European Beer, New World Hops

The only thing the two beers reviewed below have in common is that they are from countries where experiments with new world hops are a relatively recent development.

Should we pleased when Belgian and German breweries are inspired by American ‘craft beer’? We don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, as long as it’s about adding variety, rather than part of introducing an invasive species. Based on this experience, Belgium has more to worry about on that front than Germany.

Braufactum Palor pale ale.

All mouth, no trousers

We picked up our bottle of Braufactum Palor pale ale (5.2% ABV, 750ml) for £2.50 from the bargain bin at the National Brewery Centre in Burton-upon-Trent gift shop, so it’s likely to be another cast-off from the International Brewing Awards.

The packaging was gorgeous: nicely textured paper for the smart-looking label, an unusually heavy bottle with a slinky shape… a bit too much, actually, as if it is intended as an executive gift rather than a drink.

The beer itself (an afterthought?) smelled distinctly soapy: we’d like to say coriander leaves or Earl Grey tea, but, nope: soap. It had a copper-coin flavour we associate with Perle hops, though it doesn’t contain that particular variety (it has Cascade and Polaris). A slight hard-toffee quality also made us think more of a big, malty Festbier than, say, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Overall, we have to conclude that this is the worst of both worlds: the restraint of German beer with the rough-edges of something brewed in a bathtub.

 

Duvel Tripel Hop strong golden ale.

Duvel’s Brasher, Cooler Younger Brother

We bought Duvel Tripel Hop 2013 (9.5% ABV, 330ml) from Noble Green Wines online at £3.59.

It is fundamentally the Duvel we know and love (very pale, high carbonation, dangerously drinkable) but even stronger, and dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace (2012 used Citra) turning up the dazzlement a notch.

We don’t know Sorachi Ace well, but assume they were responsible for the weediness (as in drugs), the passing hint of chives, and the freshly-picked gooseberry quality, none of which are usually present in Duvel. Some people don’t like them, but we have absolutely no complaints.

Bright and raw-tasting, but surprisingly well-balanced, we concluded that Tripel Hop was damn near perfect.

16 thoughts on “European Beer, New World Hops”

  1. BraufactuM definitely has a high mouth-to-trouser ratio in my experience. It appears to be ultra-expensive beer for people who don’t understand beer by megacorporations who don’t care about beer. To be filed with Estrella Inedit, or guffawed over by some twat of a stockbroker.

    1. That about sums it up, it’s “crafty beer” by Radeberger, alias Oetker – yes, as in Dr Oetker.

      There also seems to be an ongoing attempt by the German big brewers to equate “craft” with “premium” so they can set up crafty subsidiaries and charge silly prices. I think Braufactum’s in the process of switching to a different shaped 650ml bottle, but these 750ml ones list for €10 or more, depending on the beer.

      By comparison, you can pick up the Maisel & Friends 750ml bottles for €4, and 500ml beers from small new craft brewers for €3.

      1. beerviking- Don’t you find it curious that here in the states a 500ml of a craft beer made by a German trained brewer using German malts and German hops (from Urban Chestnut in St. Louis) will run by less than €2? Same price for UCB’s “double IPA” with newish American hops.

        1. Yep, especially given that beer tax is next to nothing in Germany, which is part of why regular beer costs around €1 a bottle, and the bargain stuff as little as €0.25 or €0.49 for 500ml.

          I assume that the small production runs, the distribution costs, and for some the need to rent brewery capacity all go towards explaining the €2 or €3 bottles. But the pricing on the Braufactum stuff is just taking the piss.

          Then again, you can go to boutique wineries in California and pay $50 or $100 for a bottle of red wine. If you can position something as “gourmet” and “premium” – as “reassuringly expensive” – which is what Braufactum is trying to do, there are people who’ll bite.

  2. I quite liked the Palor but I get what you say about the packaging being executive. They seem to market these beers as gourmet in Germany which I think is even worse than craft and apparently there is a bar in Berlin where you can get Braufactum beers at 40eur a bottle. Even in the supermarket near me Progusta is 10eur for 70cl, and they have their own fridge, away from all the common beers that only costs 70 cents. I do love their Colonia Kolsch though.

  3. The Belgians are experimenting with New World hops very succcessfully but what I like is that the end results are rarely a sort of indentkit “international beer” which could come from anywhere but always (well, usually) remain distinctly Belgian.

