Understanding the variance in sensory attributes of a hop variety from year to year, is key to maintaining quality and consistency for your beer.
One way to look at our industry is to consider that we are purveyors of flavor. Our livelihoods and reputations are rested on our ability to create flavors that do something for our customers. This can be anticipating and providing exactly what is wanted at the right time, to reassure our customers that all is right in the world. Or alternatively, it can be an in-your-face challenge that disrupts the steady pulse of the day and brings people to life at the prospect of new stimulus. When we get it right, we know it and we are rewarded for our understanding, expertise, and creativity. It is important then that we should be keenly attentive to flavor and not be sloppy in our approach to it.
Hop Harvest Guide 2021
Without any further preamble then, we would like to introduce you to the Hop Harvest Guide. If you haven’t seen it before, it may look to you like just a guide to hop varieties, much like hop variety sheets you may have seen on various websites.
You may think it just tells you broadly how a particular variety should smell, which is something you already know as you’ve been working with them for years… Right? Well, this guide is different.
This guide is designed for one purpose. It helps you to pay close attention to flavor. The Hop Harvest Guide tells you how some of the most important hop varieties used in brewing have changed in their flavor and aroma expression for this hop crop year, compared to the “normal” flavors and aromas you might expect. It helps you to give to your customers the flavors you intended. It helps you to better master the infinite complexity of the natural product that is hops.
BarthHaas produces the Hop Harvest Guide every year. It’s easy and simple to access and free to use. We put a huge amount of time and effort into it. Our Brewing Solutions Team spend hours collating and analyzing data from batches of many hop varieties. It’s useful for us so that we really understand how the product that we provide to you may subtly (or not so subtly) have changed.
A Story of Citra® Flavor
It is very likely you are familiar with Citra® (HBC 394 cv.). It is widely brewed with around the world, but in the last 4 years there has been variance that brewers have had to take into account if they want their flavors to remain consistent. Thanks to the Hop Harvest Guide brewers have been able to track this variance no matter where they are in the world, so that everybody gets the same information and the chance to perfect what they do.
- 2018 – In this crop year Citra® presented itself as bigger than anticipated in two key areas. We tracked a noticeable increase in the Citrus and Sweet Fruits presented meaning these were amplified in the beers brewed with them. This however came at the cost of what had previously been a balanced Floral and Red-Berries presentation, with the Floral highly diminished and the Red-Berries struggling to come through as well.
- 2019 – This was a really interesting crop year for Citra®. The Citrus hit of 2018 dropped away compared to the Sweet Fruits, and the Floral, Berries and Currants came back with a bang. Menthol also increased considerably meaning beers brewed with Citra would most certainly be presenting differently when compared to the previous crop year.
- 2020 – Back to more familiar territory with the 2020 crop. The Citrus flavors are back and balancing again with the Sweet Fruit. The Floral, Berries and Currants are back where we would expect, and the Menthol has gone back in to hiding. Brewers will have needed to adjust again but hopefully they are more familiar with this version of Citra®.
- 2021 – Not a huge variance from 2020 but we consider Citra® to be one of the aroma winners of this crop year. The headliners of Citrus, Sweet Fruits are still there. The Floral, Berries and Currants are still supporting them well. The difference however, is that there is a slight increase in the menthol and Cream Caramel, which are subtle, but very nice.
About Hop Sensory Analysis
Hop Sensory Analysis can only ever be a guide when talking about varieties. Variance comes in from batch-to-batch, from farm-to-farm and even sometime from country-to-country. But being forewarned of what you might be dealing with can only ever help you brew better. We hope that you will download our Hop Harvest Guide, find a comfy chair and flick through it to see what’s been going on in this year’s story of hop flavor.