Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CT Column3/11/2010 :The New Vintage

IF YOU ask someone what beer is made of chances are they will answer ‘hops’.
While in reality malt, yeast, water and the processes the brewer uses are equally important to the herbaceous flowers of the Humulus lupulus vine, it’s the hop that has won the PR battle.
To the casual observer it might not seem it but in many ways hops are very similar to grapes. They both grow on vines, they both are susceptible to variations in climate, and they both get harvested as a vintage each year. As with grapes, hops will vary each year depending on how much rain and sun there has been. They also change their character as the vines mature.
This year the hop that has displayed the biggest change is the Nelson Sauvin variety. Nelson Sauvin was developed in the late 1990s by HortResearch and was named for its distinctive gooseberry and passionfruit aromas, which were likened to the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. Nelson Sauvin is gaining a serious reputation amongst craft beer drinkers around the world. Brewers in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, America, Australia, Japan and of course New Zealand have leapt at the chance to use this hop to create striking aromas and flavours in their beers.
This year’s vintage has seen a bit of a change in the Nelson Sauvin character. The variety has always been pungent with huge bold exotic fruit characters, but this year they seem extra tangy, with an over ripeness to the fruit character and even a hint of savoury green onion creeping in alongside the fruit salad! While this might sound odd we often talk of picking up herbal notes, asparagus, green pepper and perhaps even onion in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s perhaps not so surprising to pick it up in the Nelson Sauvin hop variety.
If you want to experience this year’s vintage, 8 Wired Hop Wired IPA, Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsner, and Three Boys Golden Ale are all showcasing the 2010 Sauvin character well.

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