Likely by the growing presence in bottle shops and grocery stores, I’d venture a guess that even a casual beer fan has realized the influx of fruited IPAs in recent months. This time of year is always a boon to seasonal brand changes that showcase beers perfect for warmer months, with flavors often accompanied by the sweetness of grapefruit, orange and others.
But increasingly, brewers don’t have to solely rely on natural or artificial flavorings to boost the profile of their creation. Thanks to an evolution of hop varieties, all these fruity flavors can now be imparted in a beer without additional help – and consumers obviously appreciate the shift.
Sorting through what’s available in America, it makes sense that the U.S. is an epicenter of this change, especially given how American palates have shifted with expectation to beer and other alcohols.
But during my first day at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), I found another, perhaps unexpected, country embracing this change.
Among the first events at CBC was a hospitality suite hosted by the German and Hallertau Hop Growers Association, which shared seven beers made with different German hop varieties, including Mandarina Bavaria, Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon and, most important, two new varieties known as Ariana and Calista. A highlight of the event was a lineup of about a dozen different parcels of German-grown hop cones, spread out across two tables, open for visitors to walk up, crush in their hands and experience first-hand the aromatic qualities of each.
At one end, where hardly anyone spent any time, were familiar names like Nugget, Opal, Tettnang and plain old Hallertau. “Smells like a German tradition,” an attendee next to me said as we worked our way down the line.
But at the other end of the lineup, faces lit up and conversations were had with grand hand gestures and deep descriptors hitting on specific flavors. This is where the five signature hops mentioned above resided. This is also where just about every person spent their time while sampling hops.
Peach, strawberry, melon, passion fruit, apricot, honey. All descriptors shared by passersby. No coincidence, said German Hop Growers’ Otmar Weingarten.
“Our German growers can’t stand only on one leg,” he said, referencing the search for hops that move beyond basic bitterness or spicy notes. “We have to include flavor and aroma.”
Specifically, Otmar mentioned the growing German interest and influence from American craft beer and what that’s doing to drinkers and businesses in Germany. The lineup of beers, created by Eric Toft, head brewmaster and plant manager in the Private Landbrauerei Schönram in Bavaria, reflected that sentiment, even including a triple IPA.
While Ariana and Calista aren’t yet available in the U.S., they may be eventually, much like the slow appearance in recent years of the other three favorited hops from the event, Mandarina Bavaria, Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon. During the hop event, a brewer from Chicago’s Revolution Brewing gushed about a pale ale being released this week relying heavily on Mandarina hops.
For as much change we’ve seen in American hops and what that means for breweries and drinkers, it’s exciting to see the impact extend beyond the boundaries of the East and West coasts.
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac