It pays to be prudent, if not skeptical. Is this beer really that good? Does the new hop really make a difference? Will beer lovers really love it?
Worthy has been working closely with our friends at Oregon State University and Indie Hops on pilot brewing with their new hop, X-331, which IH is naming “Strata.” This is the new open-pollinated Perle with the tropical, terpiffic, multi-layered flavor profile that’s been generating a bit of buzz recently.
So, is it any good? The judges for the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards recently thought so, awarding Worthy’s StrataSphere IPA a gold medal in the Sessionable Hoppy IPA category.
That’s great, and we are grateful. Our brewers enjoyed brewing with this strange hop. It’s high oil content, dual purpose bittering level (12% alpha) and tropical aroma with a whiff of earthy dankness presented many toys to play with.
”What really surprised and impressed all of us about this hop was how different it performed in a real brewing scenario compared to the rub and sniff method used during harvest," said Dustin Kellner, Worthy's Master Brewer.
"The level of tropical fruit aroma this hop throws off was not evident during the onsite sensory evaluation, where a lot more of the dankness and spicyness powered through. The brewing trials provided a whole different experience -- in the kettle and tanks, the hop's tropical flavors just gushed out."
"Kudos to Indie Hops and OSU for taking this strange hop beyond the rub. Without the hop teas and pilot brews, we never would have guessed it's great potential. Thanks for allowing us brewers an opportunity to fully experience these experimental hop varieties in real-world scenarios."
Do People Drink it?
OK, great: the brewers are bedazzled by this “ugly duckling” hop, the farmers like it because it offers high yields, the scientists like it because of it’s robust disease resistance, and at least one panel of beer judges like it. But what about the consumers?
Well, we have some data. At Worthy, we’ve been offering Strata on tap for the past few months. We haven’t been promoting it actively. Without any “lobbying,” we’ve been watching how our customers vote with their dollars.
The results have been impressive. It’s no secret that the flagship at Worthy has been our famously balanced Worthy IPA. Depending on the weather and day of the week, our PreFunk Pale, Kama Citrus IPA, Easy Day Kolsch and Lights Out Stout have traditionally rounded out our top sellers in our pub.
Generally, in Bend if not elsewhere, any beer with “IPA” in the name will perform well. Discounting that, and the newness factor, the results are bankable. For the past two months at Worthy’s restaurant on the East Side, Strata IPA has run neck and neck with Worthy IPA, and in some weeks, Strata has pulled away from the pack convincingly.
The Future looks Bright
Are these fans simply new customers who wanted the newest thing? Not really. We’re learning that most are repeat customers who’ve ordered Strata before and simply fell in love with it. The most frequently asked questions we get are: “Do you package this” and “Where else can I find this?”
Encouraging questions. The answers: No, it’s not packaged now, only because the hop is an experimental hop that’s in short supply. After the 2017 harvest, we do intend to package Strata, most likely in a 22 ounce bottle. After that, we shall see.
In the meantime, we have enough hop material to continue to offer Strata IPA on draft throughout Oregon and Washington. Please check it out and let us know what you think.
Strata is available at these on premise locations. In view of the strong demand, IH has put in another 60 acres. They won’t harvest a mature crop on those new acres until next year. In the meantime, IH will be scoring a mature crop on their original ten acres, which are split evenly between Goschie Farms and Coleman Farms in the Willamette Valley.
This is getting more and more fun. Stay tuned.
OSU breeds new hops for craft brewers.
Oregon State University. 2017