The kegs may be long since emptied, cleaned and filled with new beer, but we can still talk about this.
After crafting pale ales with two generous sacks of experimental hops a tour guide at Sierra Nevada gave us, we had a solid month to savor the beers and experience how the hops changed as they aged a bit. It's a fun experiment I'm excited to try again soon.
To recap, each pale ale was bittered with Centennial because we didn't know the bittering qualities of the experimental hops, but all other hop editions---flavor, aroma, dry hop---were exclusively either Idaho #7 or #5256.
Idaho #7 is supposed to brim with bright, fleshy fruit like apricot with herbal underpinnings, and #5256 is supposed to be dank. That means pine, herbs, dark fruit, and mint.
Idaho #7 Pale Ale
Golden, strawlike. We kept the specialty malts to a minimum to keep anything from overpowering the hops.
Definitely fruit forward. I can sense a little peach, definitely some lemon, and a thyme-like quality hiding deep in there.
Similar to the aroma, but the herbal quality skews a touch toward basil for me as opposed to thyme, especially as the beer aged and the brighter fruit flavors mellowed. The beer came out a bit bitter for a pale ale, so I think we’re getting a slightly muted flavor.
Dry and crisp. The bitterness makes it a touch sharp, so the hops don’t have much of a chance to hang out on your tongue, unfortunately. Just needed to dial the IBUs down a bit.
When this beer and its companion were young, I enjoyed this a good bit more than #5256, to be honest. As it aged aged and took on a more muted, herbal quality, I found #5256 to be the better pint. We’ve had a couple pints of Sierra Nevada’s Idaho #7 IPA, and that one was powerfully lemon forward, more so than ours, but the hop’s flavor was unmistakeable.
#5256 Pale Ale
We brewed a double batch, so this is golden and strawlike, too.
Pine, earth, touches of fruit. It’s dank...not nearly as powerfully so as the hop sack was when we first opened it, but there’s no confusing this beer for Idaho #7.
Really herbal and earthy with touches of resin and possibly plum. Idaho #7 dominated as a young beer, but #5256 aged better and continued to be a pleasant drink until the keg kicked. That may be because the hop doesn’t have a big fruity bottom that’ll drop out as soon as the hops show some age.
Identical to the other beer---dry, crisp, and a touch too bitter---but #5256 managed to hang better with the higher bitterness.
Save for the bitterness, we enjoyed this keg all the way through as it aged. I’d happily brew with this hop again, although in the future, I’d like to pair it with another hop or two to see what sort of depth we can conjure (#5256 vs. Galaxy sounds fun, as does Idaho #7 vs. Simcoe). These two beers were enjoyable if predictably one-note being single-hop beers, but now that we have an idea how they behave, they’ll be fun to use in future batches when we get our hands on a few ounces.