There are so many different kinds of hops available to brewers now. There are the noble hops, traditional German and Czech cultivars such as Hallertauer or Saaz, which are known for their pleasantly spicy flavors. There are the English hops, such as East Kent Goldings and Fuggles, which have an earthy, woody taste. There are the American hops such as Cascade and Centennial, full of citrus flavor. There are also the new southern hemisphere hops such as Australian Galaxy and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin, with interesting fruit flavors like mango and berry. New hop cultivars are being bred all the time, with some very interesting flavors.
The best way to learn a hop flavor is to brew a single hop beer with it. Storm, our IPA, is a single hop beer made with Australian Galaxy. I picked Galaxy because it’s an amazing hop that can stand on its own. I have brewed many single-hop IPA’s, and I thought I’d share my notes on them. My technique is all 60 minute or flameout hops (same method as Stone). Seven days of primary fermentation followed by two days of dry hopping at room temperature, followed by two days of cold crashing for a total of four days of dry hops. I feel this gives a good compromise between getting mileage out of your dry hops and avoiding harsher flavors. I then bottle and begin tasting two weeks after, at a date of one month after brew date. I watch how the flavor develops over the next month.
Simcoe: My first single-hop IPA. Taste was very complex: citrus, a little pine, a little pear. Amazing hop that can totally stand on it’s own. This beer was so good I entered it in my first competition ever and it took first place against 27 other IPAs. My friends loved it.
Citra: For this one, I actually used cascade to bitter because I had read some things about citra as a bittering hop. Less complex taste than Simcoe, citrus taste, tasters noted strong orange flavor. Flush off my win with Simcoe, I entered this beer in another comp and took second. It’s a good hop, for sure.
Sorachi Ace: Started out very subdued, like a flat, one-dimensional American C-hop. My roommate initially said he tasted a little bubblegum, which I have also read elsewhere. After a week or so, the flavor solidified into a distinct lemon taste. While pleasant, it was pretty one-dimensional. This hop can’t really stand alone in a hop-forward beer, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in an IPA along with maybe some simcoe or citra or in a Belgian wit.
CTZ: A lackluster c-hop. Dull citrus. I’ll stick to CTZ for bittering, because it just doesn’t compare to other American hops for flavor. While not bad, this IPA was nothing to write home about. I’m not sure why it is widely used as a flavoring hop.
Nugget: This was rough stuff but after I bottled it and waited two weeks it started tasting good, with a bit of pine flavor and just a touch of citrus.
Sterling: Crisp, spicy, a hint of citrus. This hop took a really long time to mellow: it only reached it’s true flavor at a month and a week. It is an interesting beer, definitely not a traditional IPA, but I really am looking forward to using it in other beers where a crisp taste would be desired. It could be used in an IPA, paired with something citruisey. I’m a fan.
East Kent Golding: Woody and earthy. A bit dull on its own, seems like adding more is actually less with this hop. There’s a reason that English IPAs aren’t usually hopped to the level of American IPAs.
Galaxy: This season the Simcoe and Citra obsession continued in the brewing world. That was fine by me, because I discovered another amazing hop: Galaxy. This year it was cheap and plentiful. This amazing Australian hop has a very similar tropical citrus flavor as Simcoe or Citra. It is a bit more complex than Citra.
I look forward to offering some special versions of Storm made with other hop varieties!