Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Vic Secret - Hop Tasting Notes

The final beer from this run was brewed using Vic Secret hops, which is another new cultivar from Australia.

The aroma of this beer was dominated by a big passionfruit note. I also got mango peel and tangerine notes from it as well. The aroma intensity was good, but not quite as high as the Enigma and HBC-438 beers from this group of trials.

The flavor of the beer was more of that big passionfruit that was on the nose, supported by some pine undertones. The intensity of hop flavor was moderate and let some of the malt character show through. The bitterness was smooth, with some lingering resin character through the finish.

I am a big fan of Vic Secret. That passionfruit character is distinct and intense. It makes me think of Galaxy, but it isn't quite as intense and doesn't have as much of the stonefruit or citrus I get from Galaxy sometimes. Vic Secret will definitely have a home in IPA's, but its lower intensity would also let it work in some other styles that may get overpowered by something like Galaxy or Citra. The ubiquitous "hoppy American wheat" would be a nice summer sipper with some Vic Secret in the dry hops. I could also see this working well with estery English yeasts if you're looking to get creative. A Landlord-style pale ale with Vic Secret in the whirlpool has a lot of potential.

Although it's not quite as potent as some of the others (it's not mild by any means, just not crushingly intense), I think Vic Secret is my favorite of the hops I've used on this run. I recently brewed an IPA featuring Vic Secret as the primary hop, along with some X-17 and Meridian, and I was very happy with the results.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Enigma - Hop Tasting Notes

My next tasting was Enigma. This is a new Australian hop that I got through Farmhouse Brewing Supply. The pellets clocked in at 18.1% AA.

The nose of the beer had a bright citrus/fruit aroma up front. There was a lot of complexity in the background, with woodsy, spicy, dank and piny aromas all present to one extent or another. The aroma was really big and bright, and had a really familiar "hoppy" character, for lack of better description. It reminded me of really peak quality Simcoe.

The flavor had big citrus and pine notes, almost giving the impression of fresh spruce tips. I did pick up some onion - nothing comparable to Summit, but still over my taste threshold. The bitterness seemed smooth, with some resin notes that fade out on the finish.

The descriptors I've read for Enigma lean towards red fruit (raspberries, red currants, etc.), but I'm not getting much of that. What I am getting still tells me that this is going to be a killer IPA hop, though. Although I did get a bit of the dreaded onion in the flavor, the bright hop aroma is too good to pass over. I'm looking forward to brewing an IPA with this in combination with some other hops in the near future.

Monday, April 11, 2016

HBC 438 (aka "Ron Mexico") - Hop Tasting Notes

My next tasting is HBC 438 (aka "Ron Mexico") from Hopunion, which also supports the Ales for ALS charity. In contrast to the Armadillo hops, the HBC hop pellets had a great aroma before they even made it to the beer. A unique feature of this hop is that it is a cross between a native American hop (Humulus lupulus neomexicanus) and a more traditional variety of European/North American descent.

The Ron Mexico beer had a very distinct, aromatic nose. The main aromas were passionfruit and blackcurrant. There was also some juniper in the background.

On the palate I found that the blackcurrant character took the lead, chased by passionfruit and citrus. I picked up just a fleeting hint of dank/onion at the tail end that gives way to a smooth juniper-resin bitterness on the finish.

HBC-438 is going to be a solid IPA hop for sure. It has a substantial oil content (2.5-3.5 mL/100 g), and a unique flavor profile. This is the first time I've brewed with a hop of neomexicanus heritage, so I don't know if that is where the distinct flavor is coming from, but it definitely sets this hop variety apart as unique. It should be able to hold its own with other hops in a blend quite well. I look forward to playing around with this one a bit more.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Armadillo (Experimental) - Hop Tasting Notes

They're a little overdue, but it's time to get around to posting the tasting notes for the rest of my most recent batch of single-hopped beers.

Next up is the beer I brewed with the experimental hop variety Armadillo. These are leaf hops from the 2014 harvest from Yakima Valley Hops. To be honest, the raw hops left a lot to be desired right out of the gate. There wasn't much aroma to them at all. On its own, that's not necessarily a bad mark for whole hops. But the pound of hops I got reminded me of the bottom of a bag of chips. There were few whole cones; it was mostly loose bracts. There was also very little of the stickiness and springiness that I often feel in good-quality hop cones.

In the beer itself, I picked up a rather mild hop character in the aroma. There was some herbal character with notes of citrus and lime. The flavor was even milder - there were faint citrus notes, some resinous pine and faint floral notes as well. The bittering character was a clinging resin on the back of the tongue. It's not as abrasive as something like Chinook or Columbus, but it's not particularly smooth either.

Overall, my experience with Armadillo is a swing and a miss. I'm sure some of this may be attributable to the quality of the hops I received, but I don't see much good use for the hops I have on hand. They could possibly be a decent bittering hop for an IPA, but that's all I got.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

X-17 Hops - Tasting Notes

The first hop that I'll be tasting from this batch of trials is X-17. X-17 is an experimental hop cultivar bred by The Oregon Hophouse. The Oregon Hophouse is a certified organic hop farm, and their hop breeding program is targeted at developing pest resistant hop cultivars. I had the pleasure of exchanging a few emails with Pat, who runs the farm where X-17 is under development. Even through a few short emails, it was quite clear to me that Pat is passionate about what they're doing on their farm.

