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Rethinking hoppy beers: Citra Sour

CitraSour“Hoppy” and “sour” might sound like two flavors that wouldn’t play nice together, but there’s much more to hops than palate-punching bitterness. If you look beyond the IBUs, hops lend a wide range of more subtle flavors and aromas, from fruity grapefruit and papaya notes to delicate florals and hints of good ‘ole American pine. These characteristics are coaxed out by dry-hopping, when hops are added just before the beer is packaged to lend the freshest possible aromas and flavors.

In Citra Sour, you can expect a very tropical, refreshing sour beer that defies expectations of what a “hoppy” beer can be.

We’ve brewed hoppy sours before but this time we wanted to highlight the characteristics of a single hop varietal: Citra. We began the process with our traditional sour blonde ale, fermented with our house sour culture and aged in barrels for about six months, and blended in a younger, 100% brettanomyces-fermented beer. This blend combines the oaky, vanilla character that barrels impart with the tropical fruit esters created by brett. As our Oak Program Manager, Phil Emerson, explains, this combination created the perfect backdrop for the flavors and aromas Citra is best known for.

“We were striving for pineapple and guava from the brett. The Citra hops gives the stone fruit, apricot, and grapefruit character. Those combine and it’s hard to tell what’s from the hops and what’s from the brett,” Phil says.

The addition of brettanomyces to the mix has the added bonus of helping preserve the hop characteristics that we’re aiming to spotlight. While hop bomb IPAs start losing their punch after only a couple months, the brett and sour culture will preserve the delicate compounds responsible for prized hop aromas and create some subtle new flavors in the process. Translation: this beer is totally age-able, and should become more interesting with time, not more muted.

Phil adds, “We think it’s great now. It might be even better in six months.”