#Select - Hop Selections 2021
This past October, we had the pleasure of going deep on a collaboration with our good friends from Blood Brothers and Third Moon. Collectively, we traveled to Yakima and selected hops for the first time ever. This is something we have been wanting and waiting to do for years.
Hops, like any agricultural product, vary. The same varietal can taste completely different from region to region, farm to farm, and even acre to acre. Hop selection has always interested us for two main reasons:
1. “True to type” hops don’t matter to us and the way we make/think about beer:
- “True to type” means that a Citra hop tastes the way you would expect a Citra hop to taste. We have always been very up front about how we think about and make beer, but for those who don’t know: we’re always trying to make the best beer we can, every time we make it. That means change. That means pushing ourselves to improve and refine every piece of our process and raw ingredient supply chain (like where and how we source hops!).
- Selecting hops that don’t fit “true to type” standards can sound scary. But imagine for a second that you have two different lots of Citra sitting before you. Let’s call them lot 1 and lot 2. You smell lot 1 and it smells like what you typically associate with Citra, an undeniably sensational, and familiar smell. Then you smell lot 2 and it smells better! BUT not “true to type,” or even really “citra like,” just downright delicious, and "better." Do you leave that objectively better lot of hops on the table? Of course not! You go get the best ingredients you can source and make the best beer you can make. We trust that you, the consumer, will continue to prefer for us to make better beer, rather than more familiar beer.
- In some ways we find that the “true to type” moniker actually conflicts with our most fundamental goals here at Badlands, namely to make the best beer we can. Which is why we have decided to ignore “true to type” entirely when selecting hops and focus on looking for “what is the best option on the table?” In some cases this can also mean a very unique presentation and perception of hops with names you may recognize. We are both extremely okay with that, and genuinely excited about it.
2. Consistency… at least on an annual basis:
- Throughout the brew year we go through as many as a dozen different lots of the same hop. What that means for us is that we’ll sometimes use a lot of Citra that is absolutely bangin’ and then the next time we go to pull hops from a hop supplier's warehouse, that lot is gone and we feel great sadness. Perhaps more significant, the next lot we use is different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. So when we go to build recipes and the lots change, our hop blends don’t always end up where we expect them to be. Something like Citra can vary, flavor wise, from candied papaya and citrus to dank, grapefruit, and pine depending on the lot you get. You can imagine how depending on what Citra you’re working with, you would build a different beer to work with what you’ve got.
- Unexpected results can be great sometimes, and less so others. It’s great when you stumble upon some amazing lots of hops, but more often than not, it’s just different and that difference can lead to blending “in the dark” so to speak. In some ways, this is just part of brewing at a small, craft brewery scale. You don’t really have the buying power to lock in a large supply of raw ingredients, which is why we partnered with our friends to combine our buying power and select hops that we’ll be able to use throughout the entire brew year.
- We can now start to build recipes around lots of hops that we know intimately. Hops that we rubbed and smelled in Yakima, and from there we can create combinations from our olfactory experiences in Yakima to yours here in Ontario.
This is a long term project for us. This isn’t something you do once and it certainly isn’t something you nail at the very first attempt. Every year we select hops, we’ll bring them home, brew with them and learn. Every year we’ll learn more about what makes those hops on the table turn into the best possible beer in your glass. Every year, we’ll get better at selecting hops, and every year we’ll hopefully be able to make you, the consumer, a better beer as a result.
This is a learning experience with no end date or tangible end state, which is the best type of learning experience in our opinion! As we’ve said before, this is a journey with no fixed destination. Agriculture varies, as do our tastes as drinkers. We’re excited to be able to dial in and exert some level of selective control over one of the most important pieces of our beer supply chain: hops!
We’re extremely excited to be able to share these hop selections with you over the coming months as we move from last years hops to the ones we selected this past fall. We’ll be displaying them as single hop varietal beers on naked, neutral malt bases and our house yeast with the intent of letting these hops be the one and only star of the show.
Thank you for continuing to be a part of this beer journey with us. We hope you enjoy these beers as much as we've enjoyed this many months long process of bringing these beers to life!