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Experimental Hop Series #1: Azacca Saison

Matt Humbard is a local scientist, beer enthusiast, and homebrewer. DCBeer is teaming up with Matt to bring you in-depth homebrewing content from his blog. Find more of Matt at @drabmuh or on Facebook.
 
I am excited to start this series of beers. I will be brewing a total of 6 of these hoppy saisons with different experimental hop varieties I picked up from Yakima Valley Hops a little bit ago. These are going to all have the same grain bill and brewed as similar as possible. One of the reasons why I’ve brewed the same beer over and over again is to get this process down to near surgical precision to do this comparison. I will brew these in batches of two…each beer will get their own post and hopefully I can write a summary post at the end of this experiment with my notes and some bottles I saved to give an overview of the experiment. I want to turn these over quickly so if you are in the DC area and would like a growler of one of these, contact me…I can make that happen. [Ed. Note: This was originally posted in March, so you're a little late on getting a taste.]
 
Azacca hop is the only hop I’ll be using in this experiment that has  a name…also commercial examples. There are a few beers currently being produced using this hop. Most notably is the Victory Brewing Company beer Ranch IPA. Ranch IPA is an imperial IPA made with Mosaic and Azacca hops and is “climbing the charts” on beers that matter to a bunch of beer tickers on the internet (see beeradvocate or ratebeer for this particular species of creature….or just hang out with me.) Mosaic is such a stellar hop (see Recipe #07) that I fear it might have overshadowed the Azacca in that beer so I sought out an Azacca single hop beer.
 
A second commercial example I was able to snag was from the NEW brewery in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. called Right Proper. The beer is called “Range Life”…and is a hoppy wheat meant to showcase this hop. I quickly grabbed a growler of it and drank it the night before brewing this beer…just to see what I was getting myself into. A quick beer review, beer served out of a growler into the proper glass. Beer is yellow and clear with moderate carbonation and a white head of small and medium bubbles, some lacing, decent retention. Aroma is almost peppery, it is hard to tell if that is the hop or the yeast. The beer is sweet with a floral note, not a lot of fruit in the palate like the Hop Ranch from Victory, finish is mildly bitter. Overall a decent beer but not one I would describe as “hoppy” exactly. Which is fine, my expectations from this hop is a mild floral character with possibly some spiciness / pepper to it.
 
This experience is slightly at odds with the description used by hop farms that this variety is coming out of, I am not conflicted about this hop but I have some and it will be used. The description I got from Yakima is below.

A quick update, I wrote the above paragraphs shortly after this beer was brewed, not really thinking of returning to it or editing at all. Since then I have seen Azacca hops EVERYWHERE. A little surprising but it has helped me crystallized my thinking of this hop. As you can see in the menu, this is definitely the “it” hop this season with two beers on the menu at a local pub that use this hop. The beer that sealed Azacca’s fate with me was Grizacca from Oxbow brewery in Maine. While my wife did not like this beer as much as I did, this was a very hop forward beer. It was sweet and floral, like a field of flowers. Not as much fruit as advertised with this hop but a nice palate never-the-less. I can see how this won’t be a hop for everyone but it can be used to make a good beer for sure. Well, enough about other people’s beers. Time to make my own.

 

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