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Hop aroma impact

Bert Grant smells fresh Cascade hopsUK hop merchant Charles Faram & Co. includes an interesting twist in providing basic information about the hops its sells.

Of course, its chart lists alpha acids and has a few descriptors (“molasses, chocolate, spicy” or “herbal, pineapple, resinous”) but there is also a column for “flavour intensity.” Those numbers are quite subjective. But, just as the colored meters DRAFT magazine featured about six months ago, they are useful as long as you also accept not everybody’s sense of smell is the same.

Also remember intensity is not necessarily the same thing as impact.

For instance, the Faram chart lists Galaxy as an 8, but it surely has as much pop as 9-rated hops like Citra, Amarillo, and Cascade> More than Admiral.

It seems painfully obvious, but how brewers use the hops and how much they use, well, that’s important.

Drink a Marble Brewery Pilsner made with Hersbrucker (6) or a Firestone Walker Brewing Pils with Spalter Select (5) and Saphir (5) for proof.

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That’s the late, great Bert Grant at the top. Those as Cascade hops in his hands.

Good hop reading, because we all love hops with numbers

Peter DarbyMark Dredge has an excellent post on a couple of English hop varieties that were once rejected — so officially, I guess, they never became varieties — that now may get fully developed.

They’ve got numbers, GP 75 and OZ97a, and who doesn’t feel special brewing with hops before they have names? (Citra was so cool it had two numbers, X-114 and HBC 394, before it became a named hop.) This is potentially good news for English hop growers, who can use all the good news they can get.

There’s a sense among brewers that there’s something different about growing conditions in the Yakima Valley and the southern Hemisphere that makes hops from there more vibrant. That’s not so good for hop growers in England, or in Oregon, for that matter. Maybe not for Germans either, although the Society for Hop Research in Germany recently came up with varieties that seem to have the bold aromas and flavors brewers want. We’ll see how those are doing later this year.

We’ll also see if OZ97a can really deliver “apricot, pineapple, lychee, grapefruit, melon and tangerine.” The photo at the outset is of Peter Darby of Wye Hops in Kent, who is at the center of English hop research. “There’s a lot good already out there. It needs to be rediscovered, almost,” he said in 2011, and he was already at work on it then.

Again, the link for more from Darby.

Move over Burton upon Trent, there’s a new pale ale capital

Joel Nosh of the Chicago Tribune explains why it was a coup Chicago-area brewers won all three medals in the American-style pale ale category at the Great American Beer Festival.

First, the Chicago area took the top three spots from among 109 beers entered, one of the most competitive categories at GABF. Also, American-style pale ales and their bold use of hops were pioneered on the West Coast, and the top honors in the category usually go to those brewers. But not this year.

For the record, they were:

– Gold: Brickstone APA, Brickstone Restaurant and Brewery, Bourbonnais, Ill.

– Silver: The Weight, Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, Chicago.

– Bronze: Zombie Dust, Three Floyds, Munster, Ind.

Piece brewmaster Jonathan Cutler was sitting directly in front of me during the awards ceremony. The Weight was brewed as a “tribute and a celebration” after Levon Helm died last spring. When the silver was announced, Cutler stood right up, made a fist, punched a giant hole in something, and shouted (yes, it was pretty loud), “F**k, yeah.” It made everybody around flat out grin, maybe even laugh.

Cutler has won plenty of medals at GABF and the World Beer Cup. Perhaps he was a little more excited because had just won silver after Zombie Dust had won a the bronze. He and Nick Floyd of Three Floyds are the best of friends, but who wouldn’t want to one-up that cult beer?1

In any event, when I saw Cutler in the past I thought first of weiss bier and then about the delicious Piece pizza.

Now, I’ll see him bolting to his feet, bumping his fist, and . . .

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1 Zombie Dust is brewed with immensely popular and hard-to-get Citra hops. Certainly part of the reason they are popular is because demand exceeds current supply, and perhaps Alan McLeod is right when he suggests they could be just a fad. But they also have an aroma different than hops that came before. This might be like more than a hundred years ago, when brewers in Britain began using the Fuggle hop. Wow, that’s different. And, despite various agronomic issues, Fuggle is still around. In fact, she’s a great grandmother of Citra.

Edelstoff: A beer fit for a hop queen

Did I mention the Edelstoff from Augustiner was from the wood, and a lot cheaper than beer at Oktoberfest in Munich?

Veronika Springer, Hallertau Hop Queen

Last week Veronika Springer was crowned Hallertau Hop Queen (Hopfenkönigin) for 2011-2012. I didn’t vote for her, but she received 62 percent (1,478) of the votes. The Wolnzach Volkfest tent was rocking, packed with hop farmers and friends washing down traditional festival food with liters of Augustiner.

Veronika Springer, Hallertau Hop Queen

The new queen is well qualified, having grown up on a hop farm and currently working at NATECO2, an extraction plant where hops are the biggest part of the business. She didn’t get my support, or that of several of the brewmasters I was seated with, because she seems to be skeptical about the future of “flavor”1 hops.

Change is afoot in Germany and these are brewers who want to be part of it. That doesn’t mean they are about to abandon tradition, but it does mean the range of flavors from Halltertau hops will soon be broader.2 The crew at the Hop Research Center at Hüll is not interested in copying American hop flavors, but I was there maybe three minutes before I thought, “These guys are not going to be left behind.”

1 With the line between what were once known as “bittering” and “aroma” hops already blurred — and the term “dual purpose” just not cutting it — I’m not sure how the idea of “flavor hops” will fit in, but I heard those words in the UK, Germany and Czech Republic. These could also be called “impact hops.” To the continental palate Cascade is a “flavor” hop; while you’ve got to throw something like Citra or Simcoe at an hop-experienced American for impact. Sound confusing? At least you don’t have to sort it out for a book.

2 These hops are also going to show up in beers brewed in America. I can’t wait.

And the band played on

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