September 30 2013 by Crafty Pint
Of all the brewers to have played around with the new wave of Aussie hops, none has delved quite as deep as Ben Kraus at Bridge Road. With one of the country’s main hop farms, Rostrevor, just down the road from his Beechworth brewery he’s released several years of Harvest Ales, each using an experimental, unreleased hop variety, and has also created a number of single hop IPAs designed to showcase the unique characteristics of a range of Hop Products Australia’s commercial varieties.
Now he’s gone a step further with the release of the Bridge Road “Beer School Hop Pack”. It’s a means of learning a little about beer while enjoying a drink: four different single hop IPAs packaged inside a cool cardboard gift pack on which there’s information about hops and how they influence a beer. The featured hops are the well known Galaxy and Ella (formerly Stella) as well as the softer Summer and recent release Vic Secret, which was destined for the chop from HPA’s hop breeding program until it was featured in the Bridge Road 2011 Harvest Ale and turned out to have unexpected potential.
“Mikkeller’s hop series was what influenced me to do the single hop IPAs,” says Ben. “I was also trying to pick the strengths of [being a brewer] in a regional area. We have Rostrevor [hop farm] nearby and have a really good relationship with them. Their hops are awesome too, especially Galaxy.
“When it came to doing the single hop IPAs I thought there was no point doing ones that Mikkeller had done, no point being an Aussie doing US hop IPAs. There was no one doing Aussie ones and, with the garden down the road, it gave us more cred for doing them.”
Although there are four in the pack, Ben and his brewers have released others, including a Topaz IPA (which was Birra del Borgo brewer Leo di Vicenzo’s favourite when they brewed together recently in Italy) and one featuring the unfashionable old school Aussie hop Pride of Ringwood.
However, when it came to picking just four, Topaz lost out to Vic Secret (which is also the key hop in Bridge Road’s new Golden Ale). Galaxy and Ella were a shoe-in as the two originals, which had first been offered as a pair to bars for similar reasons to this four-pack – to educate staff and drinkers – while Summer was included as offering a more gentle beer than the remainder of the gang.
“The Summer is an IPA that’s almost like a pale ale,” says Ben. “It actually has more hops in than the others to get the same result.”
For the most part, however, the beers are identical. They feature exactly the same malt bill and are all at 4.8 per cent ABV.
“The difference is the hops,” he says. “The idea is to teach people what a hop’s character is.”
Thus the box features diagrams of a hop plus the HPA Flavour Spectrum that highlights each variety’s different characteristics. There are simple introductions to hops – what they are, when they are used in brewing and what they do to beer – plus brief descriptions of the four varieties used within the packs.
The packs are already available from the brewery and a handful of beer-friendly bottleshops around Melbourne. They will also be distributed nationwide by Dan Murphy’s in the near future. Looking ahead, there will be another wet hop Harvest Ale in 2014 and Ben is also considering releasing Malt and Yeast packs.
“We want to get [the packs] into places where people can buy it as a gift so it becomes an experience as well as an indulgence,” says Ben. “It’s educational and gets people thinking about Aussie hops as well as the flavours in beer.”