Brewing single hop beers is an easy way of trying out different hops. It also makes great beer.
I recently tasted three of my single hop beers side by side to see how much difference hop variety can make. This is how it went.
Many recipes blend several varieties of hop to create mixed flavours. I’ve brewed and designed recipes like this myself.
But recently I’ve been enjoying a series of simple beers, brewed with the intention of exploring the pure flavours of each ingredient.
Having made three of them in close succession, identical except for the hop variety, it seemed interesting to do a side by side comparison.
Hop flavour dies down with age but these are so close together I don’t think it made much difference, especially for my rough and ready taste buds.
Recipe For Single Hop Beer
All three beers are a simple pale ale. As a reminder, here’s the recipe:
Pale ale malt: 1 kg (100%)
Mash Target Temperature
Hops (X%): 1/3 FWH
Hops (X%): 1/3 for 20 mins
Hops (X%): 1/3 at flame out
Assumes 70% efficiency
For this tasting session the hops in the beers were Saaz, Mapuche and Nugget.
I started the beers at fridge temperature and they gradually warmed up as I drank them.
Hops (4.2%): 11g FWH
Hops (4.2%): 11g for 20 mins
Hops (4.2%): 11g at flame out
First up is Saaz, a noble hop from the Czech Republic that’s generally used to make lagers.
The faint hop smells are pleasant. The closest thing that I can think of is wood, maybe a length of pine.
To taste the beer is pretty spicey (bark-like) and has a strong, intense flavour.
It is earthy and reminds me of bitter wood. Of the three beers, it’s the most firmly flavoured.
Strangely, given that it’s typically used in lager, it actually tasted smoother (nicer) when it had warmed up.
Of the three beers, this was the most bitter. Although I didn’t like it much straight from the fridge, by the end it had become my favourite. You can see why these hops are admired.
Hops (6.9%): 6.5g FWH
Hops (6.9%): 6.5g for 20 mins
Hops (6.9%): 6.5g at flame out
I’ve been unable to find out much about Mapuche hops.
As far as I can work out from the name they’re Chilean or Argentinian. It could well be a variant of another hop.
The description in the home brew shop that tempted me to buy it said “floral, very smooth, elegant”.
The smell of the hops themselves is indeed floral, with a grapefruit aroma in the background giving a fruity sweet quality.
The beer itself is really quite good.
The grapefruit skin flavour comes right through to the foreground and dominates everything. If you don’t like grapefruit, avoid this hop.
There’s also a slightly metallic taste behind it, but that’s not unpleasant. There’s bitterness in the beer, but it’s smooth.
As you would expect, the beer also smells of grapefruit but the aroma’s also a bit spicey, unlike the taste.
I really enjoyed this beer, and immediately brewed a single hop special bitter on the back of it.
Hops (10.2%): 4.5g FWH
Hops (10.2%%): 4.5g for 20 mins
Hops (10.2%): 4.5g at flame out
Nugget’s an american hop that seems to be popular with home brewers.
I’ve previously used them for bittering (purely due to availability and their high alpha acid numbers) but this was the first time as the primary flavouring.
They were developed from Brewers Gold and, according to the Beerbecue Hopepedia project, are popular in a lot of beers in America.
The flavours are often described with rugged words such as earthy, woody and pungent.
So how did it taste?
Of the three beers, this was the smoothest, most easy drinking. But it was also the blandest (I don’t mean boring exactly).
For some reason the beer itself was an intense yellow colour, whereas the others were red and brown.
The hops provided a fruity, summery smell. Sorry, I can’t be more specific but I wasn’t reminded of anything concrete, just “fruit” and “summer”. If pushed, I’d say the flavour is similar to orange juice.
Not surprisingly, I can imagine it would be good in a blonde summer ale.
Was It Worth Bothering?
Yes! The main thing I want to get across is that there really are big differences between the beers, and that this exercise is worth doing.
The recipe turns out a pretty decent bitter, so don’t worry about wasting brew day by making something undrinkable. (If you want to do that, try this).
Have you brewed any single hop beers? Are there any hops that worked particularly well?