Mikkeller, the one-man ‘roving brewery’, makes a series of many (19, over the years?) beers from the exact same IPA recipe*, except each uses a single, different variety of hop.
Beer + Science? How could I say no? And two different friends thought the same way– so twice in the past month+, I’ve had a chance to do a side-by-side tasting of 16 of them with a group of friends. Fascinating.
The quick summary: if you want to taste just a subset of these that cover a variety of styles, I’d recommend these 10: Columbus, Amarillo, Sorachi Ace, Challenger, Simcoe, Willamette, Palisade, Centennial, Galena, and Cascade. Or if you want to do an evcn smaller tasting, of say 4 of them, I’d suggest Sorachi Ace, Simcoe, Columbus, Palisade (and again, maybe Cascade, as a “reference hop”).
This was less about finding specific beers I’d drink again (since they’re rare and expensive), and more about the hop-learning since I’d never really though about hops beyond the “Pacific Northwest vs. Everywhere Else” distinction. So here are my notes and fuzzy memories, a combination of both times through a 16-beer set (almost identical sets: 15 of the 16 beers overlapped).
Most interesting / my favorites:
- Columbus: slightly skunky and lemony smell, somewhat bitter but good. I was able to pick it out later in a blind taste test.
- Amarillo: only slightly bitter with a nectarine or peach taste once it warmed up. Excellent!
- Sorachi Ace: by far the most distinctive and unusual. someone pointed out it has an herbal perhaps dill-like taste. it also has a smell that reminds me of a saison (even though that’s a different beer style and yeast). Worth tasting, though I’m not sure I’d want to drink a whole one.
- Challenger: Bright, mild, a taste that goes on for a while. I didn’t think of a better adjective, but I liked it quite a bit.
- Simcoe: A sort of strange smell but a taste that’s somewhere between spruce and orange. Excellent. A friend said the smell reminds him of cat urine, and then I couldn’t un-smell that (thanks a lot!)… but I still like the taste.
Second-tier favorites, or ones I had different impressions of the two times I did this (for whatever reason: late in the evening, with food, distracted, lack of a sufficiently discriminating palate, …):
- Galena: sweetish, slight pine taste, nice
- Willamette: interesting, slightly citrusy, not too bitter.
- Centennial: piney but less strong than Cascade, pink grapefruit, nice
- Palisade: slightly buttery? not quite banana but something like that. slightly farmhouse/belgian smell? couldn’t quite place it. very lightly bitter.
- Cluster: nicely balanced hoppy and lemony
- Cascade: Hard to rate because it’s such a taste I’m used to (strongly present in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, for example)
- Super Galena: Mild, long but faint taste, an odd bitter finish
- Warrior: I couldn’t distinguish any smells or tastes beyond a general hoppy bitterness,
- Mt Hood: Mild enough that the rest of the beer comes through more strongly, a slightly sweet and balanced beer, didn’t leave a strong individual impression.
- Magnum: slightly bitter but I couldn’t distinguish a unique taste
- Tettnanger: a slightly sweet orange taste up front, but then it turns harsh
- Bravo: bland, hard to differentiate (but also one of the last beers I tried, both times)
Interesting… I wonder if there are any other beer collections like this. Well, there are the Mikkeller coffee stouts, one of them made with civet coffee, but it turns out I prefer my beer and my coffee separated:
*Postscript: Someone on a homebrew board claims to have the base Single Hop beer recipe from Mikkeller:
“For the single hop beers they are all brewed with the same base-recipe:
67% pilsner malt
11% Munich II
11% Flaked Oats
Yeast is American ale (Wyeast 1056/WLP099)
Hops 60min, 15min, whirlpool and dry.
Hope you can use this!