the name of a hop variety.

I asked the question because this week a) Saint Arnold Brewing in Texas released a beer made with Ariana and has invited drinkers to provide feedback, and b) Sierra Nevada Brewing announced this year’s German Oktoberfest partner will be Mahrs Bräu and the beer will be made with the “nearly forgotten Record hop varietal.”

Saint Arnold calls its new beer Icon Green – 7220 Pale Ale, in part because the Germans only named the variety Ariana a few of weeks ago. German hop growers will be serving samples of beers made with this hop (its full name until last month was 2010/72/020) as well as 2010/08/033 next week at the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia. Evaluating the hops raw members of a German panel found 2010/72/020 “pleasant and mild with slight nuances of berries like blackcurrant (cassis) and sweet fruits (peach, pear, tropical) and slightly resinous.” And they described 2010/08/033 as “hoppy, sweet fruit impressions like apricot and passion fruit. These are joined by one or two spicy and vegetable-like notes (bell peppers, olives).”

Texans who drink Icon Green can make up their own mind and provide feedback online. There are five essay questions:

– How would you describe the aroma of Hop 2010/72/20?
– How would you describe the taste of Hop 2010/72/20?
– Is there another hop you would describe as having a similar profile?
– For which beer styles would this hop be appropriate?
– What are your overall feelings toward this hop?

I can guarantee you German hop growers are looking forward to seeing the answers.

This is the second year that Sierra Nevada has collaborated with a Germany brewery to make an Oktoberfest beer. Last year’s partnership with Brauhaus Riegele resulted in one of my favorite Oktoberests of 2015. It was a malt forward beer, and the 2016 will be as well. So I’m not sure what mentioning the hop variety in the press release means. I’d like to know, and have already dashed off email enquiries, about why Record was chosen and where it is being grown now.

The variety resulted from breeding in Belgium — a Northern Brewer mother was open pollinated by a Saazer male — in the 1960s, intended to create a higher alpha hop that was relatively disease resistant. It was a high alpha hop in its day, about 6.2% alpha acids in 1981, and grown in what was then West Germany (almost 1,000 acres in 1978) as well as Belgium.

In case you are wondering, Denali is a variety from Hopsteiner first known as experimental variety No. 06277 (and unofficially as Nuggetzilla). Monroe is a relatively new hop from Germany (although its heritage is “American wild”) named after Marylin Monroe. The description from hop broker Barth-Haas suggests, “When you add the hop to a beer, then she shows her true colors: exactly like everyone remembers Marilyn Monroe in a red dress. A guise full of red aromas. In the nose, there are wonderful raspberry notes supplimented with orange syrup and added to this in the taste is the sweet taste that reminds one of summer and cherries.” I did not experience that at the 2015 Craft Brewers Conference when I had a beer brewed with Monroe, but I’ll seek out another sample next week at CBC in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, I am left wondering what we would expect a hop named Elvis to bring to a beer.


Why dry hopping may lower iso-alpha acids but boost bitterness

Recent research related to hops and brewing is not making life easier for the people who write brewing software.

Exhibit A: A peer-reviewed paper in the Master Brewers Association of the Americas Technical Quarterly titled, “Humulinone Formation in Hops and Hop Pellets and its implications for Dry Hopped Beers.” (A condensed version of the results of the S.S. Steiner experiments described in the Technical Quarterly is available at the Hopsteiner website.)

Exhibit B: Research going on at Urban Chestnut Brewing in St. Louis related to the impact of dry hopping on pH, then the impact of pH on perceived bitternes.

We’re not talking about changes in International Bitterness Units (IBU) that result from dry hopping, so I pretty much made up that part about problems for brewing software. But the changes in bitterness are real. So ripped from the headlines:

– Humulinones are formed by the oxidation of alpha acids within the hop. They are not a recent discovery, but there was little reason to pay attention to them before brewers began dry hopping at the rate some do today. Yes, you may blame IPAs.

– They are about two-thirds as bitter as alpha acids that are isomerized by boiling (becoming iso-alpha acids, the primary bittering component in beer), but — here is the key — they are more soluable and will dissolve into beer during dry hopping to increase bitterness.

The devil is in the details:

– Baled hops (which is what almost all brewers previously used) contain less than 0.3% w/w (which basically means by weight), but the concentration can increase to .5% w/w after hop pelleting.

– Hops with a higher hop storage index (HSI – and when that is higher it means the hop loses its alpha acids more quickly) have a higher concentration of humulinones. This is variety dependent.

– Comparing a low-IBU beer to a high-IBU beer in order to understand the solubility characteristics of humulinones produced a surprising result. Increasing the dry hopping dose from 0 to 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 pounds per barrel resulted in progressively lower iso-alpha acide consentrations, from 48 to 39, 35, and 30 ppm, respectively. “This siginifcant loss in bitterness was offset, however, by the large increase in humulinones that dissolved in the beer.”

