According to most beer historians, growers in the Hallertau region of Bavaria in southern Germany first cultivated hops. Going back to at least the 11th century, hops were added to beer not only to preserve it, but also enhance its flavor. The initial, venerable Continental European hops are German Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, Spalter, and Tettnanger, and the Czech Saaz from the Žatec region of Bohemia, which in the 1980s the United States tagged as “Noble hops.” What ties these four varieties together is their powerful terroir, which is their centuries-old history of having been grown in and having adapted to their home territories. Before the emergence of their “noble” designation, these hops were often referred to just as “fine hops.” The four traditional varieties of noble hops are properly characterized as aroma hops as they have relatively low alpha bitterness, but are highly aromatic. They are widely used in traditional continental beer styles including Bohemian pilsner, Oktoberfest/marzen, dunkel, many wheat/weizen beers, other lagers and our beer flight today — Craft Beer Crosscut 9.1.17: A Flight of Noble Hops.
4.7% ABV, 22 IBU
Named for the delicate engravings popularized by 19th century seafarers, North Coast Brewing’s Scrimshaw is a fresh tasting pilsner brewed in the finest European tradition using Munich malt and Hallertauer and Tettnang hops. It pours a honey gold with a frothy, white head. Grains and soft hop notes abound in the aroma. The swallow is closer to a pale ale, starting with ample two-row malt sweetness, followed by lemony, zesty hop tastes. The perfect carbonation and light body create a smooth, creamy mouthfeel with a crisp, dry finish and mild fruity aftertaste. It’s not trying to do anything fancy — it’s just a very well-balanced pilsner. It’s not a hop bomb, or a malt showcase. It’s just clean, thirst-quenching lager.
4.8% ABV, 22 IBU
In April 1991, the Köstritzer Brauerei, a subsidiary of the Bitburger brewery, shed its 1543 wardrobe and emerged as of one of the most modern breweries in Thuringia, Germany. In September 1993, it re-introduced the “original Köstritzer black beer,” a traditional bottom-fermented lager that contains a distinctive fine malty flavor due to the use of refined barley malt. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hops are used for bittering and aroma. It’s a delicious blend of light freshness with a smooth, sweet finish.
5% ABV, 28 IBU
The Sierra Nevada Summerfest is made with 2-row Pale and Munich malts and Perle, Spalter Select and Saaz hops. A crisp summer lager that has been around for more than 15 years, the Sierra Nevada Summerfest also lets you know that you’re drinking a real beer. With a full flavored tang hop kick, this pilsner style lager is another classic from Sierra Nevada. With light malts and light hops and spice, the crisp big bubbles make an excellent refreshing summertime lager. The lemon and malt aftertaste are very well balanced making this one of our favorite summer beers. Less-experienced drinkers may find the hoppy finish a tad too bitter, but they’ll come around.
6.1% ABV, 30 IBU
For the third straight year, Sierra Nevada Brewing has collaborated with a German brewery on its fall-seasonal Oktoberfest beer. This year, second-generation brewer Brian Grossman, of Sierra Nevada, and fourth-generation Brewmaster Cornelius Faus of Miltenberg, Germany’s Brauhaus Miltenberger, have joined forces. “We tried to re-create a classic Oktoberfest beer in the true German tradition,” says Cornelius Faust, fourth-generation brewmaster for Brauhaus Miltenberger, in pre-Oktoberfest hype. “We used traditional techniques to create layers of rich malt notes that remain light and crisp to the taste. That’s the secret of an authentic fest beer — complex malt flavor in a lager that remains easy to drink while you are celebrating the Oktoberfest season.” Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest is a Festbier, sometimes called Wiesn, Festibiere or Oktoberfestbier — a name that can only be used by Breweries in Munich — rather than a Marzën, which is the original style of Oktoberfest. (The Beer Judge Certification Program added Festbier to their guidelines in 2015 under the category “Pale Malty European Lager.”) Brewed with Tettnager, Spalter, German Select and German Magnum hops, this year’s Oktoberfest’s flavor is sweet grasses and caramel, brown leaves, lightly bitter grasses and a little bread with a quick, crisp finish.
Fred Eckhardt’s book, A Treatise on Lager Beers, published in 1969, was the first modern book about beer. During his stint as the Oregonian’s first beer columnist he penned The Essentials of Beer Style, helping many homebrewers understand their craft and in turn helped launch many craft brewing careers, including Hair of the Dog Brewery’s Alan Sprints, who created an American Strong Ale simply named Fred. Fred, the beer, is a deep golden color. It is made with aromatic and rye malts and includes 10 different hop varieties — Northern Brewer, Progress, First Gold, Crystal, Fuggle, Willamette, Tettnang, Chinook, Spalt, Saaz and Strisselspalt for caramel, bitter hops and some alcohol.