Lessons Learned

The Ace in The Pack

Beer always finds a way to kick me in the ass. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on something – a brewery, or as in this case, a hop, something comes along like a bolt out of the blue to challenge my opinion. And – in most cases – turn it around. This happened twice to me in the space of last week.

I was lucky enough to visit Rooster’s Brewery last Friday and during that visit, Sean Franklin and the team took some of us through a tasting session. It wasn’t blind, per se – but we didn’t know what beer we were drinking. Apart from being incredibly good fun to sit and talk about taste without such leading elements as label and brewer’s history affecting your judgement, sessions like this are a real workout for your tastebuds.

A wheaty, pale beer arrived at our hands. Light, slightly Bretty, and with plenty of wild character sitting just beneath a fluffy head. In terms of hops there was a light, spritzy citrus – nothing that leapt out as any particular hop, to me. Overall I enjoyed it; sort of Saison – Wheat – Geuze – Pale. If that makes any sense.

As it turned out, it was Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace (7.5%). I was gobsmacked. Sorachi Ace, to me, was so unique, so different to other hops with that bubblegum/mint/ultra-pine that I assumed (after tasting the BrewDog single-hopped IPA) that I would be able to pick it out anywhere. Not so. Thinking back, what I didn’t take into account that BD IPA and this are so different stylistically that the brewers are setting out to achieve entirely different beers. So – lesson #1  – when trying to get your head around hops, take into account the style of beer you’re drinking, not just the hop!

Fast-Forward to the next day, and I’m standing in Beer-Ritz piling beers into my basket (as usual). I see a bottle of Oakham Citra (4.2%abv) and snap it up, along with another Citra-hopped beer (that shall remain nameless). I had read nothing but positive things about Oakham’s take on the Citra theme, and bought the other one purely for comparison. You see, I have a confession; I’m not massively into the hop.

You see, when such a pungent hop falls into trend, you get a groundswell of brewers buying it up, and rushing out beers just to get them onto the bar. This, for me, created a rash of really average Citra-hopped beers during the last 12-18 months, and only a few (such as Kernel’s superlative IPA) coming across as real stand-outs.

But Oakham’s Citra really was something. Wonderfully conditioned, created a prickly swell of lemon across your tongue, balanced out with a fantastically fresh, bowl-of-fresh-cut-lemon-and-tangerine aroma and a Zingy, balanced finish. Not acrid. Not overpowering. In fact, positively soft. Wonderful – I loved it. The other beer, by the way, was conditioned so badly it resembled washing-up water. Complete with Fairy Liquid.

Lesson #2 – don’t write off a hop. Chances are, there is at least one brewer out there handling things with a supremely deft touch.

For more on Citra, check out Nick’s excellent round-up from a few weeks ago on Beer Prole. And, if you’re in Leeds and fancy some Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, North have some – so get up there.


About leighgoodstuff

Blog: https://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/ I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 24/08/2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Wise words. I really enjoyed the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace and would love to get a couple of bottles for myself. Also, such a great bottle design.

    Thanks for the link! I tried A N Other session Citra beer this week which was nice enough but not wow-inducing.


  2. Can’t say I’ve had much experience of Sorachi so will definitely look this one up when I’m in Leeds in Sept, maybe one of the fine beer retailers I use sell it too..hmmm

    Oakham Citra is a life saver in my town, there are a few bars with rotating guests but you do get the odd day when things just don’t click, Citra is a regular in two bars so you know you can always turn to it. It’s really refreshing in summer months too, love it.

    Hops really intrigue me, I’m really keen to get a better understanding and appreciation of what they do in terms of taste and aroma and always open to more information to guide me.

    Great post mate, cheers


  3. Dd you notice any increase in clicks through after the WordPress share the other day by the way?

  4. Nice post Leigh. I fell in love with Citra off the back of Kernel, however as you rightly say there are many brewers that are blatantly using it just to be in with the ‘new thing’, and not getting it right (as we both know, the brewery you wisely didn’t name are a prime culprit).

  5. I find myself learning new things about beer on an almost daily basis. Could be a contributing factor to why I love it so much 😉

    I’ve been moaning about how we don’t get more of the fancy Brooklyn big bottles over here, so I’ll have to pop down and see if I can grab one, it sounds (and looks) great.

  6. Not had the Brooklyn but the Citra is stunning. I wrote about the export version herewhen I had it at the Oakham Brewery Tap in Peterborough.

    It’s an awesomely easy drinking yet massively tasty beer. Lip smackingly good!

  7. “when trying to get your head around hops, take into account the style of beer you’re drinking, not just the hop!”

    Very true, very true indeed. Too many people obsess about the hops and not enough about the beer itself.

    Every Sorachi Ace beer I have tried tasted of dill. Not a bad thing in my world, but not much of a beer thing either.

  8. Good stuff. I am also a big Oakham Citra fan, no other Citra beer compares to theirs. I wrote a post about it when I first discovered to my joy that they had started to bottle Citra, that was a good day….! http://beertalk.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/oakham-citra-in-a-bottle/

    The Sorachi Ace sounds interesting, I must see if I can pick that one up.

  9. Not had much experience of Sorachi Ace either, other than IPA is Dead. But couldn’t agree more on the Citra comments you make. I have had good examples of Citra ‘showcase’ beers and two terrible ones…again no names 🙂 but as you say, you can’t write an entire hop variety off because of a couple of bad experiences, you have to keep trying more beer and learning from it! (what a hardship). Good post mate.

    • Dave – Yes, you do, and like I say, take into account the context of the beer you are drinking it in.
      Loulah/Neil – Thanks for the links!
      Velky – Thanks, mate. And DIll – I get it, totally. More so in the IPA is dead than in the brooklyn though.
      Ghostie – do
      Ben – 😉

  10. Thanks for sharing.I was looking for this.

  11. Bah. Not had anything with citra or sorachi ace. “Don’t write off a hop” is a great bit of new folk wisdom, though!

  12. Great post Leigh.

    I was lucky enough to be in Peterborough on business last month and managed a visit to the Oakham Brewery Tap.

    The Oakham Citra on draught in its home patch was fantastic. So good I brought home half a dozen bottles home with me. Its certainly a great beer for the hop head (like me), with its distinctive tangy lemony flavour.

    Although to me its not that surprising that Oakham do a great version of a Citra beer – I have always been impressed with their output. Their JHB is a real winner and I was recently found an outlet in Skipton selling “Inferno” which was also a great.

    • Thanks Rob. Yeah, I concur – Oakham are a brewer of real quality and consistency, although I personally find JHB a little bitter for my taste. Inferno is wonderful, though. I generally find a least one Oakham beer ends up in my yearly ‘best of’ lists!

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