Craft beer will always be synonymous with hops. It was the early hop-forward pale ales and hop-heavy IPAs coming out of North America that set craft breweries apart from more traditional brewers. And while more and more brewers explore and interpret traditional styles – how many sours and saisons have you tried this year? – the liberal use of hops, particularly modern varieties from the West Coast of America, will continue to hold sway among brewers and beer-lovers alike.
For our latest 10 Barrel Series brew – the first in a series of single hop beers – we wanted to explore the qualities and characteristics of one of these modern hop varieties. We also wanted to celebrate getting our hands on what is an increasingly hard-to-come-by commodity! Simcoe is used in a lot of beers that we like. When we managed to get our hands on some, we thought it was a hop worthy of a beer in its own right.
Beer is made from four ingredients – water, malt, hops and yeast. Hops are traditionally added early in the brewing process, during the boil, to provide bitterness and to balance out the sweetness of the malt. They are also a natural preservative and have anti-bacterial qualities, hugely beneficial in a time before today’s modern standards of sanitation were understood, let alone achievable.
Modern craft brewers use lots of hops, and the amount of time hops spend in the boiling wort (unfermented beer) during the brewing process determines how much bitterness, flavour or aroma is extracted. Adding hops late in the boil gives a beer more hop flavour and aroma without adding huge amounts of bitterness. Adding hops to the fermenter once fermentation has finished – known as dry-hopping – brings a whole new hop dimension to the finished beer.
Our Simcoe Single Hop IPA contains 15kg of hops which were added throughout the brew and, later, to the fermenter, on top of a straightforward, balanced malt base. Our aim was to showcase Simcoe’s qualities – citrus, pine and earthiness – and to show how adding the same hop at different points during the brewing process brings these qualities to the fore. The result, we think, is a delicious and complex IPA that pays tribute to a glorious modern hop variety and provides a great starting point for future hopped-up beers.