As well as a host of Green hop beers to try this month we also got to divvy up the hoppy spoils from our visit to Brewcon last month. We spent quite a bit of time chatting with the Yakima Chief Hops people, learning about their company and seeing a lot of photos about their harvesting and processing operations in the States. On top of all that good stuff we also managed to snag a host of samples, a hop loft full.
Most of the samples included the hop blend they call Cryopop a proprietary blend of their cryohops that can act as an amplifier of the hops you’re using or even a Citrus-Stonefruit-Tropical blend of hops to give a real fruity intense hoppy flavour to your beer. That said we did look through a lot of descriptions of hops online and found that different hop types are often described as a combination of these three words. Oh Galaxy hops eh? They have a lovely Stonefruit-Citrus-Tropical aroma, I love Mosiac and the Tropical-Stonefruit-Citrus punch it delivers…
Despite this limited vocabulary issue we issued out a pack of Cryopop and A.N.Other pack of Yakima hops with the plan that we use a combination of these two hops into an ‘IPA’ ready for our meeting in January. Details of the agreed recipe guidelines can be found here.
Sorting all that out took a bit longer than we expected and there was a clamour to get down to the proper business of our meetings and get to the beer drinking. As advertised this month was Green Hop month – something we agreed should be an annual tradition as it gives a guaranteed outlet for the homegrown hops many of us have in our gardens or allows the wild foraging of the hops we see all over the hedgerows to actually result in a beer.
So we had four different beers made with fresh hops a couple of Gluten free lagers a dark smoky porter and then a bright and lively Mead to end the night on along with a sophisticated surprise.
We kicked of with a revisit of Owen’s Green Hop golden ale. A lovely light and bright refreshing beer, where the delicate flavour of the Earnest and Golding hops gave a flowery and spring-like freshness to the beer that may have faded a little since last month but not significantly. A lovely session beer.
We moved onto Ed’s two variations on a lager theme. His devotion to getting a Gluten free recipe nailed down and focusing on changing the controllable parameters and building on the learnings from each brew is testament to his scientific training. One of the Brewcon speakers talked a lot about the techniques and requirements to get the most out of your yeast. Things like Zinc, oxygen and Free amino nitrogen levels. While much research and understanding has been written around malt based beers the change of grist removing cereals that contain gluten means that all that knowledge is more guidance then detailed instructions. So the recipe and process development continues. The two lagers this month were very different. One was fined and the appearance showed a difference because of this and both were relatively young. This was apparent as both beers had a noticeable sulphur aroma that will probably fade with time. The other difference was the older beer had a really citrussy-fruity juice flavour that was very pleasant and balanced well with the beer’s acidity but a little out of character for a lager. Would be a fine pale ale.
We moved onto an even younger beer, Ken’s green hop pale. This had only been packaged a few days ago and it’s greenness was apparent. However hiding behind the diacetyl butterscotch flavour (that will fade quickly as the yeast takes it back up) was a nice beer waiting to appear. Three drops of 150g of fresh cascade hops were apparent in the aroma and flavour and I hope this 5.5% Pale ale will make a return to see what sort of beer it will condition into.
Onto our third green hop beer of the night and Lee had experimented with a hop addition schedule for his homegrown cascade hops. Adding a handful of the hops every minute through the boil is a laborious endeavour but it led to a real fruity grapefruit flavoured beer. This was overlaid on a base beer that had a saison like characteristic, a spiciness and estery aroma and taste that was surprising as you wouldn’t expect this from the choice of yeast and fermentation profile used. However it was a happy accident as this worked as a farmhouse beer and was very drinkable.
The last Green hopped beer was a little more challenging. A lack of care and precision when weighing out my malt meant that what was supposed to be 6% beer turned into a 8.7% beer, that’s a lot of beer. As it is a saison it followed nicely from Lee’s but the intensity of the beer and the fact I didn’t adjust the bittering hop charge for the higher gravity meant it was a little unbalanced, a little too sweet but maybe something that could be sipped on a long winter night.
We moved onto a beer that really was set up for dark, cold November nights; Alan’s Smoked porter. The sophisticated grist and incorporation of Rauch malt meant that the beer felt bigger than its 4.4% strength. The smoky aroma was striking on the nose but subtle when tasted – the perfect balance. I’ve struggled previously with Rauchbiers but this was a welcome smoky flavour that didn’t overwhelm. A really silky body that reminded us of an old fashioned smoky pub on a rainy winter’s night.
A final lovely surprise to the evening was the pairing of a wonderful delicate 10.5% mead created from orange blossom honey that was the perfect complement to Lee’s wonderful membrillo accompanied by a manchego cheese. A step up in sophistication from our usual crisp based sustenance and an elevated end to the evening.
In conclusion, our Green Hop month was a delightful journey filled with hoppy flavors, experimentation, and sophisticated surprises. Cheers!