Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Great Divide Brewing Co.'s Hop Disciples IPA highlights Ekuanot hops

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 9:58 AM

click to enlarge Hop Disciples IPA, now with Ekuanot hops, is available in six packs or on tap. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Hop Disciples IPA, now with Ekuanot hops, is available in six packs or on tap.
Great Divide Brewing Company recently mailed us samples of three of their seasonal beers: Hop Disciples IPA, available December through May; Orabelle Belgian-style tripel, available January through March; and chocolate oak-aged Yeti imperial stout, available January through March.

Hop Disciples is a single-hop, rotating hop IPA that, this year, features Ekuanot hops, a brand owned by Yakima Chief Hopunion the Hop Breeding Company, which they also call HBC 366 and have previously sold as Equinox hops. And I am a total nerd for single hop beers.

A single hop beer should be an exploration of the varying qualities of a given hop — that means every other aspect of the beer should be held constant. The brewer uses the same grain bill to produce the same wort, which gets fermented with the same yeast, with all times and temperatures kept as close to identical as possible so that the base beer is as consistent as possible. The variable being tested, the only thing the brewer changes, is the hop, and ideally, that hop should be added in the same amount, the same number of times at the same points in the brewing process so the only thing that changes is the flavor of the hop varietal.

The base beer for Hop Disciples, a reasonable 6.2 percent ABV brew, amber-y gold in color, has a sweet, light malt backbone, which allows the hops to shine while offering a small counterbalance to the bitterness. The hops themselves, presented "juicy" as East Coast-influenced IPAs tend to do, taste tropical and citrusy — mangoes especially come to mind — with a faint herbal bitterness that offers a balance I find missing in a lot of East Coast IPAs.
click to enlarge Great Divide's Orabelle shows good yeast characteristics. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Great Divide's Orabelle shows good yeast characteristics.

At 8.2 percent ABV, the cloudy-blonde Orabelle is nothing to take lightly, hiding its boozy punch well. I've had more than a few tripels, and while the aroma presents some of the peppery and pear notes, it tastes more like an extra-big hefeweizen, expressing the traditional banana and clove notes more than anything else. It's brewed with Belgian- and Dutch-traditional orange peel and coriander, but those play relatively mild roles. All told, it's a nice beer I'd be happy to sample again.

I've had chocolate oak aged Yeti on a few occasions. The base beer's a big, sturdy imperial stout — a mighty 9.5 percent ABV — with plenty of roasty notes and a relatively dry finish. It's not sticky or sweet like some imperial stouts I've had, which is nice. The oak and chocolate — think cocoa more than Hershey's — provide a big roundness at the front of the mouth, but that's the only place in the mouth where it lingers. I still prefer the espresso Yeti, but that's a matter of taste, and this one's far from disappointing.

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