Tag Archives: Hops

Mikkeller Single Hop Series

14 Oct

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

The others:

  • 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% Cara-Crystal
11% Munich II
11% Flaked Oats
Yeast is American ale (Wyeast 1056/WLP099)
Hops 60min, 15min, whirlpool and dry.
About 100IBU.
Hope you can use this!
Best, Mikkel”

Oregon Brewers Festival

14 Sep

Following on the Portland Food Recap, here are some notes about the 60+ beers we tasted at the Oregon Brewers Festival back in August.

A side note before I talk about all the beers I didn’t like– yeah, yeah, it’s far easier to be a critic than to actually make something, these are just my opinions (well, combined with some comments and notes from James).

The OBF as they call it was the initial impetus for visiting Portland that particular weekend, though plenty of other beer, food, book-buying, and friend-visiting activities fit themselves into the available time.

Unfortunately, it was somewhat disappointing (and we sold our spare beer tokens so we could leave early). Most of the beers we tried were relatively unremarkable. The exception was a few of the Buzz Tent beers, but all of the buzz tent beers sold out Friday and it was closed Saturday and Sunday. The festival was also crowded, with big groups of people regularly yelling “Wooo!”, and mediocre food compared to elsewhere in Portland. We heard a brewer later say “oh, breweries don’t sent their best beers to OBF”, and suggested it was more a generic outdoor drinking party.

But it was still worth going for a few hours, even if just to taste a lot of beers quickly. A quick summary:

Beers we actively disliked:

  • Dogfish Head Black & Red (disgusting mint beer)
  • Three Creek Porter
  • Cascade Razberry Wheat
  • Burnside Smoked Gratzer (ugh)
  • Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twins (not much flavor)
  • Boneyard Girl Beer (slightly sweet water)

Beers we all said “meh” about:

  • Double Mountain Pilsner (interesting straw smell)
  • Hopworks Evelyn Imperial Sunshine (generic hoppy beer)
  • Laughing Dog Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter (but note: midday in hot direct sun is a hard time to appreciate a porter)
  • Bridgeport Summer Squeeze (odd acidic almost hint-of-bile taste)
  • New Holland Golden Cap (unassuming)
  • Alaskan White Ale (it’s no Allagash White)
  • Elysian Sextacula (generic hoppy beer)
  • Riverport Blonde Moment
  • Seven Brides Brewing Lil Pils (some interesting things going on there, but buried by the hops)
  • Big Sky Dark Mexican Lager (more hoppy and carbonated than a typical Mexican beer, but in the end didn’t work for us)
  • Lucky Lab Crazy Foyston Alt (very hoppy, not much else)
  • Hollister Altered State
  • Pike Brewing Monk Trippel (trying to be a belgian-style, but bland, and odd smell)
  • Kona Brewing Ginger Duke w/ Lemongrass (interesting idea, the lemongrass came through well, but just a novelty),

Beers we thought were decent, or that one of us really liked:

  • 50-50 Donner Party Porter
  • Wasatch Summerbrau Lager (crisp, effervescent, session beer, drinkable)
  • Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild
  • Full Sail Jimvar Bohemian Pils (bright hops, but some malt for balance, smooth, crisp)
  • Bridgeport Stumptown Tart Strawberry (a bit like a lambic, ‘funky’ flavor combined with strawberry, worth ordering but also not something I’d want to drink more than one of)
  • Squatters Pequino Imperial (crisp, slight sulfur nose, interesting)
  • Eel River Onyx (dark brown ale, light in taste, sharp carbonation)
  • Surly Hell (funky farm/saison smell and taste, effervescent, interesting
  • McMenimans Crimson & Clover (light, delicate, a bit hard to taste at a festival)
  • Riverport 5/5 Pepper Beer (reminded us of a Michelada, but not just a gimmick: an interesting mix of different pepper flavors: black, bell, pasilla)
  • Alameda Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA (some of us found it too generically hoppy, some liked the extra citrus hint)
  • McMenamins Dark Star (very hoppy but balanced by some strong caramel/malt flavor)
  • Fearless Scottish (mild, light touch on the hops, drinkable),

Our favorite few beers of the festival (though we had others outside the festival we liked more):

  • Surly Five (malty, musky, sour, dark, aged in pinot barrels)
  • Fort George Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale (light, bright, not overly bitter, interesting oatmeal + cascade hops balance)
  • Golden Valley Cote d’Or (creamy, malted belgian style, smooth, slight spice)