Green with Envy

Posted by on Mar 19, 2014

On a day almost exclusively dedicated to the shamrock a few people decided to support my anarchic decision to focus on that other phenomenal green plant: the hop.

This tasting proved to be another challenging one for me to set up. Sure, I could have simply based it around IPAs great and small, but I wanted to delve a bit deeper into how exactly hops influence beers. Then there’s the other side of the argument, as even the maltiest porter or stout you can get is influenced by hops in a way that’s probably worth talking about. But a beer like that is really more of a tribute to malt than to leafy green things. So, in the end we ended up with six beers that had a discernible hop character coming through, but the characters and the ways they were used were all distinctly different.

1) Rothaus ‘Pils’: Hardly the hoppiest beer you’ll find, but a German Pils does typically require a nice bite at the end to tell you that you need to take another sip! Germans typically use ‘Noble Hop’ varieties which consist of Hallertauer, Saaz, Spalt, and Tettnang. These hops generally elicit a soft spicy quality that fits in well with the delicate flavours typical of German beers. In this case, the light, sweet biscuit notes pervade up until they meet that bitterness, which lays on your tongue very softly.

2) Goose Island ‘India Pale Ale’: The signature brew from Chicago is a great example of how to meld a rich but drinkable malt body in with a top notch hop character. Marmalade, mango and passion fruit and that resiny finish that I love oh so much. This example claims to be modeled after the old English versions, and while I’d agree the malt body suggests it to be so, the huge, fruity hop character has a bit of a New World quality to it.

3) BrewDog ‘Libertine Black Ale’: Simcoe is essentially the trademark hop for BrewDog and typically shoots out some citrus fruity notes along with an aspect described on the West Coast of the US as a ‘dankness’ (remember that hops are most closely related to cannibus). This Black IPA, while certainly hoppy, tends to bring the focus back a little more towards the roast and malt side of things.

4) d’Achouffe ‘Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel’: If ever a beer was created for the American craft beer market it was this one; mixing an enamel-stripping Double IPA with a phenolic spicy Belgian Tripel. While I know many who don’t believe American hops and Belgian yeast should mix, the Tomahawk and Amarillo of this beer do produce a fruitiness that works well alongside the banana and pineapple esters of the yeast. It is a very smooth beer and hides its 9% ABV very well.

5) De Molen ‘Amarillo’: A Double IPA brewed with Challenger, Saaz, and the namesake this was an example of how hoppy beers can change over time as the bittering and aroma constituents begin to drop out. While the beer retained a mellow citrus note, it wasn’t the faceful of hops that you might expect from a Double IPA. Even with a bit of aging it was a very drinkable beer and the malt sweetness melded in to the fruit and resin in a similar way to that of the Goose Island (though with a much heavier alcohol kick to get you going as well).

6) Brooklyn ‘Monster Ale’: When faced with the decision of brewing a beer that has an ‘American style’ and an ‘English style’, Brooklyn seems to prefer to go for the latter and so this Barleywine is not as hoppy as an American version might be. Nonetheless, a beer of 10.8% generally needs a huge amount of bitterness to back it up and the Willamet, Cascade, and Fuggle hops do a decent job of rounding out the sweeter sherry notes of the beer.

For anyone looking for a hop fix, Goose Island was the favourite of the night.