I’ve gotten a number of homebrews under my belt. One way I decided to experiment was to make the same beer in terms of malt and process but change the hops. While it’s helpful to read the hop profiles that people have put together the only real way to figure out how I perceive the profiles is to dive in and and see what happens. The basic idea is that I’d be able to pick out differences in how well a hop bitters, flavors and adds aroma when it comes to my taste buds. So far I’ve only done two of these experiments but the results were enlightening!
To do the experiments such that I could trust the results I needed to have rules in place:
1. The same DME and steeping grains (if used) must be used for all brews in the experiment
2. A standard IBU must defined to hit. I decided on 40 IBU
3. More than two hop additions must happen during the boil. One addition must be at 15 minutes or under
4. Dry hopping will always be 1 week and will be 1 oz
5. Only 1 variety of hops may be used
Experiment 1: Chinook
My first brew for the experiment was all Chinook. I read a bit about the hop and noted the conventional wisdom was that a little goes a long way. What better hop to try than one that most people think can be overdone! The result of a 40 IBU Pale Ale (closing in on IPA) was a beer that was complex enough to stand on it’s own. The bittering was strong and set up for the flavors to follow. The flavoring brought with it pine, earthy notes and a little orange and grapefruit like citrus. One person described it as “orange rind like”. Aroma is where chinook fell down. Dry hopping did not produce the strong aromas that I would have expected from such a potent hop. While present, the aroma was light. All in all this was both a success for the experiment as well as my taste buds.
Experiment 2: Citra
Citra is a very popular hop addition which is spoken of fondly by many homebrewers and avid IPA lovers. As the name implies it has a strong citrus side but also includes a lot of tropical fruit like characteristics. Citra also produced a good, strong bittering. This I expected based on the Chinook results. as both varieties have high alpha acids. However the flavoring and aroma differences were quite shocking. The flavor is much more citrusy than chinook. This itself was not shocking but what did get me was the simplistic nature of the hop when compared with chinook. I found myself highly enjoying the pint to start and, by the time I was 7/8’s through the glass being bored. The complexity that chinook has is not present with citra but more on this in a moment. The aroma that citra gives is strong and inviting. A combination of sharp citrus notes and smooth tropical fruits. Using this in a dry hop mixture seems like it would produce some great things! Unlike chinook it seemed like citra needs mixing to get the complexity that my taste buds want. The flavor and aroma was pretty much the same (and the bittering was bittering as one expects). So by the time the glass was nearing empty I was bored with citra. I think citra shines best when used with other hops, not as a single hop.
I didn’t expect the two to be that different in their usage. I figured there would be differences in flavor and aroma but not as much in the complexity ability. Both produced good beers but, of the two, the chinook based on is easier to drink more than one while the citra based beer is good for a glass (and fades through the glass). In other words the experiment has already proven useful to me and I’m only two hops into it. I’m eager to find out how other hops fit into the puzzle!