Beer news: New US hop varieties

Four new US hop varieties have been showcased at the Craft Brewers Convention in Denver, Colorado.

The most surprising thing about them is they have been bred to have lower levels of Alpha acids (high levels are associated with many of America’s big flavour varieties) – giving US flavours but levels of bitterness more usual in British hops.

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The new varieties were shown off in a series of single hopped beers, in an identical base (a pale ale of around 5.5 to 6% ABV), brewed by Odell of Fort Collins, Colorado.

What did they taste and smell like?

Here are my personal impressions of the new varieties.

Tahoma: A very lemony and somewhat waxy aroma led into a mellow beer with a soft bitterness. There was a lemon and lime marmalade finish and aftertaste – spicy, cedary notes emerged as I continued to drink the beer.

Triple Pearl: A piney, cedar aroma initially but with orange blossom appearing as the beer warmed. There was a much bigger, zestier flavour than the previous beer with hints of orange marmalade and apricot jam. This one gave a very dry bitterness.

Cashmere: A very leafy aroma at first becoming tropical fruit salad-like as the beer warmed. An incredible lemon honey flavour as if lemon zest had been added to honey. A very soft, British hop style bitterness. This was my favourite of the four.

Yakima Gold: Very muted aroma. Vaguely peachy (but note I tasted this one later, in a busy room where food was being served). Incredibly dry bitterness! Hard to decipher the flavours. Tinned peach and mandarin perhaps. Lacked the flavour punch of the other three.

The new varieties currently have limited availability – 2013 crops ranged from a few rows to 10 acres of Triple Pearl – but there are plans to increase this particularly if there is enough excitement/demand from brewers.

Sadly, the Washington State University hop breeding programme that developed these new varieties is under threat as it only has one year of funding remaining. Although new ‘funding streams’ are being investigated.

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Judging at the World Beer Cup

A ‘live’ blog.

I’ve spent the last three days in Denver judging at the World Beer Cup – a competition held every other year and organised/run by the Brewers Association. It’s been mindblowing! And exciting, especially when you find yourself judging alongside the likes of Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele and, between judging, running into Doug Odell of Odell Brewing who cheerfully says of course he remembers you from the time you interviewed him outside Camden Town Brewery in London.

I won’t say much about the judging itself – other than how well organised it was – as the results aren’t announced until Friday. More in a later post.

Instead let me just emphasise how BRILLIANT Colorado is for beer as I sit in the huge Breckenridge Brewery bar on Blake Street in Denver just across the road from Coors Field where the Rockies baseball team are based (sorry if the terminology is wrong – I’m not big on sports!), quaffing a delicious pint of dry-hopped wheat beer called Ophelia.

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I did a bus tour around some Boulder breweries on Sunday that really wowed me and there’s a stack of breweries elsewhere in Colorado that I’m keen to visit but will probably have to wait till next time.

Suffice to say…I’m enjoying Denver…enjoying Colorado … even though given the altitude it has literally left me somewhat breathless.

Look out for more posts – and an item or two on my Beertalkers podcast – based around my trip in the near future.

Cheers! *Raises glass of Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porter*. Mmmm

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The Sample Room: Harviestoun Broken Dial, The Ridge & Orach Slie

Introducing… The Sample Room – posts in which I review beers! First up some new offerings from Harviestoun.

You are probably most likely to have come across Harviestoun for one of two reasons. Their supermarket mainstay Bitter and Twisted – a tasty, citrussy beer that lives up to its name - or their legendary Ola Dubh (pronounced Oola doo), an utterly delicious, viscous porter aged in barrels used to mature whiskey for 12, 16, or 18 years.

They have recently added to their range with some hoppy brews presumably aimed at making the most of the current popularity for more heavily hopped beers and also a new barrel-aged beer – this time a lager. All of these beers came in 330ml bottles – a size Harviestoun are having quite a success with. Here’s what I thought of them.

The Ridge

Harviestoun’s The Ridge

The Ridge - 5% pale ale

Named after the Mid-Atlantic ridge ‘where two tectonic plates meet at almost the midpoint between America and Scotland’ – the beer’s label declares it a US-style ale using the best of US (Amarillo) and British hops (not named).

It poured a bright, lemony gold with a small white head. The aroma was quite disappointing as I was expecting a big, hoppy noseful but some vague but pleasing citrus aromas emerged. The beer had a delicious hoppy punch, a mixture of citrus and bitterness that put me in mind of sherbet lemons, balanced with a malty, biscuitty aftertaste which counteracted the hop kick making the beer incredibly drinkable.

 

Broken Dial – 4.5% amber ale

Harviestoun's Broken Dial

Harviestoun’s Broken Dial

 

Another fusion of brewing cultures is found within this bottle as we’re told the amber ale is ‘one of [their] brewer’s timeless classics’ made with ‘what is often considered the finest hop on the earth’: Simcoe – again from the US. (Fab hop, yes but not sure I agree with that accolade).

Although clearly well-made and very drinkable beer I didn’t like this as much as The Ridge. A dark bronzey-amber colour with a loose bubbly white head, like the previous beer its very subtle mandarin orange aroma disappointed me when I was anticipating something akin to a grapefruit nasal spray. Clean-tasting and dry with an orange marmalade bitterness, there was sadly something about its malt flavours that turned me off. But to be fair there’s something about reddish beers and the malts used in them that I don’t like in combination with certain hops. I can’t be more precise than that about it right now – but when I can you’ll be first to know. Some people will love this beer – but I’m sticking with The Ridge.

Orach Slie unopenedOrach Slie - 6% barrel-aged lager

My love of Ola Dubh created huge excitement and anticipation at trying Harviestoun’s new barrel-aged beer but perhaps also conspired against me being blown away by this beer. I sat down to pour it, almost afraid to open it, but when I did was dazzled by its honey-gold colour and small white head full of bead-like bubbles. Its aroma reminded me of a Belgian golden ale or a Tripel with alcoholic scents but also hints of clove and banana usually associated with certain wheat beers.

It began smooth and honey-like, as per its colour, developing alcoholic, fruity flavours with the whisky character seeming very feint but perhaps that has something to do with Glenfarclas, the distillery whose barrels it is aged in, being in Speyside which is noted for two prevailing flavour characteristics: either light and grassy or sherried and therefore quite different to the Orkney-based Highland Park whisky flavours in Ola Dubh.

For me this just didn’t live up to Ola Dubh’s reputation - but let’s face it that’s some huge shoes to fill. So if you like barrel-aged beers, or are a Harviestoun fan, you need to try this beer.

At time of publishing Broken Dial was sold out but you can order Harviestoun beers from their website.  

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