Over the last decade, breweries have found increasingly playful ways to make hop-forward beers. The Triple IPA, Black IPA, Belgian-style IPA, and White IPA are all examples of recent developments. As interests focus around the Humulus Lupulus plant, beer aficionados have become more interested in the actual varietals used in their favorite brews. Some hops tend toward flavors and aromas of pine, others smack of tropical fruits, and some lend a unique earthiness. As particular hops gain notoriety and following, their names have been incorporated into many popular brews -- see the Mikkeller Single Hop series, or any beer with the word "Citra" in the name.
This week's beer features a single hop, but not just any trendy varietal. Newcomer Cellarmaker Brewing Co. have built a mission statement around barrel-aged beers, but given the age of the brewery most of those brews haven't been liberated from the oak quite yet. In the meantime, the brewery has made a name for itself as one of the better local purveyors of hop-forward beers.
Their new J-17 Pale Ale, available Thursday, features a single hop (It's called J-17. Duh.) What's particularly interesting is that Cellarmaker is one of only two breweries in the country to get their hands on this hop. The South African botanical has been developed over the last 15 years in the Southern Cape, and has allowed South African breweries to make beers with 100 percent local ingredients for the first time.
The hop itself is very aromatic and fruit forward. Cellarmaker's brew is a 5.5 percent ABV pale ale with 28 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Expect a beer with restrained bitterness that plays up the flavor and aroma attributes of the plant. The beer is characterized by notes of melon and citrus, with a touch of earthy, blueberry quality. Cellarmaker J-17 Pale Ale goes on tap at the brewery on Thursday the 16th.