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Grainfather Blog - Week 36: Testing German Hop Varieties

By Grainfather - All Grain Brewing 27/08/2015 13:35 Comments
A freshly brewed, hop tea
This week we’ve been catching up with Dave from our UK office who has been making ‘hop teas’ in order to gain a greater appreciation of German hops. Read below to find out what he did.
“I’ve recently been reading about the growth of the German hop market and how it adapted to take on the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders who have been at the forefront of the highly hopped, craft beer industry. Since I started brewing I’ve had access to a range of high oil content American and New Zealand hops, and they have been almost without exception my go-to choice for all beers. However, until recently there had been a trend towards low oil content, so noble hops and the traditional German hops were regarded by many as the pinnacle of hop breeding.
The German hop developers have been coming up with bold, new hop varieties that are challenging the aforementioned leading hop producing nations, which is great as German hops account for 70% of all hops produced in Europe and about one third of the world’s hop production.

I wanted a quick and easy way to get an idea of what flavour contributions I could expect from the German varieties I was interested in – so I decided to make some hop teas. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a hop tea is simply a few pellets of hops thrown into boiling water and left to sit for 15-20 minutes. The resulting liquid can then be strained and drank to get an idea of the flavour contribution of a given hop. It is particularly useful for comparing two varieties of hops and even blending multiple teas will give you a good idea of if hop combinations will work together.

It is important to note that this is a quick way to get a rough idea of the hop character and does not exactly replicate how the hop will taste in a final beer. But it’s good to do if you are training your palate or have a new variety that you don’t know how to use.
I gathered a few pellets of the hops that I wanted to try which were; Polaris, Mandarina Bavaria, Hull Melon and Herkules
Hops ready for adding to boiling water

I then boiled some water, poured it into each of my beakers and added the hops before giving them a stir and letting them soak for 15 minutes, at which point I strained the liquid into tasting glasses.
Straining the hop tea
Straining the hop tea into a tasting glass
I then tasted the hop tea from each variety and compared my tasting with the information available on the hop; 
Polaris – A new variety (released in 2012), Polaris was bread in Hϋll and is a great example of the hops being brewed in Germany as a response to the demand for big, bold flavours that are coming from the brewing industry at the minute. Often described as ‘minty’ I definitely got a taste of mint as well as some floral, almost ‘perfume’ flavours. This is a high alpha acid hop (typically between 18 and 23%) but is most often used for its aroma and flavour.
Mandarina Bavaria – Another variety released from Hϋll in 2012, this hop is described as having a ‘pleasant fruitiness and distinct tangerine and citrus flavours’. The alpha acids are moderate (between 7 and 10%) and the hop is actually from the Cascade family. The resulting tea was very astringent but did have some nice citrus notes. I think this would be an interesting variety in a wheat beer to give that orange peel flavour.
Hull Melon – The last of the ‘new’ varieties from Germany that I was trying – this gets its name from the honeydew melon flavour that it contributes. It is also supposed to give off a strawberry aroma which I was very interested in as I have struggled to get strawberry into my beers in the past. There is definitely a juiciness to this hop's flavour that I could see being really thirst quenching in a pale ale or part of a really good fruit cocktail mix of hops in an IPA.
Herkules – This is a German hop variety that I have actually used before but only ever as a bittering hop (the alpha acids are between 12 and 17%) so I was quite interested in the flavour contribution this would give. Sadly I was a little bit disappointed. There was a touch of citrus but nothing as distinct as the Mandarina Bavaria. I’ll definitely be sticking to this as my main bittering hop rather than trying it for as a flavour/aroma contribution.
This was a really quick and easy experiment that let me try out some new hop varieties and get some great ideas for how to use them which I’m looking forward to trying out. If I wanted a better idea of how the hops interacted with beer I’d buy a low flavour, commercial beer and ‘dry hop’ it with these varieties by throwing a small amount of hops in for 20-25 minutes - but hop teas are definitely worth doing if you want some new beer ideas.” - Dave


Have you ever tried making hop teas? Let us know what you thought by emailing, also if there are any topics you’d like us to cover here, drop us an email to the same address and let us know.

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