The goal should always be to brew a great beer,” says Brock Wagner of Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston, TX. The company makes Elissa IPA, a single hop beer that employs Cascade. “You can have intellectual exercises about the different elements of single hops, but in the end it should be about making a great beer.”
To that end, Saint Arnold Elissa IPA did not start off as a single hop ale. The brewers made several test batches that used a blend of hops, but they kept coming back to the grapefruit and soft bitterness qualities of Cascade.
I’ve been a fan of Cascade and I always wanted to make an IPA,” Wagner says. “Cascade’s flavor really shines through, but it’s important to recognize this beer is not all about the hops. We were looking for the complexity of the malt and the yeast to come through.”
Colorado brewer Oskar Blues has just released GUBNA, a March-to-October seasonal that uses three malts and Summit hops in a 9.5 percent ale that registers 100 International Bittering Units. “It comes from our culture in general, to challenge the norm,” says marketing director Chad Melis. “We’ve created something really complex out of simple elements.”
Peter Kruger, head brewer at Bear Republic Brewing in California, has been making Rebellion Ale using a different single hop with each batch. So far, at least eight hop varieties have been used. “Some that we like we come back to, while there are others we don’t want to revisit,” Kruger says.
The reaction has been really positive. It took three batches for most customers to get their heads around what we were trying to do,” Kruger says. “It gives us a chance to take a peek at what the flavor of hops is all about. It’s sort of a controlled experiment. The beers have been remarkably different.”
Even when Bear Republic returns to a hop it had used previously, there can be flavor variances. Because hops are an agricultural product, there are differences from one growing season to next.
We’re not striving for the same exact flavor year to year, we just want to make the best possible beer,” Kruger says. “We will adjust the amount of hops in each batch of Rebellion to achieve our target of 55 IBUs.”
The experimenting at Bear Republic and the other single hop brewers is certain to continue. Kruger says on a trip to Washington’s Yakima Valley last September he purchased Citra, Newport, Mount Rainier and Palisade. “We specifically bought hops we didn’t know much about and we’ll send samples of the beer back to Yakima, which helps them evaluate the hops.”
Your Next Beer might just be a single hop pale ale, so you can do some evaluating of your own.