Schlafly Beer is getting ready to release a new variety pack that features relatively new hops in a SMaSH (single malt & single hop) format to showcase the unique characteristics of the hops. The Hop Trial SMaSH Pack will be available everywhere Schlafly Beer is available starting July 4th.
The pack has 12 bottles of beer, three for each type of trial hop the brewery is using. Each hop has a characteristic that puts it apart from the others. All the beers are golden ales so the consumer is going to be able to really tell the difference between the hops and how they change the flavor of the beers.
“For the Hop Trial program, most of the hops we trial are pre-commercial use of the hops – hence the program,” Schlafly President James Pendergraft said. “For this pack, we decided to use existing hops that have been used to introduce the concept of isolating a hop to consumers. More of a crawl, walk, run approach.”
The characteristics of the hops are floral, spicy, fruity and piney. The name of the beer is the name of the hop – makes it simple right? Each beer comes in at 6.5% ABV and while the color is pretty consistent across all four beers, some were a little bit hazier than others.
Here are my thoughts on the different beers in the Hop Trial pack.
This is a new hop from Germany’s Huell breeding program. The drinker is going to get strong floral notes when they smell this beer for the first time. Schlafly first used this hop during the winter of 2015 but combined it with Mandarina Bavaria hops for a white lager.
“We first rubbed the hop in Germany during the 2014 harvest and decided to undertake a brewing trial in early 2015,” said Stephen Hale, ambassador brewer for Schlafly. “It has pleasant floral hints of wine, its flowery fruits and an aroma ranging from subtly sweet to gooseberry.”
The first thing I noticed was a lot of lemongrass, which gave it a pleasant smell right away. The beer poured a hazy golden color, of the four beers it was definitely the haziest.
On the first sip you get a ton of floral flavors early on, but they quickly dissipate so the taster isn’t overwhelmed. Some drinkers might want that flavor to stay around a little bit longer, I could go either way. It didn’t affect the taste of the beer that much for me but I did notice the strong floral taste didn’t last all the way through the sip. There’s slight bitterness on the end and of all the beers I felt like this one tasted like the truest form of a golden ale.
Cultivated out of Yukima, Wash., it shouldn’t surprise you that Eureka is the piney hop of the bunch. First cultivated in 2015, Eureka is also featured in Schlafly’s Expo IPA.
“The hop has some fruit character but after our brewing trial and then rubbing the hop during the 2015 harvest in Yakima we concluded that this was going to be one of the next, great American hops with that combination of Black currant, dark fruits, strong herbal notes and pine tree; in other words, dank,” Hale said.
Just like with Hallertau Blanc, the piney smells are going to hit you right in the face. The smell reminded me of Deschutes’ Pine Drops – another very piney beer. When you go to taste the beer it’s going to be piney. Again that shouldn’t be a surprise based on the smell.
For me this beer was a bit too piney. I do typically like the piney flavors you get in some beers, such as Pine Drops, but Eureka was a little too overpowering for me. I was expecting flavor more along the lines of what you’d get from Chinook hops. The flavor was definitely unique – while doing my tasting I wrote down that it was unlike any flavor I’d ever had in a beer before.
If you’re a fan of very piney beers Eureka might be perfect for you. Taste in beer is very subjective, while this one wasn’t for me, it doesn’t mean there’s not a drinker out there that’s looking for this flavor profile.
The spicy hop in the pack comes from Bramling Cross. I didn’t know what to expect from this beer and breweries have a tendency to overdo it with heat but not this one. You get a little late heat from the hop in this beer and overall I thought it was very enjoyable.
“Bramling Cross is not a new hop but one of my favorite English varietie,” Hale said. “It was first released in 1951 by Wye College in the UK from a cross made in 1927, between Bramling (a traditional English Golding variety) and a male seedling of the Manitoban (Canadian) wild hop.”
Hale also noted that this hop is very underutilized in the brewing industry and Schlafly now uses it in the blend of hops that goes into the Schlafly Pale Ale.
When I went to smell this beer it was hard to get any noticeable odor. All the other beers I could pick-up on their flavor profile almost immediately, but not Bramling Cross. The lack of smell meant I had no idea what the taste would be like.
As I mentioned above, the heat isn’t overpowering and is blended nicely with the bitterness you get at the front of the beer. The heat shines late as the bitter notes fade away.
Coming from Tasmania, Australia, Schlafly was the first brewery in the US to make a “significant purchase” of this hop according to Hale. Enigma highlights the fruitiness that hops can provide a beer. When you go to smell this one you’re going to get a lot of different fruit notes, however, the one that stood out to me was pineapple.
As for the taste there aren’t any surprises here. It’s going to be a fruity golden ale. Enigma is a nice summertime beer, it’s relatively light despite the 6.5% ABV and very easy going down.
The bottle describes the hop as versatile and that’s not uncommon when you have fruity notes. Breweries all over the country are making juicier, fruitier ales right now because that’s what is “in” right now.
I wouldn’t describe Enigma as overly juicy, but the fruity flavor profile is apparent throughout the entire sip of the beer. It shouldn’t be compared to a big Pipeworks IPA like Sure Bet or Spotted Puffer. The slight bitterness on the end balances out the flavors to make this a very enjoyable beer. Enigma, like Eureka is featured in the brewery’s Expo IPA.
I really liked what Schlafly did with this Hop Trial Pack. The idea to highlight each hop and really let the drinker see how hops change the flavor of beer is great. It not only keeps the craft beer drinker interested, but those just getting into craft beer or people who’ve never had a craft beer can really understand how flavor profiles in beer can be altered based on the ingredients.
The Hop Trial Pack will be available on July 4th anywhere Schlafly Beer is sold.