    The German stuff sounds like the latest entrant into the “gourmet beer” category (a sub-category of “craft” perhaps) which all fur coat and no knickers. Etstrella Dam Inedit (devised by the guy who used to run foodie nirvana El Bulil in Spain) is another. Very pricey as a rule but utterly undistinguished – in that case a pretty bog standard Belgian inspired wheat beer, I thought. Luckily I tried mine at Bruges Beer Festival so just paid the standard token for the standard measure, thus avoiding a total rip off.

  4. I brought back a bottle of Duvel Tripel Hop from a recent trip to Bruges; I got it at the Carrefour for €1.95 (including 10c bottle deposit!). They were selling Westmalle Dubbel at €1.19; if you didn’t want anything fancy you could get a can of Hoegaarden for 70c or Jupiler for 50c. The Eurostar fare added a bit to the effective price, mind you.

    I think your conclusion (in the first paragraph) is mistaken, though; I can’t see the New World hops and the weird styles doing a cane toad on Belgian brewing, any more than they have done in Britain. Belgian brewing may be conservative but there’s plenty of it; some brewers are picking up on the new stuff, but most are leaving it alone. One of the six beers I had on my first night (small measures!) was a “black tripel”. Tripels are usually pale, of course – but then, so are IPAs. It was excellent.

  5. I tried the Duvel Tripel Hop 2013, as it’s just gone on sale at Booths round the corner (£2.99!). Tasted like Cava with hops added to it. Perhaps needs a few months longer in the bottle. It’s flying off the shelves, though.

  6. I was hugely, hugely impressed with the new Duvel styles recently – I almost want to say ‘just the right amount of change for Duvel’ but I don’t really know what that statement means! Tasty beer indeed.

  7. I recently sampled a couple of Braufactum brews and were just barely above average; nothing special about them.

    Regarding Duvel Tripel Hop, 2012 Citra version was quite unbalanced; but the Sorachi version is really near perfect.

    “as long as it’s about adding variety, rather than part of introducing an invasive species” –> this part gave me a lot to think about, as I was planning to write something related to it in the near future. Nice post.

    1. Good comments although wish I could taste the beers to see if they hit me the same way, i.e., viz. actual palate. This is the Europe that in the past would not accept hops from outside Europe as suitable to dominate the palate in beer (the British have always used them as valued parts of a blend). Even American brewers into the 1970’s mostly eschewed their own hops for aroma use not to mention dry-hopping. However, times change. It is possible that originally, the prejudice against New World productions was motivated simply by protectionism. On the other hand, it is undeniable that some New World hops still have the “catty” or blackcurrant (funky vegetal) taste which writers 100 years ago and more warned against and which many (me included) find inapt for beer. Some of our new varieties move away from that profile though in favour of other flavours (citric, pine cone, orange).

      It’s all good but it would be a pity if the ‘English” taste or “German” taste are effaced by these newcomers. Speaking certainly of the great mid-20th century English beers of which I have considerable experience, nothing in the American lexicon really comes close – Sierra Nevada, the avatar of the new style, is a worthy contender and useful for some purposes IMO – cold with food, say – but can never be as good as the greatest pale ales using English productions. NOt on cask anyway, which is the best form of those beers. Don’t forget your own best traditions, Englishmen, who invented fine-scented craft ales and inspired American and Antipodean emulations!

      Gary

  8. Very impressed with the ‘Hopfenstopfer’ beers from Häffner Brau — their Citra Ale is an easy drinking beer with ripe white grape and sweet banana on the nose; a Moussec-like mouth feel, more white grape and Parma Violets on the palate with a bracing bitter backbone and a dry finish.

  9. I had a bottle of the Duvel Tripel Hop a few months back for which I (unbelievably) paid £4.50. It contained Sorachi Ace, Saaz and Styrian Goldings so I assume it was the same one as yours. Rather wonderful, it must be said.

  10. As much as I dislike Braufactum’s approach, their horrendous pricing and the awful gourmetbier concept, I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve tried from them. Well, apart from the crazily-priced Arrique (was glad to get a taster of that free!), and the Progusta was a bit average for the price. But their Indra is lovely, while not something I’d buy again due to the price. Much prefer Hopfenstopfer (aka Haeffnerbraeu), and their fairly-priced, delicious brews. As far as I am aware (or at least as far as I was told by the brewer) they were the first German brewery to brew these more modern interpretations of pale ales.

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