Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Single hop experiment

Back in July, my homebrew club put on a really cool single hop experiment and tasting event. Whomever so inclined brewed up a batch or two of IPA using the exact same grain bill, yeast strain and just one type of hop. Each brewer signed up to use a certain hop ahead of time so we could be sure to have a wide range of hops to sample. I didn’t have time available to brew a batch for this, but attended the event along with 40 or so others – club members and non-club members alike, some of whom were associated with 612 Brew, Boom IslandHarriet Brewing, Northgate Brewing and Northern Brewer.

Tim S. from our club had the great idea to print up placemats that listed each hop that had been utilized, the AA% and the brewer’s name. This helped everyone keep a handle on what they were tasting, as there were 16 different single hop beers available for review over the course of two hours. Even so, flavors became quite muddled near the end for not only my untrained palate but for many others at my table as well. Here’s what I wrote down for each hop in the order I tasted them:

  1. Czech Saaz: floral, grassy
  2. US Saaz: orange, pine
  3. Northern Brewer: earthy, pine
  4. Mount Hood: spicy
  5. Sterling: smooth, saison-y
  6. Amarillo: resin, hop oily
  7. Centennial: creamy, citrus, like a citric “creamsicle”
  8.  Columbus: CITRUS! BAM! scratchy
  9. Citra: minty, a bit like Northern Brewer + citrus
  10. Apollo: makes a clean break off the palate, some brett character crept into this one as Nick P. kegged it in a sour beer keg, most believed on purpose as he can’t get enough of sours. This outshined the hop character, unfortunately (it was a nice touch, just not in keeping with the experiment)
  11. Warrior: citrus, but not crazy hoppy as one might expect given that this is supposed to be 15-17% AA
  12. Zythos: sweet orange peel
  13. Ahtanum: ginger or clove + citrus
  14. Pacific Jade: smooth, bland
  15. Galaxy: pepper kick in the finish. Tallgrass 8-bit APA’s hop profile is based off of this.
  16. Nelson Sauvin: Spicy (ok, so I’d long since wiped out my palate by the time I tried this one)

In addition to all these beers, most everyone who came brought something for all to nosh on. The highlight for me was “The DTs” fried chicken. Off the hizook! This whole event was a great time. In the wake of this success, we’re throwing around ideas for a few other experiments right now, one of which I’m most excited about is a yeast experiment where we’ll all get the same wort from (the soon to be open) Northgate Brewing and ferment it with different yeast strains. One of the three founders of Northgate has been in our homebrew club nearly since it’s inception, so that’s how we’re getting the wort hookup. We’ll have to pay a good portion of the materials cost, but the cool thing is that the wort will be exactly the same, so the focus at the tasting event can be exclusively on the differences each yeast strain imparts. PUMPED! Besides checking out Northgate’s site, you can also check out this post about the brewery’s impending opening that club member Tyler wrote for MNBeer.

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