"Support British Hops!" So said the leaflet handed out to those drinkers in the Bedford, Tunbridge Wells last Saturday who were willing to try and comment on the intriguingly titled "Enigma Ale". This 4.8% beer had been specially brewed by Canterbury Brewers, who are based at the Foundry Brew-Pub in the cathedral city.using an unknown variety of hop. The man behind the beer is world-renowned hop expert, Dr Peter Derby of the National Hop Collection, and the idea is to provide feedback to assist both growers and brewers to choose what could potentially be a new variety of British hop. As the leaflet says:
"The beer in front of you has been brewed with a unique hop, grown in Britain, that may have never been tasted before. We have been asked by Dr. Peter Derby of the National Hop Collection to brew with an unknown hop variety. This could be a historical variety not brewed with for a hundred years or a brand new variety never tasted anywhere in the world before. We’ve brewed the beer, now we’re asking for your help to give the growers some feedback on the flavours. We have used the hops throughout the brewing process to show all of the flavours possible. Your feedback will be taken seriously and by giving us an honest appraisal you will be helping to sustain one of the proudest features of our local landscape."
Anyone ordering a glass of Enigma was given a form, complete with a flavour wheel, and ask to score the beer according to eight different flavour groups, (Citrussy; Fruity; Floral; Herbal; Spicy; Resinous; Sugar-like; Miscellaneous), and using the following guidelines.
"Everyone’s palate is different and there are no wrong answers in taste, in order to help with clear flavour definitions we have provided a flavour wheel for your use. Any of the flavours in the segments (eg. orange, mandarin) are part of the flavour group heading (eg. Citrusy), if you detect these flavours then give a rating from 0-7 in the box provided. Please give an intensity rating for all eight flavour groups."
Of course, the correct balance of malt flavours also plays an important role in the overall taste and balance of the finished beer, and I think the people behind the project were right in choosing an innovative company, like Canterbury Brewers, whose portfolio includes a wide range of different beers and styles, to produce the beer for them.
Presenting the beer in such a fashion, with an intriguing name, an eye-catching pump-clip and, most importantly as a totally blind tasting, seems an excellent way of dispelling preconceptions and providing some completely unbiased feedback. It certainly worked last Saturday, as most of us present in the pub gave the beer a try. So what did it actually taste like? Well, I found it quite citrussy. especially on the nose, but there were also spicy and resinous components present as well. It was certainly a beer with character, and one I would be quite happy to drink on a regular basis.
I shall be keeping an eye om Canterbury Brewers website to find out what hop variety was actually used and whether it is an old or a brand new one. Whatever the answer, if it helps give a much needed boost to the British hop industry, then it gets my vote.