This is simply a nifty little contest that Simply Hops, a division of the Barth-Haas Group, has put together. The premise is also pretty simple.
Question. What happens when you take away some of the main ingredients for making a big juicy IPA and then still demand that a big juicy IPA is brewed?
Answer. We find who the really talented brewers are.
The underdog competition is designed to seek out the most impressive brewers around, by showing that great beer can be made from almost any hop variety when used in the right way. It’s all about generating the best flavour and aroma possible. This year our underdog hop is Summit and once again we want you to take this hop and make a truly stunning IPA style beer.
But it won’t be easy. In the rules we have a list of banned hops that are usually used to create the big IPAs including varieties like Citra, Mosaic & Galaxy. With a minimum of 50% of the total hop addition having to be Summit, brewers will have to work extra hard to utilise the best of the great flavours Summit offers while creating an IPA that really stands out from the crowd.
There are more rules, but most important are that Summit must make up 50 percent of the total hop addition and that there is a list of hops that cannot be used: Amarillo, US Cascade, Centennial, US Chinook, Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic or Simcoe.
So lots of Summit, the hop brewers love to hate because they blame it for adding onion/garlic aroma and flavor to beer, and few of many best known if-this-is-Tuesday-I-must-be-drinking-a-juicy-IPA hops. (A quick bit of backtracking, this is the second year for the contest. You can read about the first here.) And, as important, the winning beer goes on the road in 2017, to be served at events where people like Phil Lowry can talk about the role oxygenated compounds, thiols (sulfur compounds), and biotransformations play in creating odor compounds.
This has been a while coming. In 1992 Gail Nickerson of Oregon State University and Earl Van Engel of Blitz-Weinhard Brewing proposed establishing an Aroma Unit (AU) comparable to the International Bitterness Unit (IBU). Although they did not include thiols in the formula, they were ahead of their time. They divided 22 hop oil compounds that would compose the AU into three broad categories: oxidation products, floral-estery compounds, and citrus-piney compounds. They intended that brewers would use their Hop Aroma Component Profiles along with the AU, much as they would use the alpha acid content of a particular variety to adjust hopping rates. “(Since the 1960s) scientists have tried to identify the compound responsible for hoppy character in beer without success. Hoppy aroma in beer is probably not attributable to a single component but rather to the synergistic effect of several compounds,” they wrote back then.
Almost 25 years later there are a) hop varieties with much higher levels, and a different mix, of oils, b) we can more easily measure the thiols and appreciate their importance, and c) scientists have begun to chart the changes that result from of interactions between hops and yeast (biotransformations). I don’t think the result will be an Aroma Unit, but scientists have begun to deliver information brewers may use when blending varieties.
Demanding that brewers use at least 50 percent Summit is particularly brilliant, because it contains precusors for thiols that the brewing process may transform into odor compounds that we perceive as juicy, tropical, etc. But also one that may produce or onion/garlic aromas.
At a geek level — yes that would be me, but I am sparing you the long and hard to pronounce names of the thiols — this is pretty exciting. Once again, science enables art in brewing.