And the bitterness was different. I had to read this explanation slowly (I could feel my lips move): “Sensory evalutation of a very low IBU beer spiked with 22 ppm of humulinones was compared with the same beer spiked with 14.5 ppm of iso-alpha acids. The bitterness intensity of the two beers appeared to be similar, confirming that humulinones are about 66% as bitter as iso-alpha acids. The bitterness profile of the humulinone beer, however, appeared smoother, and there was less lingering on the tongue than with the iso-alpha acid beer. This smooth bitterness makes sense given humulinones are more polar than iso-alpha acids and should therefore not stick or linger on the tongue as long as iso-alpha acids.”

Moving on to pH.

Kurt Driesner, quality assurance manager at Urban Chestnut, discussed some of the early results of the brewery’s research at a MBAA meeting at UCB last month. Expect more information in a few months, but right now: typical dry hopping at UCBC increases pH between 0.1 and 0.25 units; preliminary data suggests that every 0.1 increase in pH is equivalent to a 2 IBU increase in perceived bitterness; and the perceived difference can be observed through pH adjustments independent of any dry hop addition.

S.S. Steiner also observed that pH increased as the dry hop dosage increased, so took five commercial beers with different IBUs and different pHs and dry hopped them with with Cascade hop pellets. The results showed that regardless of starting IBU or pH dry hopping had a linear impact on pH, with the pH rising by about 0.14 units per pound of hops used per barrel.


Some bitterness to balance all those hops, please

All About Beer magazine - Please pass the bitternessI should probably wait to comment on Jeff Alworth’s story until our postwoman delivers the latest All About Beer magazine (John Holl tweeted this photo of the cover yesterday), but he hinted at the contents when he posted “How American IPAs Evolved” at Beervana.

At the heart of his blog post you have this: “There has been a shift from very bitter IPAs to IPAs marked by flavor and aroma, but it has happened around the country as brewers each made natural discoveries on their own.”

You’ll notice the cover also says “Trending: Fruit IPAs.”

More data points:

New Belgium Botanical Imperial IPA.

Straight from the press release (or you can watch the video): “Using the fresh aroma of the spring landscape as inspiration, New Belgium Brewing’s Botanical Imperial IPA uses a blast of essential oils from backyard botanicals. basil, sage and juniper help create the freshest IPA around, with Bravo, Cascade, Sterling, and Willamette hop varieties delivering a potent hop punch.”

“The essential oils intensify the citrusy, herbal and spicy hop flavors,” noted Ross Koenigs, New Belgium pilot brewer. “The idea for a botanical IPA came from our love of both IPAs and gin. So back in 2014, we had our hop chemist run a bunch of gin botanicals alongside different hop varieties and then we started beta testing how those different herbs and spices played with the hops. The result offers notes of citrus, pine, wood, cedar, mint, and a little spice.”

Hops Oils & Aroma: Uncharted Waters.

It seems a little weird linking to a story I wrote for Craft Beer & Brewing, but it saves me pounding out 1,200 words again to explain some of the science behind what New Belgium is up to.

YCH HOPS Hop Varieties.

If you take a look at a few varieties (I suggest HBC 291, a hop that really needs a name) you’ll see that YCH HOPS has increased the amount of information itprovides about at least some varieties. It now provides data on linalool and geraniol. This is fun. For instance, notice that New Belgium is using Bravo, a variety with above average oil content and thus more geraniol than the average bear. It’s a hop that brewers can use to create an interesting blend — rather than wasting their time moaning, “Wah wah wah, I can’t get Citra.” Just remember, as the story points out, there’s a lot hop scientists are still figuring out.

Late hopping preserves these oils — about 50% of essentials oil evaporate during just 10 minutes of boiling. Although, as Alworth points out, brewers don’t necessarily need to boil hops as long as previously thought to extract bitterness (technically, they aren’t really extracting bitterness, they are orchestrating a conversion) too often they are creating beers that I find not bitter enough. Part of the reason is those big, juicy, tropical aromas and flavors create an impression of sweetness.

I’m no more interested in fruit bombs than I am bitter bombs.

So I was delightfully surprised last Friday when we dropped by the Virginia Beer Company in Williamsburg after the first session of Ales Through the Ages. I think their grand opening is this Saturday, but they’ve been throwing open their doors for a series of soft openinngs.

Brewer Jonathan Newman’s beers are ready. I didn’t love every one of them. For me, Nelson Sauvin hops and saison yeast may never work together (I am probably in the minority). But the rye saison with Amarillo hops was sublime. Every one of the beers, even the one with Nelson Sauvin, was balanced and nuanced. And, for those of you keeping score at home, even though they are unfiltered every one of them poured bright.

But my favorite moment was after I’d tasted the IPA, Newman asked me if I thought it is bitter enough. It has all the flavor and aroma you expect in a 2016 IPA, but, yes, it is bitter enough.

Monday beer links: It’s an IPA world and we’re all just living in it


Before burying you with this week’s IPA links a few others.

