Brewing And Tasting Single Hop Beer : Mapuche, Saaz and Nugget

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.

single hops beers - mapuche, saaz and nugget hops

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:

Recipe Volume
5 litres

Fermentables
Pale ale malt: 1 kg (100%)

Mash Time
90 mins

Mash Target Temperature
66°C

Hops
Hops (X%): 1/3 FWH
Hops (X%): 1/3 for 20 mins
Hops (X%): 1/3 at flame out
(30 IBUs)

Yeast
Danstar Nottingham

Original Gravity
1.042

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.

Saaz

Hops (4.2%): 11g FWH
Hops (4.2%): 11g for 20 mins
Hops (4.2%): 11g at flame out
(30 IBUs)

First up is Saaz, a noble hop from the Czech Republic that’s generally used to make lagers.

single hop beer saaz

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.

Mapuche

Hops (6.9%): 6.5g FWH
Hops (6.9%): 6.5g for 20 mins
Hops (6.9%): 6.5g at flame out
(30 IBUs)

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.

single hop beer mapuche

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.

Nugget

Hops (10.2%): 4.5g FWH
Hops (10.2%%): 4.5g for 20 mins
Hops (10.2%): 4.5g at flame out
(30 IBUs)

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?

single hop beer nugget

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?

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Comments...

  1. A great experiment. One of the things I love about Mikkeller’s lineup is their single-hop brews, although that’s not exactly the most cost efficient way of going about things.

    It’s such an easy and enjoyable way to learn more about the nuances of hop varieties. I did a single-hop Cascade IPA a while ago, mostly because I had some extra lying around, but I loved the final product.

    • John

      Yes, it was a fun thing to do, something I’m going to continue for sure. Apart from the learning experience, it’s very satisfying making beer this simple.

      Funnily enough I’ve got a lot of Cascade in the freezer and am hoping to brew something with just that soon.

      It’s good to hear about your success with the IPA – perhaps that’s the way forward!

  2. Thanks for the shout. Glad the Hopepedia Project is coming in handy. This was a pretty cool experiment. I hope you do more. And I will have to keep an eye out for Mapuche. I’ve never heard of them before, but they sound right up my alley.

    • John

      You’re welcome. I’ll look forward to more entries in the Hopepedia.

      I’m not sure if Mapuche is available widely (i.e. outside Argentina) as I couldn’t find information on it anywhere, but it’s certainly worth trying out if you get a chance.

      Cheers!

  3. Michael

    I was looking to brew an All Australian Pale Ale, using all Australian ingredients. I came across this site: http://www.hops.com.au/
    Tried Galaxy hops, fantastic aroma, passionfruit flavour, reminded me of Little Creatures Pale Ale.

    Worth a look.

    Cheers, M.

    • John

      Thanks for the link. There’s some interesting stuff on there.

      I’ll certainly get some Galaxy to try when/if it’s available in my home brew shop. It sounds very tempting.

    • Jake

      Okay so New Zealand is not Australian… but Pacific Jade hops are incredible. Just sayin.

  4. Jake

    I love reading up on experiments like these. Keep up the good work!

    One possible alteration would be to use the same bittering hop while changing the aroma/flavor hops.

    I recently did an all Cascade brew (w/ dry hopping for 1st time), and a Ginger Amber Ale w/ Sorachi Ace hops. The difference in the aroma of the hops was incredible!

    • John

      Thanks for the suggestion. After your other comment, I think it’d also be good to shift the emphasis around between bittering, flavour and aroma and see what that does.

      You’re right – it’s amazing how much variety is to be found in hops!

  5. Jake

    Why did you decrease the flamout/20 minute amounts for the hops? My impression is that hops added later don’t contribute much to the IBUs. Maybe that’s the biggest reason the Nugget ale tasted the blandest?

    • John

      Jake,

      Thanks for the comment.

      It may have been unfair to say the nugget was bland. Perhaps subtle would have been better.

      I tried to get an even balance of bitterness, flavour and aroma which is why I had the 1/3 split in the recipe: 1/3 first wort and boil, 1/3 at 20 minutes for flavour and 1/3 at flame out for aroma.

      It’s probably not completely even but the beers did all have noticeable amounts of each. Also, I wasn’t going for overly bitter, just enough to give a bit of freshness.

      Does that answer your question?

      • Jake

        Well, I think I see what you are saying w/ regards to the balance, but if I were to do this experiment, I’d achieve the balance by keeping the IBUs constant on the one hand, and the aroma/flame out hop amounts constant on the other.

        I guess the question is (being fairly new to brewing), does the intensity of hop aroma/flavor necessarily correspond to the bitterness contributed by the same hop?

        • John

          No it doesn’t. Good point.

          To be completely fair the aroma additions should have been equal, weight for weight. The one that’s slightly tricky, I guess, is the flavour addition where you also get bitterness.

          I suppose that’s where you really are looking for balance between bitterness and other hop characteristics, as increasing one would also increase the other.

          Thanks for making me think about this in more detail. There are definitely more experiments to be done here.

  6. Jake

    Have you ever used Crystal hops?

    • John

      I can’t say I have. Would you recommend them?

      • Jake

        Not yet… I’m going through my own hop experiments and Crystal is on the list. Sound tasty.

        One question I have (and maybe a future experiment): why do 20 minute additions instead of just flameout? I think that both function as flavor hops, with the difference being that a significant amount of oils would boil off within 20 minutes. In your experience, do you get a lot of aroma from flameout additions (comparable to dry hopping), or is it mostly flavor?

        Thanks.

        • John

          To some extent I’m following conventional wisdom with the twenty minute addition. From that point onwards flavour generally survives in reasonable quantities, although there are certainly test brews to be done here to find out more.

          Thinking about it now, it makes sense to me to combine bittering with flavour additions where possible, which means some boiling of the flavour hops to extract bitterness. Making the most of an ingredient with one step instead of two feels as though it’s the right thing to do (I hope that makes sense).

          I guess the question is whether that’s good or bad for the end glass of beer.

          Following that to its natural conclusion, all late additions would seem the best use of the hops (economics aside). That combines the bittering and flavour hops in the last twenty minutes or so and, as far as I’ve read, produces smoother bitterness.

          As for flameout vs. dry hop: it’s a while since I did any dry hopping but from memory I’m pretty sure the aroma was stronger. It was definitely fresher, by which I mean more like the smell of hops themselves. Perhaps for a very hoppy beer (e.g. IPA), adding hops at flameout would fall short of aroma expectations, but I find it to be what I’m usually looking for. Not too strong, but present nonetheless.

          I think I jumped the gun testing hop varieties against each other. Experiments that explore the use of one hop in achieving bitterness, flavour and aroma would have been better, or equally as useful at least. I hope I can do that soon.

          Sorry for the rambling answer, and thanks for all the food for thought.