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Malt’s time to shine, says brewer

November 25, 2015

The global hop shortage will necessarily drive further varietal exploration of beer’s other key ingredients, an American brewer has predicted.

Craft Brew Alliance – owner of Portland’s Widmer Bros, Seattle’s Redhook and Hawaii’s Kona – has been impacted by the hop shortage in spite of its long-term contracts with suppliers, head of innovation brewing, Ben Dobler, told Australian Brews News.

“We’ve had contracts for years on Simcoe and that hop’s becoming wildly difficult for us to get, so some recipes are going to have to change,” he said.

Dobler said maltsters can keep up with demand more readily than hop producers, which cannot increase their acreage exponentially as craft beer production continues to ramp up.

“We’re going to start to see the vendors on the malt side start to produce boutique malts,” he tipped.

He said the result would be conversations about the interplay of different malt varietals and the esters they produce when used with a particular yeast.

“I really do think that that’s the evolution,” he said.

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Ben Dobler at The Local Taphouse in Sydney

Meanwhile, Dobler said American brewers now have the ability to produce more traditional, understated beer styles than have been trending in the US in recent years.

“Brewers are getting more talented, they don’t need to hide behind a tonne of hops,” he said.

“By no means am I knocking IPAs – I still drink them, still love them. But there’s a cachet that got lost with the IPA craze.

“We’re just finally starting to come full circle on that. Brewers are going back to their roots and embracing these nice subtle traditional styles and flavours,” Dobler said.

He said the hop shortage has highlighted the pitfalls of becoming too reliant on any one ingredient – something the big brewers realised a long time ago.

“You go into your local brewpub and you have the most amazing IPA experience. Then you come back a month later and it’s the same name, but it’s a completely different beer,” he said.

“Then you talk to them and they’re like, ‘we can’t get that hop anymore’.

“Say what you want, that’s one of the things the big boys do really well.

“They’re not dependent on one varietal or one ingredient. They’ve never built their beers that way,” said Dobler.

Ben Dobler was in Australia for the launch of the Craft Brew Alliance beers, which are distributed by Craft Revolution.

Now available are Kona Brewing’s Big Wave Golden Ale and Fire Rock Pale Ale, Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen and Red Hook’s ESB and Long Hammer IPA.

Swindler Summer Ale

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