If you’re at all familiar with hop-forward beers and the ingredients that give them their unique flavors, you’re probably aware that most hops are grown in a few major regions, each of which imparts its own unique characteristics on the plant: England, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Pacific Northwest (where Idaho just passed Oregon in overall hops production, by the way), Australia and New Zealand. But you may not be aware that South Africa has also become a major hop producer in recent years. And while most of the hops grown in the region are used to bitter the major South African beer brand, Castle Lager, there are also a few varieties that can imbue a beer with mysterious and fascinating flavor profiles. Just read through some of these aroma descriptors:
Southern Brewer (aroma profile: mown grass, mandarin orange, watermelon, ginger)
Southern Star (aroma profile: tangerine, blueberries, pine, white pepper)
Southern Passion (aroma profile: passionfruit, guava, red berries, melon, grapefruit)
N1/69 (aroma profile: Kool-Aid, mango, citrus, plums, dank weed)
Enticing, no? When we got our hands on the varieties above, we were raring to see the kinds of beers each of them could create. So we decided to share the love. In January, we met with the heads of Helio Basin Brewing Co., Helton Brewing and The Shop Beer Co. to design a beer that would highlight these hops. The recipe we landed on is a 7% ABV strong pale ale with heavy late kettle and dry-hop additions to emphasize each hop’s unique aromatic and flavor qualities. All four breweries would execute this same recipe at their own locations, with the only differences between the resulting beers being house yeast strains and the vagaries of their brewing systems. The hops would be the star.
But who would get to use which variety?Just read those aroma descriptions again. They each sound delectable, right? We all thought so, too, and lest a royal rumble-style fight break out, we just wrote down the names of the hops and threw them into a hat. The random assignments broke down thusly:
Helio Basin Brewing Co. – Southern Star
Helton Brewing – Southern Passion
The Shop Beer Co. – N1/69
Four Peaks Brewing Co. – Southern Brewer
The resulting beers will premiere at each of the participating breweries during Arizona Beer Week. Our creation, which we’re affectionately calling Modern Zombie, launches at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival and at our 8th Street pub on Saturday, Feb. 10. Try all four and let us know which hop you liked best.
And for god’s sake, watch out for zombie attacks.