Hops play a crucial role in the creation of good beer. They provide aromas, bitterness and flavour, depending at what time the hops are added, whether they are dry or wet, and pellets or whole cones will all make a difference on the final result. Usually a range of hops are used, as each hop variety will impart different qualities. For example some hops provide more flavour and little aroma, others provide more aroma and little flavour.
Usually a brewer will use two to three hops in a brew, but it’s not unheard of to have a whole truck load of hops thrown in a beer to create a big, massive, hop driven beer. Little Creatures VHA Double IPA had seven varieties thrown in by the truck load to create their very hoppy ale.
However there’s an interesting new trend that has appeared over the last few years, of brewing beers with a single hop variety, showcasing the flavours and style that can be made when selecting just one variety. It’s much like the push over the last ten years in Australian wine to create single vineyard wines, the result showcases the individual aspects that can come from the use of that fruit, or in this case, that single hop. By adding the hop at different stages, you can have the same hop provide the holy trio of flavour, aroma and bitterness.
It’s not something you see a lot of, and there’s a few reasons why: its significantly more labour intensive, having to add the hop at just the right time; the time it takes to develop the beer, working exactly when the right time to add the hop actually is; and most importantly there is nowhere to hide any faults in the beer. You need to get your recipe right and use quality ingredients otherwise a fault in either will stand out like a dunny on a ridgeline.
But when it does happen they really allow the brewer to showcase that variety, for the drinker to get an education of what that particular hops does, its particular flavour profile and aromas. Both craft and mega-corp brewers are getting in on the action, however no-one has gone down the path as long as the Beechworth brewery of Bridge Road Brewers.
For nearly the last ten years Ben Kraus and his Bridge Road Brewers have been pushing not only the single hop case, but have also championed the use of Australian hops in their single hop creations. He has created a series of single hop IPA’s including Ella, Vic Secret, Galaxy and Enigma, all using the same recipe, the only change is the hop and when the hop is added. All four are available in a pack that the brewery like to refer to as their “Beer School Hop Pack”.
The Enigma brew creates a brew that is subtle, it’s gentle and floral, with light lime curd and gentle bitterness that’s probably better explained as persistent. It’s definitely not an in your face pungent IPA, more elegant, and truth be told there’s probably a lot of wine descriptors that you will see with this beer.
The Ella IPA shows lovely spice and citrus florals with some tinned tropical fruits and a soft floral and spice to it. Creates a beer that is more on the lighter side of IPA, not as resinous and bitter, with a sweet palate and a long almost grassy finish.
Vic Secret is a hop that was developed in Victoria, it imparts the beer with pungent pineapple notes along with some spice and pine. And it’s that pineapple that shows through, it leaps from the glass and dances across the tongue, finishes a little dry and lingers well.
Lastly there is the Galaxy, a hop that has become a firm favourite in many brewers sections, with tis strong passionfruit and grapefruit flavours. Tastes more like a heavily hopped amber ale than an IPA, with that passionfruit leading the way, a little grassy in the lingering finish.
When you have the ability to look at them all side by side like this, it gives you an insight into skill that it takes to create great beers, reminding you that brewing great beer is an art form.