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24-08-2011, 09:51
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http://goodfoodgoodbeer.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/075.jpg?w=224&h=300 (http://goodfoodgoodbeer.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/075.jpg)The Ace in The Pack

Beer always finds a way to kick me in the ass. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on something – a brewery, or as in this case, a hop, something comes along like a bolt out of the blue to challenge my opinion. And – in most cases – turn it around. This happened twice to me in the space of last week.
I was lucky enough to visit Rooster’s Brewery last Friday and during that visit, Sean Franklin and the team took some of us through a tasting session. It wasn’t blind, per se – but we didn’t know what beer we were drinking. Apart from being incredibly good fun to sit and talk about taste without such leading elements as label and brewer’s history affecting your judgement, sessions like this are a real workout for your tastebuds.
A wheaty, pale beer arrived at our hands. Light, slightly Bretty, and with plenty of wild character sitting just beneath a fluffy head. In terms of hops there was a light, spritzy citrus – nothing that leapt out as any particular hop, to me. Overall I enjoyed it; sort of Saison – Wheat – Geuze – Pale. If that makes any sense.
As it turned out, it was Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace (7.5%). I was gobsmacked. Sorachi Ace, to me, was so unique, so different to other hops with that bubblegum/mint/ultra-pine that I assumed (after tasting the BrewDog single-hopped IPA (http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/brewdog-ipa-is-dead/)) that I would be able to pick it out anywhere. Not so. Thinking back, what I didn’t take into account that BD IPA and this are so different stylistically that the brewers are setting out to achieve entirely different beers. So – lesson #1 *- when trying to get your head around hops, take into account the style of beer you’re drinking, not just the hop!
http://goodfoodgoodbeer.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/072-2.jpg?w=225&h=300 (http://goodfoodgoodbeer.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/072-2.jpg)Fast-Forward to the next day, and I’m standing in Beer-Ritz piling beers into my basket (as usual). I see a bottle of Oakham Citra (4.2%abv) and snap it up, along with another Citra-hopped beer (that shall remain nameless). I had read nothing but positive things about Oakham’s take on the Citra theme, and bought the other one purely for comparison. You see, I have a confession; I’m not massively into the hop.
You see, when such a pungent hop falls into trend, you get a groundswell of brewers buying it up, and rushing out beers just to get them onto the bar. This, for me, created a rash of really average Citra-hopped beers during the last 12-18 months, and only a few (such as Kernel’s superlative IPA (http://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/the-kernel-the-pales/)) coming across as real stand-outs.
But Oakham’s Citra really was something. Wonderfully conditioned, created a prickly swell of lemon across your tongue, balanced out with a fantastically fresh, bowl-of-fresh-cut-lemon-and-tangerine aroma and a Zingy, balanced finish. Not acrid. Not overpowering. In fact, positively soft. Wonderful – I loved it. The other beer, by the way, was conditioned so badly it resembled washing-up water. Complete with Fairy Liquid.
Lesson #2 – don’t write off a hop. Chances are, there is at least one brewer out there handling things with a supremely deft touch.
For more on Citra, check out Nick’s excellent round-up (http://beerprole.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/citralogy-fyne-ales-jarl-v-oakham-citra-v-brewdog-ipa-is-dead-citra-v-mikkeller-citra-ipa/) from a few weeks ago on Beer Prole. And, if you’re in Leeds and fancy some Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, North have some – so get up there.

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