Old school beer fans can remember how Citra took over in IPA’s back in the day. But, to me, there hasn’t been another hop with that meteoric of a rise and with staying power since.
This is not to say that the new varietals since are bad, they just haven’t stormed in like Citra. Mosaic and Simcoe have their fans but also some detractors. I happen to like Strata and it has gained a good amount of ground but others like Sabro and the newer Talus and Nectaron haven’t really popped yet.
Part of the problem, as we know from our supply chain issues this Christmas, is that this is all about supply and demand. There has to be enough supply to create the IPA’s and pale ales by, at least, the trendy FOMO breweries but not too much that it becomes a commodity.
But hops are not a quickly steered boat but more of a container ship so that means conditions have to be just right. There has to be enough interest from brewers to push growers to plant and enough interest from beer lovers when those bines are mature.
Maybe what Stan Hieronymus calls the “new wave” of English hops like Jester and Harlequin will find that right window.
Time to play catch-up on releases from Firestone Walker…
Firestone Walker Propagator Citra – very light on the palate almost like a session IPA. Getting grapefruit first and foremost. Getting a bit of Meyer lemony notes as well. Hazy yellow in color. They certainly know how to keep it murky.
Double Mind Haze – another FW hazy appearing masterpiece. This is a rather odd beer to me. Has a cheek warming amount of alcohol and a bit of a bite to it. Texture is there but the flavor leads more to buttery or barely blood orange.
Wasn’t super jazzed about either to be honest but I would take the Citra if forced to choose.
Since lockdown I have found the pleasure in small things, one of which is the happy hop newsletter (what I call it) from Stan Hieronymus that pops into my inbox.
The latest missive had the usual science deep dives but what caught my eye was this set of planting statistics….
Variety 2019 2020 % change
Citra 9,035 11,201 +24%
Mosaic 4,225 5,559 +32%
El Dorado 993 1,605 +62%
Strata 253 764 +202%
Sabro 724 1,175 +62%
Idaho 7 473 904 +91%
Going down (some more than others):
Variety 2019 2020 % change
Simcoe 4,365 4,140 -5%
Amarillo 2,369 2,112 -11%
Cascade 5,280 3,998 -24%
Centennial 3,680 2,891 -21%
Willamette 889 802 -10%
Comparing five years ago to today:
Variety 2015 2020 % change
Cascade 6,952 3,998 -42%
Centennial 4,463 2,891 -35%
Amarillo 1,700 2,112 +24%
Simcoe 2,916 4,140 +42%
Mosaic 1,800 5,559 +209%
Citra 2,993 11,201 +274%
As you can see, don’t be expecting many single hop Cascade IPAs and ready your palate for Citra and Mosaic. The bright spot for me is the growth in Strata which is a hop that I have taken a liking to.
A big Imperial IPA from Stone is not unusual but this also has peony white tea added to Citra and Loral hops. Now at 8%, I hope the gentle notes of the tea will still show through and if that hop combo accentuates the tea.
That is when the Citra rolls in from Kern River Brewing and also…
…a Peak Bagger collaboration with Beachwood. Gonna have to make sure I try their new JoJo DIPA to stay caught up.
2020 starts off hoppy for Firestone Walker as the 15th Luponic Distortion finds its fruity way to shelves. Then Propagator brings the grapefruit citrus into a single hop Citra Hazy.
While grocery shopping last weekend, I ran across these in the tea aisle…
…not only do the cans look like a hoppy IPA release, they have the hop names prominently listed. But this is sparkling tea and they give you the general tea varietal too. It is the first time that I have seen HopTea. It is a brand from the Boulder, Colorado based Hoplark.
Here is my take on this new hop beverage…
I like strong tea. Even milder flavors like Orange Pekoe or Chamomile, I prefer bold and the Calm One which features Citra hops with Chamomile is brash. Big spicy tea notes hit hard. The hops add a layer underneath that strengthens the flavors and the sparkle of carbonation us bright. To me this is not calm. But it is damn tasty. It says Wee Bit on the label but this comes at you.
The Hoppy One is really powerful tea as well. The Simcoe and Citra hops do battle with the darker tea and it comes out a little spicy and woodsy. It is a triple hit of a big sparkle push followed by a mid section of hop and then the black tea takes over. I think the tannins from the tea are working against the hops here. Overall, it is a bold brew which I appreciate even when it doesn’t fully click.
These two versions make me want to try the full range and I would really want to visit their taproom.
I am happy for the recent Pale Ale trend. Granted some may be more IPA than pale but it is a better canvas, in my opinion, for these single hop showcases and we get another from Anchor Brewing with their new Citra Hop Blend of Brewers’ Pale Ale. According to the press releases, the beer “boasts a citrus-forward flavor profile with bright aromatics of tangerine, Meyer lemon and melons.”
I may be the only one wondering why there an IPA called Super Cluster is hopped with Citra and not, well, Cluster but naming aside, this might be an interesting hop bomb from Lagunitas…
The last two years, I have been lucky enough to grab some Field to Ferment Fresh Hop IPA’s from Fremont Brewing of Seattle. Being in L.A. you have to be real careful with this sub-style since we are not in a hop growing region and we may end up getting “old” freshies. Date codes saved me though.
Amarillo – Canned 9/15/17
Dark and clear orange. Grassy. Dank. Orange peel. Maybe a pineapple note. Sits heavy. No session here.
Citra – Canned 09/22/17
Lemon and grassy character. A bit lighter than Amarillo. More grain forward. A bit of citrus peel to it.