January is always a fun time at our brewery. It’s the time of year when we begin planning to make beers to be enjoyed by craft brewers across the nation and world. The Craft Brewers Conferences attract over 1000 brewmasters and brewers for seminars, discussions and a trade show for the vendors that serve the craft beer industry. As many of you already know, for the last three years, we have collaborated with friend and Brewmaster Eric Toft of Schönrammer Brauerei in Germany, along with the German Hop Growers Association, to create unique beers that showcase the great hops of Germany. Our first effort was Saphir Bock, brewed for the 2007 Craft Brewers Conference in Austin. It was hoppy and the craft brewers in audience were excited to drink a hoppy bock beer.
For the 2008 Craft Beer Conference in San Diego, we upped the offerings to 3 beers. The Tettnanger Pils and Spalt Select Pils were an interesting exploration of hop aromas and flavors. Many preferred the flavor of the Tettnang and the aroma of the Spalt Select. Others concluded the opposite. That is the fun of it. We also brewed a Belgian Strong Ale using 100% Saphir hops. This delicious blend of fruity hops and yeast-induced esters really displayed the synergy of those disparate components.
We upped the ante a bit more in Boston last year, when we brewed 5 beers. These included Tradition Pils, Hallertau Pils, Saphir Pils, Saphir Hefeweizen, and Herkules IPA, all brewed with a single variety of hops (the first word in each of their names). Again, contrasting and comparing three pilsners brewed to the exact same specification, save the hop variety, was interesting and educational. A hoppy Weissbier is a rare thing, and the Saphir hop fruitiness worked well with the esters produced by the Bavarian Weissbier yeast. The Herkules IPA was the first IPA brewed with Herkules hops. The Herkules hops are the strongest (most bitter) hop grown in Europe. We were careful not to overhop the beer to extreme bitterness, but it lacked the aroma normally associated with IPAs. So we tried dry-hopping (the raw hops are put into the aging tank, not boiled) which worked fantastic. From this we learned that you can get aroma from Herkules, but it requires dry hopping. So here we are getting ready for the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago, April 7 through April 10, and the beer list has been formulated. Here will be the lineup:
- Saphir Tripel Ale – this will be a Belgian-style Tripel that will be around 9% ABV and once again showcase the combination of esters and fruity Saphir hops.
- Belgian Pale Ale with Smaragd Hops. Around 6% ABV
- Belgian Pale Ale with Hallertau Hops. Around 6% ABV
- Belgian Pale Ale with Hersbrucker Hops. Around 6% ABV
- Bavarian Pale Ale – details still being formed.
We are pretty excited about all of these choices. Eric and our brewing team are working out the details and we plan to bring you more information as things get finalized. In the meanwhile, you may want to figure out how you might get to Downingtown in April to try what little draft of these exciting brews that we’ll have to share with the public. The German Hop Growers Association, interested in learning not only what can be done with these hops but also, how they are perceived by a larger audience, permits us to serve a few kegs here at Victory as well. Who knew scientific endeavors could be this fun and tasty? Consider this your fair warning to get to Downingtown in April to enjoy some with us.