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Monday, June 13, 2016

Chafing Under the Tyranny of Mosaic Hops

If you pay much attention to the hops in you beer, you will probably have noticed that Mosaic is one of the most common varieties listed. This is pretty remarkable for a hop released only in 2012. There were nearly 1,800 acres under cultivation in Idaho and Washington in 2015, which puts it out in front of varieties like Crystal and Willamette--and it well more than doubled in acreage last year, so the growth curve is probably going to push it up into Citra territory in the next few years. The reason, of course, is because these are the words people use to describe it:
Specific aroma descriptors include blueberry, tangerine, papaya, rose, blossoms, and bubble gum.
And:
“I really like that you can create sweet, fruity aromas with Mosaic but still have a dry beer. It’s sort of like gewürztraminer in that way,” says Jesse Friedman, co-founder and brewmaster for Almanac Beer in San Francisco.... “It has a big, fruity punch to it,” he says. “It’s tropical, but has a fruit punch note. There’s a little bit of bubble gum in there, some blueberry, but it also has really nice earthy quality. It’s definitely distinct.”
That sounds absolutely delicious. I would love a hop that tasted alternately of rose blossoms, blueberry, or mango. You know what I get? Caraway seed. Mosaic has a very distinctive aroma compound that my palate reads as savory. It's not actually terrible, but there's a reason brewers haven't rushed to make caraway beers. Mosaic is the daughter of Simcoe, and I think that hop is to blame. I don't dislike Simcoe nearly as much, but in my mouth it comes across as far more aggressively piney--it's like pine tar--than it apparently does in others'. That's not precisely savory, but it's related, and is what I think gets carried through in Mosaic. (Maybe it's the thiols.)

As we get ever deeper into the world of designer hops, I think these kinds of mismatches are going to be more common. Some hops seem to read as "true" across palates. They're often the classics--Hallertau, Cascade, Saaz. But others have this Jekyll and Hyde quality. Sorachi Ace track as lemony to many palates, but come across like dill to others. Summits can be juicy and fruity, or taste like onions, garlic, or durian. Nelson Sauvin taste like sauvignon blanc grapes (hence the name), or musky and sweaty. In each case, the alternative flavor/aroma does not constitute a reasonable substitution. (It's interesting that most of the alternate flavors, including caraway in Mosaic, are savory notes.) If you're not tasting the qualities in these hops those who love them are, you probably dislike them.

The upshot for me, as basically every brewer is rushing to get her hands on Mosaic, is that I wish there were more of us who got the caraway flavor. It might make them a more specialty hop--as Sorachi Ace and Summits have become. But my sense is that I'm a fairly rare outlier here. Ah well--I can always have a saison.

15 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

I get the savoury thing as well, but for me it's garlic when it's intense, and I love garlic.

argomase said...

Sorachi ace tastes like buttered popcorn to me and precisely nobody else.

Adam Lindsley said...

Interesting! Mosaic hops have always registered as oniony to my palate. Next time I have a Mosaic beer I'll see if I can pull out the caraway.

Jeff Alworth said...

Why do people want onion and garlic in their beers??? What's the matter with you people?

Get off my damn lawn.

John the Kiwi said...

I hope you haven't ruined mosaic for me with this column! I'll start testing with this delicious Mosaic Saison.

hfinn314 said...

I agree and think it's much more interesting to taste combinations of hops than individual flavors. Equinox is another one.

Washington Beer Blog said...

It is interesting the way some of the new breeds impart flavors that vary with individuals' palates. How can a hop taste like mangos and tobacco? You taste one thing, I taste another. My favorite Mosaic description, "They taste like cat piss." Hmmm. Gonna take your word on that one; I've never tasted cat piss.

The flavor wheel just keeps growing.

Ben Edmunds said...

Farm/lot selection, kilning method, oxidation, and where in the process brewers use these late harvest high oil hops (like Mosaic, Citra, Summit, Nelson and Equinox/366) have a huge impact on how the hop presents in any given beer.

Jeff, you're absolutely right that the thiol/sulfur notes can be off the charts with Mosaic. That said, the hop is so ubiquitous these days that I'd venture that you've had plenty of Mosaic beers where those hops don't present as savory.

Unknown said...

Simcoe tastes aggressively soapy to me - like pink powdered soap. I first noticed this in Great Divide's Titan IPA. Does anybody else get that flavor?

Jeff Alworth said...

Ben, it's possible, but I am hugely sensitive to that hop and the reason for this post is that there are SO many beers now that taste like caraway to me. It's like Cascade--breweries tuck it in whether it's a single-hop beer, a predominently-Mosaic beer, or just a juicy IPA they want to goose. I don't know what my threshold is, but I think it's about the same as the threshold for people who like the hop. Which means if it's worth tucking in a bit for the positive elements, I'm probably going to notice the savory ones.

Of course, when it's a minor element, it's far less a problem. A very juicy beer with tons of non-savory flavors that's just inflected with caraway isn't a terrible thing.

Brad said...

Does anyone else think Amarillo tastes like soap?

I mean, there are some people who taste things like cilantro and it tastes like soap, and I like cilantro but can see how people would think that...

But am I the only one who gets that from Amarillo?

Vinny said...

I despise Mosaic for the oniony flavor and aroma I get from it. It's less pronounced when it's mixed with other hops but not desirable for me at all. It's a real bummer because Citra is one of my favorite hops and Mosaic is supposed to be "Citra on steroids."

THOMAS CIZAUSKAS said...

And Simcoe: the royal aroma of ammoniated feline.

asdassa said...

Thank you! It seem like I have been the lone brewer/drinker voicing my opinion of Mosaic, but I hate it in a different way. All I taste is "vegetal", in a nori/ seaweed way. And that would be great if I were eating sushi! My beer bars don't serve sushi, unfortunately.

asdassa said...

And don't get me started on Sorachi Ace! Lom

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