Single Hop IPAs – beers made with a single hop variety, rather than the more common multi-hop brews – are fast becoming a global trend. Initially championed by Danish gypsy brewer Mikkeller – who produced a series to showcase different hop varieties – the style has since seen a surge in popularity. , with examples cropping up from punk brewers Brewdog in Scotland, as well as American breweries Flying Dog and the Boston Beer Company (under their Samuel Adams label).
In Australia the mantel of ‘Single Hop Champion’ is undoubtedly held by Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth, Victoria, who have produced three beers over the past two years to highlight three Australian-cultivated hop varieties: Galaxy, Stella and, most recently, Summer.
The brewery’s upcoming single hop project is perhaps their most ambitious, and yet features a product that is not only ubiquitous in Australian beer but, some might say, is synonymous with the brewing industry down under: a Pride of Ringwood (POR) Single Hop IPA.
The Pride of Ringwood hop was developed by A. S. Nash in Ringwood in Melbourne in the 1950s, through research funding commissioned by Carlton & United. Keith Dunstan wrote in The Amber Nectar: A Celebration of Beer and Brewing in Australia in 1987 that the development of POR “transformed the industry” by allowing local brewers to avoid costly and often past-their-prime hops imported from England. A hardy, high-yield variety, POR soon became the hop of choice for the major Victorian brewers, and its distinctive earthy bitterness and mild citric, polleny aroma have since become the definitive characteristics of Australian-brewed beer.
It is largely therein that the ambition of Bridge Road’s undertaking becomes apparent. The IPA as a style, and the single hop varieties in particular, are popular among beer geeks and hop-heads who enjoy the explorative and emphatic flavours and aromas imparted by a single hop. To these same audiences, POR carries with it an unfortunate connotation of mass-produced beer brewed to maximise profits rather than flavour.
Ben Kraus, head brewer and founder of Bridge Road, is hoping his new Single Hop IPA will help to bolster POR’s flagging reputation, while also being an interesting beer that people will want to drink.
“POR is a hop that is often laughed at by brewers, home brewers and beer geeks alike,” Kraus says.
“I had assumed that this reputation was undeserved. So we set out to do some myth busting without any real idea as to how this beer would turn out. However I am pretty confident it’ll be one that will change people’s perception of POR and put it onto the craft beer map.”
Since its foundation in 2004, Bridge Road has cemented itself a firm reputation as an interesting brewery, building on a solid foundation of regular beers with a noteworthy range of one-off brews.
“Our customers come to our beer because they like to taste new things often, and also enjoy challenging their perceptions. We try to provide something new and different whenever we can,” Kraus says.
The single hop series, it seems, is a good example of Bridge Road’s philosophy of exploring new avenues.
“I’m fairly certain we did the world’s first commercial batches of Galaxy, Stella and Summer single hop IPAs. Galaxy Single hop IPAs are now taking off in the States, and an increasing number of people are experimenting with Stella,” Kraus says.
Bridge Road announced their latest in the single hop series last week via social media, and Kraus says the announcement generated a fair amount of discussion, with people mostly keen to try it. As to how he thinks the beer will turn out, he is cautiously optimistic.
“The decision to do the POR IPA wasn’t too difficult, I knew that good or less-than-good the beer would sell, because who doesn’t want to try a POR IPA?”
Tim Lord, managing director of Hop Products Australia, echoes these sentiments.
“No doubt Bridge Road will sell the whole batch,” he says. “But whether the beer will be a sensation or grow the business we will have to wait and see.”
Lord adds that POR has not been extensively evaluated for flavour and aroma contributions to beer, and is used primarily as a generic hop for adding bitterness – although there are many hops for which this is the case. He says that the success of Bridge Road’s Single Hop IPA will very much depend on the hop schedule used. Later hop additions will add riper, fruitier characters, while earlier additions will lead to sharper, resinous bitterness.
“The potential is there for a nice beer,” Lord says. “But a lot will depend on Bridge Road crafting the right balance. This is going to be very interesting and I expect there will be some pleasantly surprised people that may have to rethink their thoughts on POR.”
Whether or not the beer hits the mark, there should be little doubt the first batch will sell out. Ben Kraus confirms that if the draught batch is well received, we will see the IPA released in bottles some time down the line. He says he will be happy if the beer gets people to try brewing with POR themselves at home.
“If the beer turns out to be less-than-good I will be sure to let each venue know before selling it, but I am certain it will sell either way.”
The Bridge Road Pride of Ringwood Single Hop IPA is due to be released in February, and will be available at most bars that regularly tap their beer. Contact your local craft beer venue closer to the release date, or contact Bridge Road for more information.