Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Drinking, again. Mad casks and hops.

Beer reviews

Mad Fox Brewing Company is conducting an interesting crowd-sourced IPA recipe project, using cask ales.

Defender is this Falls Church, Virginia, brewpub's house pale ale, brewed with English Pale malt, German Vienna malt, and the American hop variety, Columbus, for bittering, flavor and aroma.

Columbus is one of a triad of hops —Columbus, Tomahawk, and Zeus— commonly referred to as "CTZ." Each may actually be the same hop, or similar genetically, but each has its own proprietary names, and each was bred to be a bittering hop, containing a high percentage of alpha acids (~12-14%). But 'craft' breweries, such as Mad Fox, like to break the 'rules.' Many are using CTZ hops for bittering and aroma, the latter imparting a pronounced alliaceous character.

Mad project (01)

Brewer Charlie Buettner racked Defender into 6 different firkins, carbonating the beer --naturally, with live yeast-- within those 10.8-gallon casks. Then, in a process called dry-hopping, he added hops to each. In a neat twist, he placed a different hop variety into each firkin. Buettner asked customers at the brewpub to taste samplers of all six and offer comments. He will brew an IPA next year, hopped with their choices.

Mad project (02)

My rankings, least preferred to most, were:
  • Topaz (dank, harsh, tasting/smelling of wet dirt and graphite)
  • Stella (a cardboardy/geranium aroma/flavor)
  • Motueta (meh)
  • Wakatu (very limey; the closest of the 6 hops to the typical American grapefruity aroma)
  • Crystal (lemony; softly spicy)
  • Helga (brightly floral and spicy)
Mad Advocate (02)

But, hey, what do I know? Mad Fox customers felt differently than I. Buettner tabulated the customer comments, and reported this:
For the cask-hopped APA event, we dry-hopped six APA casks each with a different emerging hop and asked for your comments and rankings. We've been looking at comment cards since yesterday and (so far) Topaz and Mouteka are neck and neck with Stella in a close 3rd. Thanks for helping Mad Fox decide on the hops we will use for an IPA next year.

De gustibus non disputandum!

  • In the photo above, look closely at the party behind brewer Buettner. It's the Alstrom brothers, creators of the crowd-sourced beer-review website and magazine BeerAdvocate.
  • Drinking, Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits). No scores; only descriptions. Graphic created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

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