Sunday, 4 September 2011
The Three C's and Mikkeller's Single Hop Series Musings
We've just received a selection of Mikkeller's single hopped beer series at the shop, and for all accounts, they look great - and a lot of us have been keen to get stuck into hops they've not tried before. Not myself though, I wanted to revisit 3 of my big boys and do some investigating. All shall be explained, but first the beers I tried...
I started with Cascade: A classic aroma for a beer if there ever was one. Grapefruit, mangos and a very slight hint of lychee. It's a super fruity beer. Citrus fruit mixed in with mango skins. It's also quite grassy, and rather dry with some straw flavour coming out of the body. It's a really interesting hop, slightly similar to Citra, but loads better in my book.
Cluster was next: Different from the first, but still fruity as hell. Peaches and pear skins are what's on the menu. There's also a slight touch of strawberries and grapes in there too. This brew is much lighter and a lot more floral than Cascade. It has that classic American sweet caramel and juicy fruitiness which so many look for, and to accompany the finish you get a great bittering kick.
Last up was Columbus. I expected a beast, but as with most beers, I was left surprised once again. The aroma and flavour were very subtle; It sounds strange but it smelled very dry... like dry straw almost. The flavour is drying as well, but there still is plenty of fruit in the finish. Nectarines and lychees dominate this beer. It almost seems like a mix of the previous two.
I was pretty certain that there was the same amount of hops used in the production of each beer. After all the label makes it pretty obvious that everything was kept the same apart from the hops, so why would they add more in one rather than the other? My beer geek senses were touched when the IBUs of each beer were mentioned on the side of each bottle.
There was a reason to my choice of where to start with with my three beers. The bottle of Cascade was only '38 Theoretical IBUs'. The Cluster was 66 and the Columbus was 114! I wondered to myself 'If everything is the same, how come some have more IBUs than the others?' - I still wonder that, so I make a shout out to all home brewers and brewers to explain this to me.
I went in with this mentality thinking the Columbus would be the most bitter, so drank it last. That's why I pictured the Columbus and the Willamette above. Out of all the eight Mikkeller beers, the Columbus has the highest IBU of 114 and the Willamette has the lowest of 35. I thought to myself again, 'If you want a really bitter beer, you'd use the Columbus - it obviously gives more bitterness.'
So after I started with the Cascade, was the Columbus the most bitter with it's massively superior 114 IBUs?? Hell no it wasn't! It was the Cluster. That bad boy took the title without a fight in my opinion, and remember it was in the middle ground of the three when it came to IBUs. I can't work out why this may be, if someone can tell me, the knowledge will be very welcomed.
Everyone seems to boast these days, "Oh I've had this beer, it was well over 100 IBUs and was intense!" - It doesn't seem to me that the IBUs of a beer even matter after trying these three beers, and knowing that the ingredients are the same (apart from the hop) and the IBUs are still different. Beer - it always get more and more confusing and complex the more you look into it.
Now of course, bittering qualities all depends on when you actually put the hops into the boil, but this experience has still given me loads to think about. So yes, single hop beers may not be a new thing, but they're still taking me to school.