Troegs: Hop Back Amber & Java Head
Hop Back Amber
Tasting: June 19, 2012
Style: Red Ale
Vitals: 6% ABV, 55 IBU
Hops are added at various points in the “cooking” process. The initial addition is said to impart aroma, while the later addition imparts bitterness. Some brewers additionally use a “hop back”. A hop back is an additional process in which this cooked beer (wort) passes through a sealed chamber filled with hops before it moves to a chiller that will bring the beer to a temperature suitable for yeast. This hop back process basically locks in the hop aroma in the beer. Some brewers prefer this method to dry-hopping or wet hopping. These other processes are in a comparatively open environment and are said to cause the loss of hop aroma.
Troegs does in fact utilize a hop back chamber to produce what they describe as their flagship beer, the aptly named Hop Back Amber. The moderate IBU (International Bittering Units) and the company’s own description of this beer indicate that this hop back technique probably did not impart the bitterness so, I will expect some fresh hop flavors like flowers, grass and maybe some spice. It should also have some nice hop aroma.
Not much in the way of aroma — at least, not what I expected. This one is a dark ruby-amber, not much of a head. But wow, this one is really nice. It isn’t over the top bitter — but the hops showcase everything you’d expect — strong floral, citrus, earthy, pepper. It’s nicely balanced by some caramel malts. Finishes with a crisp spice and lingers on just long enough. For those that don’t like bitter beer — this one might be a nice bridge into the wider world of hops. A little fizzy and the alcohol shows itself on the finish but, I’ll put it at a solid 91 points.
Style: Stout (Oatmeal)
ABV – 7.5% IBU – 60
Now that I’ve introduced the hop back process, wouldn’t it be fun to fill that chamber up with other brewing ingredients? How about filling it up with some locally roasted Kenyan coffee? Well, that’s exactly what Troegs has done with Java Head. They equate the hop back process in Java Head to that of a French coffee press.
Strip away the hop back process and Java Head is simply an oatmeal stout. I’ve mentioned the use of oatmeal in other posts – but simply, oatmeal stouts don’t taste like oatmeal. Probably because an oatmeal stout only contains about 1% oats. Rather the smoothness of oatmeal stouts comes from the proteins, fats and gums found in the oats. These components increase the viscosity and body adding to the sense of smoothness.
Doesn’t pour all that opaque – cola brown. Moderate coffee on the nose. Thin but somewhat creamy mouth feel. Initial shot of mild coffee — all too subtle chocolate and definitely the same bitter aftertaste as drinking a coffee. I’ll call this one okay. I like my stout a bit more stout. But I still recommend this as a nice entry coffee stout — 84 points.