Downy mildew is a serious concern in the Willamette Valley where Pat's farm is located, and a major barrier for organic crop production in the region. X-17 was bred for its tolerance of downy mildew. Not only does this allow for reduced fungicide use, which is a worthy benefit on its own, but it also allows more options for cover crops to help fix nitrogen in the soil. This type of "big picture" thinking is refreshing, and is the sign of a farmer who truly understands the barriers and benefits of organic farming.

Developing cultivars that thrive under organic farming practices is certainly a noble goal. I know I struggle with pests and disease just in my small home garden, so I can only imagine how challenging it must be on a commercial scale. But to me the most important feature in any food, organic or not, is flavor. So let's get to my tasting notes.

The aroma of the beer had a distinct orange and lemon zest aroma. The hop aroma was moderate in strength and did allow some of the toasty Munich malt aromas to peek through as well.

On the palate, the flavor followed the aroma very closely. Orange and lemon peel were the main flavors I was getting. Again, the hop presence was moderate and allowed the malt to show through as well. Also of note, I didn't pick up any significant pine or dank flavors that many C-hops bring along with their citrus character. Bitterness was crisp, but smooth, leaving a touch of resin on the finish.

I am really liking the X17. It's probably not bold enough to carry an IPA by itself, but it would certainly work as part of a blend - comparable to hops like Motueka or Mandarina Bavaria. It definitely makes one hell of a pale ale. X-17 also seems like the perfect hop for a wit, or maybe even a White IPA. It will probably be amazing paired with EKGs or other English hops in an ESB. I think it would make a great dry-hopped sour as well. The flavor profile of this hop makes it extremely versatile. To be honest, it's hard to think of a style that X-17 wouldn't be good in.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hop Tastings - 2015 Edition

I've used a bit of well-deserved vacation time to get caught up on some brewing this week. At the top of the list was another round of single-hopped beers to taste-test some new hop varieties. Brewday was today, so we're a month or so away from tasting these bad boys, but here's the list of hops I brewed with to pique your interest:

Vic Secret - a new hop from Australia
Enigma - another new hop from Australia
Armadillo Experimental - an experimental hop available from Yakima Valley Hops
HBC 438 (aka "Ron Mexico") - a new hop from HBC (the fine people who brought us Citra, Mosaic, Equinox, etc.), that is currently only available to homebrewers.
X-17 - a new experimental hop from The Oregon Hophouse, who were kind enough to send me a sample to review. I am really excited about these.

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Hop My Beer" Chinook & Citra Hop Oils - Tasting Notes

The first oils I evaluated from Hop My Beer were Chinook and Citra. The beer I used to taste-test this was Rye King from Brutopia, and excellent local brewpub. It is essentially a Rye Maerzen with a little hop bite (~30 IBU) and only a touch of noble hop aroma. I figured it would be a pretty good base beer for sampling hop oils.The recommended dose is 1-2 drops per 12 oz pour. I started with 1 drop in 6oz, so this is the upper end of the starting range.

When I opened the bottle of Chinook oil I picked up a grassy, hop pellet aroma from the oil itself. In the dosed beer I picked up some grassy, cucumber peel aromas, along with anise and an herbal/spicy/minty note similar to a Ricola cough drop.

On the flavor side, there were some raw hop/resin notes along with some herbal grassiness. The resin tended to linger a bit which left the impression of a bit more bitterness (like maybe 5 IBU more). Unlike what I'd expect from Chinook, I didn't get any pine or citrus in either the flavor or the aroma.

The Citra oil had the same grassy, raw hop aroma in the bottle. When I dosed the beer I got more of that raw hop aroma and herbal mint/spice aromas. I did pick up some sweet tropical fruit in the papaya/guava family and maybe a hint of Hawaiian Punch. The fruit was faint, however and had none of the mango/citrus I typically get from Citra.

The Citra-dosed beer had a bit more of the raw hop resin flavor than the Chinook. It made the beer seem a bit more bitter (maybe 8-10 IBU more perceived bitterness to my palate). Other than that, I got no other hop character in the flavor - no fruit at all. Adding 1 more drop made no discernable change. At that point, I added 2 more drops (4 drops total in a 6oz sample) and there was still no fruit character, only more of that "raw hop" flavor.

In the end, the hop oil reminded me more of the hop character in unfermented wort straight from the brew kettle, rather than what I get from dry hops. It's not horrible, but I'm not a big fan. I was hoping for pine and citrus, and just got grassy, raw hops. It seems like the hop oils that lead to grassy hop character like myrcene and farnesene are here in spades, but the floral/citrus oils like linalool, geraniol, and citronellol are either lost or hidden.

Overall, I don't think these are bad products, but they don't necessarily deliver for the trained palate. I am still interested in the iso-alpha acid extract I got. I will post some tasting notes from the Centennial and Apollo oils once I get around to testing them.

I'm also wondering if the character is different if these oils are allowed to sit in the beer for a bit before consuming similar to dry hops, or even if used in the whirlpool. There is definitely some further experimentation warranted with these products.