Let's Hop To It
Let’s Hop to It!
I actually had a different post in the queue for today, but I had a pretty interesting conversation last night with a local brewer here in Saint John. We were talking about the hop blend of his latest brew and how the characteristics of hops might be a little different based on where they are grown in the world – resulting in slight unexpected variations in flavour & aroma.
Specifically we were talking about locally grown Centennial vs those grown in large scale commercial farms in different parts of North America. While I haven’t had a chance yet to brew with the Centennial we have in stock he had, and was explaining that he felt the hop had more “earthy” characteristics when grown here in New Brunswick than what he had experienced brewing with Centennial grown out west.
I thought I would take a few minutes to break down the characteristics of the hops we have here in stock and get some feed back on what people like, and what differences in character you may have noticed between hops grown in different seasons or in different climates.
Centennial – “A much-celebrated hop with depth of bitterness and forward aroma. Versatile and can be used in a variety of beer styles.” As I mentioned there is some discussion on whether locally produced Centennial has a more earthy character to it. Have you experienced this? Given how versatile this hop is, having varying flavour profiles could really change up the end result of some brews.
Cascade – “Features excellent vigor and yield and when brewed exudes a distinct spicy citrus aroma with hints of grapefruit. Well suited to just about any ale and lager, its use is particularly popular in American Pale Ales.” Cascade is another locally grown hop in our shop. A usual suspect in many of the popular NEIPA beers being produced these days its grapefruit profile really stands out. We have all brewed a classic pale ale at some point in our lives – ever noticed any variations in the ever popular Cascade?
Willamette – “A triploid aroma hop with its heritage being primarily derived from English variety Fuggle and Fuggle Tetraploid. It shares this same pedigree with its sister selection, Columbia. When brewed, Willamette features complex spiciness characterized by both herbal, floral and fruity notes.” Originally grown to replace Fuggle for American brewers this hop received USDA approval in 1971 and is primarily grown in Oregon. I am not aware of stocks available from other parts of the US, but given the often wet climate in the North Western parts of the US I am wonder if any brewers have noticed a big difference from season too season?
Tettnanger – “Though characteristically similar to Hallertau and genetically similar to Saaz, Tettnanger has notably more farnesene content giving it a soft spiciness and a subtle, balanced, floral and herbal aroma. It is also great as a dual-use hop, and considered by many as being particularly well suited to European lagers and pilsners.” In 2020 we are stocking this hop variety grown in Germany, but Tettnanger is also commonly grown in the US and Switzerland.
Styrian Golding – “A lovely aroma hop and exhibits resinous, earthy flavors that are perhaps considered slightly more refined than Fuggle. It has also been described as imparting subtle aromas of white pepper to a brew.” Primarily grown in Austria and used for its aroma Styrian Golding is an interesting hop as it is actually a descendant of Fuggle, not Golding. Given how important aroma is in beer I am wondering if any brewers have experienced different characteristics of his hop grown outside of its native lands.
East Kent Golding – “Amazing aroma profile with lavender, spice, honey and notes of thyme. Flavor-wise it is earthy and mildly bittering with a sweet, silky, honey-like character. East Kent Golding is considered to be the quintessential English hop, long held as one of the island’s favorites for ales and pale ales.” Here is a big one for more experienced (read: older, lol) brewers. This hop was exclusively grown in England until its introduction into Oregon in 1994. I would be interested to hear if anyone has any real world experience brewing with this hop grown from different locations.
Saaz – “One of the four original Noble hops and has a distinctive and classic aroma. Known for its prominent use in Stella Artois and countless Bohemian Lagers and Pilsners. Its warm, herbal character stems from a high level of farnesene while its other oils are in fair balance.” Originally developed and grown in the Czech Republic it has more recently been embraced by brewers in New Zealand and is now one of the more popular varieties used here. Anyone have any experience with this one grown in the South Pacific?
Hallertauer Mittelfrüher – “A mild, pleasantly spicy aroma and flavor described simply as “noble” and characteristic of the great German lagers.” One of the original four noble hops its popularity is down over the past couple years. It has become very susceptible to verticillium wilt, which is a common fungal infection that attacks the roots of various plants and trees. Unfortunately it has been reported that crops grown in the US, away from its ancestral home are also under attack by the disease. Given the decline in use of this hop I am interested in what brewers are using it in, and what their best results have come from.
Fuggle – “Originates in England and was first discovered in 1861 in a hop yard owned by George Stace in Kent. Some 14 years later it was officially named and introduced by Richard Fuggle of Benchley in 1875. Similar to a Styrian Golding, is noted for its distinct European aroma and has enjoyed a long, versatile run. At its peak nearly 100 years ago Fuggle was known as a dual-use hop. Today however, as other higher alpha acid varieties have become more prevalent, it’s now more prominently used for its aroma.” Grown primarily in the UK, I don’t have any experience brewing with this one grown outside England. I would love to hear if anyone has any local experience with this one!
So that rounds out the hops that we have here at The Community Brew Shop. I have been thinking about this a lot since my conversation on hops grown locally vs hops grown from away. It intrigues me because the local growers here in New Brunswick are producing incredibly high quality crops each year, and to see how our unique climate here by The Bay of Fundy affects hops is amazing.
Leave a comment below and share your results with hops grown here at home or from other parts of the world. What’s worked? What hasn’t? We would love to know if there was a hop you have used in the past that really knocked it out of the park so we can look into the producer and possibly stock it in the future.