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!


  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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