The start of the year is an exciting time at Sharp's because the Connoisseurs’ Choice beer which has been sat in cold tank since late summer or autumn is due back from the bottlers. The first beer back this year is Single Brew Reserve (SBR). For the last 3 years I’ve used this beer to showcase the hops I love. In 2010 I used Bobek, last year it was Saaz and this year Citra. When Citra burst onto the scene I was a bit of a sceptic because a lot of what was brewed with the hop in was of the brutal, unrelenting “I dare you to drink this” hop-tard fodder variety. At more than 14% alpha acid Citra is a very bitter hop.
When I actually got to use it I instantly fell in love. The huge amount of essential oils available from Citra make getting aroma, structure and finish without the grapefruit ball-gag bitterness much easier than in some of the US varieties. Easier doesn’t of course mean easy and version 1 of SBR did not make it past the CT.
Single Brew Reserve 2012 was brewed from pale ale and carapils malt hopped at first wort with a tiny amount of Citra just to give a tingle of bitterness amidst the carapils sweetness. The in process-tasting of SBR before the cold conditioning phase saw a member of the brewing team enter “doesn’t taste of much” on the brewing record. I was pleased because I was after a balanced neutral unassuming beer onto which I could overlay the beautiful perfume of the Citra oils. I dry hopped the SBR with 1kg per hectolitre of 2011 crop Citra in porous sacks and left for two months at just above freezing. Every week I checked the tank the flavour had evolved with new aromas developing before becoming overridden by the next. Only when I was happy that the beer had reached its optimum did I book the tanker and bottling slot. The beer has been lagering without the hops since early December at the bottlers just to refine the flavour further.
I won’t tell you how it tastes only that I am as happy as it is possible for a tortured artiste like myself to be with the beer. I set out to make an aromatic beer with all the tropical, blackcurrant, citrus fragrance and appeal of Citra but with a crisp, subtle, moreish flavour that makes tucking in to a few almost unavoidable.
Our marketing department are currently in a meeting with a flip chart visualising a release date for SBR2012 as I write. In the meantime call our shop or mail me if you want some.
Next week Spiced Red my next Connoisseur’s Choice beer is back. Spiced Red is a 9% red barley wine brewed with rye crystal, fermented with a crazy Irish yeast which has a pronounced strawberry jam flavour, is spiced with coriander and dry hopped with freshly-cropped Hallertauer Perle hops. More on this later.