As a beer geek, you eventually learn quite a bit about hop varieties. Especially with the benefit of single-hop IPAs and pale ales, drinkers are given the opportunity to experience each different hop strain as one might taste varietal wines, noting their specific trademark characteristics. Eventually you come to know exactly what to expect when you see names like “cascade,” “centennial” or “amarillo.” But what about “Rebel,” “Freedom” or “Alluvial?”
Those last three names are proprietary hop strains grown by Rogue Ales as part of their “Rogue Farms” project and blended together in the brewery’s new 7 Hop IPA. Unlike most other hop strains, beer fans have no idea what to expect from them, which is the whole purpose of Rogue’s initiative. In a test of “terroir,” the hops are all grown in the same location and blended to create a specific profile. The effect is to remove the drinker’s preconceptions. Robbed of expectations, you’re forced to actually taste objectively.
Unsurprisingly, with seven different varieties of hops in play, the aroma is pretty complex, but distinctively “IPA.” There are notes of fresh lemon, pine needles, thyme and grass from the complete blend of “Liberty, Newport, Revolution, Rebel, Independent, Freedom and Alluvial hops.” It’s pretty closely balanced between the citric and herbal elements.
A taste reveals a fairly light, easy-drinking IPA that belies both its 8% alcohol and 90 IBUs. Bitterness is pretty restrained for a beer this big, with a pleasant, crisp malt character that mixes dry crackers and light caramel sweetness. The hops come through next, not overpowering but complementing the malt. Interestingly, they seem less citric and more spicy, prickling on the tongue like a fresh and hoppy Czech pilsner. Really though, there’s a little something of everything going on here from citrus to grassy, but none of those flavors stand out noticeably from the rest. “Balance” is the byword.
The result is an intriguing blend of flavors that simultaneously seems both familiar and new. “Alluvial hops” may never be something you’ll be seeing on beer bottles nationwide, but if you enjoy a balanced, hoppy brew, this is one to keep an eye out for.
Brewery: Rogue Ales
City: Newport, OR
Style: American IPA