Hop Pairing Collaboration

Never wanting to pass up a bargain, 12 members decided to pool their money together and order some 1kg bags of hops from Brook House Hops to be split and shared into smaller 100g bags. On the final list we had:

  • Willamette
  • Simcoe
  • Idaho7
  • Equanot
  • US Cascade
  • Amarillo
  • Azacca
  • El Dorado
  • Centennial
  • Citra
  • Mosaic
  • Columbus

And a few other goodies thrown in for good measure! With all of our freezer space now consumed with even more hops, we decided to not only pool our money but pool our combined brewing power to put some comparison beers up for a tasting.

Idea

One of the things that we always tend to discuss is hop pairing, and it’s something that trial and error just doesn’t seem to be an efficient use of time for an amateur brewer, unless the only beer you like making is NEIPA! It’s often been said by pro brewers to try and complement and/or contrast hop character, to come up with something more complex than a single hop beer, but not something that clashes flavours.

So the idea behind this comparison was to look for certain characteristics in the hops we’d bought and try to group them together, finding similar descriptors and then putting three of them together into a final beer. Three aroma hops; no more, no less. Descriptors for hops were taken from Charles Faram website, so as to provide a somewhat constant for characteristics. Beers would then created using a primary and secondary characteristic of the hop trio. The variable would be to tell if you can swap the character of the beer around by altering the dry hop bill only.

The premise was quite simple – we’d split off into groups of three and come up with our own base recipe. The only variable would be the level of hops used in dry hopping. We decided for a 2:1, 1:2 and 1:1 ratio for comparison in each group – one to showcase the primary descriptor, one for the secondary and one balanced as a control. No guideline were given on the style of beer to create, it was completely up to each group to come up with a recipe that would showcase their particular hop characteristics.

Groupings

With 12 brewers willing to take part, the final beer groups were:
Floral & Citrus – Centennial, Cascade, Willamette
Tropical & Citrus – Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo
Tropical & Pine – Idaho 7, Azacca, Simcoe
Citrus & Pine – Chinook, Amarillo, Simcoe

One hop in the trio would have both primary and secondary characteristics. The other two would be predominantly one or the other. In the citrus & pine group, we decided that the balanced hop was Chinook, given both its descriptors of grapefruit and pine. Amarillo has very strong orange and tangerine aromas, whereas Simcoe is more tropical with a big hit of pine.

Finally we have an event on October 2nd to taste all of the beers and see if our experiment into hop pairing has given us some good feedback. I’m hoping we can get enough to prove there’s some science behind the art of pairing hops!

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