Friday, December 10, 2010

The Humble Hop


Humulus lupulus (Latin binomial)
Flower of the virgin angel (Australian vernacular)
The humblest little herb on the planet.  Famous for:

  • being female (the hop flower comes from the female plant)
  • growing a foot in a day
  • keeping beer fresh
  • adding interest to ales
  • making little babies sleep better at nite (no bull)
  • vegetating on a bine, like a grape vine without the tendrils (the curly bits that stick onto things)
  • possessing strange names: Pride of Ringwood, Goldings, Hallertau, Cascade, Liberty etc
  • preferring higher lattitudes (it's to do with the sunlight hours in Summer, der!)
  • Creating madness in brewers (probably because most brewers are male...)
I was surmising at the brewery the other day with Trevor the brewer, nose ensconced in a hop bag, the differences between a good hop and a great hop.  We were embarking on a brew off with the trial brew kit (a small kit for making trial batches - which we had doubled the capacity on), me and my Coopers ale clone, and he, with his yet unscripted ale. 

We were discussing options for the bittering and aromas of our ales.

Opening the coolroom door, wafting in the scented herbs, we had more hop then a paddock full of locusts.  Would it be the Pride of Ringwood, or would it be something more exotic?  Keeping hops in the depths of dark refrigeration, preserves the delicate flavours and aromas from light, heat and importantly, air.  A modern brewery has many such hop varieties to call upon.

A good hop is floral in the hopsack with a robust bitternes and a mild aroma in the kettle.  Pride of Ringwood, the great Aussie allrounder (are there any left?) is the obvious choice.  It adds a pine-nettle like fragrance to the South Australian nectar, combining with the decidedly fruity Australian strain of microbe to make the cloudy but fine sparkling ale.

A great hop is all of that, plus an x-factor - a Shane Warne mystery ball, a Beckham bender, a spiciness/Spicy girliness,  a citrus fruitiness which sets ales apart.  Think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale , Little Creatures Pale or Williams Pale Ale from De-bortoli, nicely chilled on a summer's day.  Put down your blondes, or your dry's, these brews are the real hopping deal.

Trev was wheeling out the big guns as we browsed the selection in the depths of the coolroom.  "Forget your P.O.R."  he mutters, spelling the letters out in a drawl, "I'm goin' exotic" he adds.  "Get the Liberty out of the brewhouse fridge will ya" he barks in sudden seriousness.  I run off in search of the noblest of hop.

The Liberty hop, imported from prime hop growing country in southerly New Zealand, bred out of England via America, crossed with other hops of lesser breeding for growing purposes (perish the thought) is still...defiantly noble.  In fact, it has more recent nobility then an English landholder!

In the Williams Ale Liberty adds a glorious lemon myrtle fragrance to an otherwise stock standard pale ale, elevating it from second eleven into 700 wicket territory.  It combines with the quality malt, wheat and selected yeasts to produce a fruity, delectable brew, a brew that keeps you coming back for more. 

Trev has the look in his eye - the glint of something special on it's way.

For me though, I'm travelling a more traditional route to amber glory.  I'm having none of this exotic foreign stuffy nobility, I'm sticking to the good old faithfull Aussie Pride of R. in my Coopers Clone.  We might not be noble, but we are still men of gumption.  Come on Aussies! The world needs us! Underneath the Southern Cross we stand...Australia, you ****** beauty!

Williams Pale Ale. Crafted by Trev the brewer (with help from Woodsy, Mandy et al)

Coopers Sparkling Ale.  Cloned by many. 

Authors note: he is doing work experience at William Bull Brewery, and enjoys tasting the beer produced under its roof, together with general rabbiting about beer.  Will keep you posted on the outcome of the trial brews - the Clone and Trev's mystery ball, and the mindgames. In the meantime, enjoy all the festivities the season brings..

1 comment:

  1. tried both beers the other day, both quite different in style.

    Mine: hoppy, bitter, great english malt character (I did use maris otter a classic english malt), it's a strong flavoured pale ale, with fruit in the sort of sultanary/mixed peel/dried fruit character range. Its the sort of ale loved in England in pre-lager times, accompanied with a ploughman's lunch, the bitterness at the fore. 7/10. 36Litres!!

    Trev the brewers: light, soft citrus nose, light bodied, finishes dry with a little late bitterness. A classic lawnmower beer, begging you to come back for more. 8/10. 16 Litres