Rather a beer than a biscuit.
This is long, as in thank goodness for Pocket long. But should it intrigue you then I recommend Proust Was a Neuroscientist. [Via Called to the Bar]

After Homaro Cantu’s death, brewpub reborn with new name, new chef.
“When you think about something so terrible happening, it can demonize a space a little bit.” Another one suited for Pocket. [Via Chicago Tribune]


Pumpkin Beer Sales Go Flat, With Leftovers Lingering On Shelves Through Winter.
[Via Forbes]
Pilsner is the new pumpkin ale in the craft beer world.
[Via MarketWatch]

I’m not a pumpkin beer drinker myself, and I would like to see more pilsners in the marketplace. I expect we will. Some will be Americanized, for better or worse. And as the Forbes story makes obvious, sometimes brewers get too optimistic about how much a beer will sell. But there is a difference between growth of a type of beer slowing and that type disappearing. A lot is still going on in the pumpkin patch and we’ll see plenty of pumpkin beers soon enough, accompanied by the usual moaning.


The 11 styles of American IPA?
[Via Yours For Good Fermentables]
IPA Is Dead, Long Live IPA.
[Via Willamette Week]
How American IPAs Evolved.
[Via Beervana]
Tracking the Evolution of American IPA.
[Via This Is Why I Am Drunk]
The Madness of Causation: Why Do We Care?
[Via Beervana (yes, again)]

Stop. Take a deep breath. Maybe drink a pilsner. Now moving on …

Are Hazy, New England-Style IPAs a Controversial New Colorado Beer Trend?
Want to know was Jamil Zainasheff thinks about it? [Via Westword]

This conversation is not new — here is a photo from 2009 — and it seems to be picking up steam. Notice the number of times Jamil’s tweet has been liked.

Beer links: Big Picture. Hop fingerprinting. Your choice.


Craft beer – have the big brewers nailed it?
[Via Morning Advertiser]
Gerrymandering the Beer Aisle.
[Via Literature and Libation]
ABInBev Doesn’t Hate You – It Just Wants Sales.
[Via A Good Beer Blog]

There’s some big concept thinking going on in these three links, too big for me to summarize succinctly. I suggest reading them in order. Knowing that you may not, here are the last paragraphs of each one, unfairly presented without context.

I can see why this might cause some consternation for craft brewers and their hardcore fans, for whom craft is a movement, a stand against the corporate dominance of everything. But from a drinker’s point of view, if the big guys are now making better beer, that has to be good news.

As a fine patina sets in and the youthful exuberance fades, I have a sneaking suspicion that the game of beers will start to look a lot less like a righteous war or crusade, and a lot more like the classic Red vs Blue, mudslinging, carpetbagging mess that is our political system. Such is the nature of modern capitalism, and probably why, as they say on the internet, “we can’t have nice things.”

In 2016 as more and more big craft sells out to big beer, organized independent craft will need to catch up with the politics of adapting to market demand, catch up with big beer if it wants to avoid being a blip in history. And it might take as brazen an approach as big beer took in 2015. Not sure craft has what it takes.

The thing about big picture thinking is figuring out where all the little pictures fit in. When the number of breweries in the country doubles in such a short amount of time it is hard to take the pulse of all the new participants. Maybe they are lying, but an awful lot of these people seem to have no interest in becoming the next Golden Road or Ballast Point. They want to make a comfortable living. Some would simply consider themselves brewers, other artisans, some even artists.

Ian Rankin on the perfect pub: The Rebus author tells how pub culture has inspired his novels.
A different sort of little picture. [Via Independent]

Hop tidbit of the week

The conversation started the week before, but continued last week (click on the date to see it all), among other things raising questions about where Fuggle fits in on any hop family tree. The chart pictured also appeared in “For the Love of Hops” and shows the results of molecular studies that indicate the distance between certain varieties. The scientists used AFLP fingerprinting.

Researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart employed that same technology to analyze the similarity of Tettnanger hop plants to other varieties in 2002, reaffirming other surveys that concluded that Tettnanger, Spalt Spalter, and Saaz hops are so closely related they may be grouped together as “Saazer hops.”

Among the hops studied at Stuttgart where multiple Osvald Saaz clones, plants chosen from the field because they looked and smelled like the original Saaz, and brewed similar beer, but perhaps yielded more cones per plant or were more disease resistant. Various farmers grew and sold these varieties as Saaz, and happy customers brewed with them as Saaz.

All the Osvald Saaz clones studied at Stuttgart could be more clearly distinguished from each other than the original Saaz could from Tettnanger and Spalter. Three of the clones were quite similar to the landrace Saaz, but Osvald clone 126 was much closer to Fuggle. Nonetheless, all Osvald clones grown in the region around Žatek exhibited very similar morphological traits and aroma components.

Just to be clear, grown in Žatek a plant genetically closer to Fuggle than Saaz passed for Saaz.

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