A sunny day, quiet. Let’s go for a walk. The birds chatter, the breeze rustles, the barley moves in a dance across the field, an old car chugs past, the driver smiles. Just a little further up, that’s where the wild hops grow.
Jade green leaves; perfect clusters of gold; thick, rubbery branches; berries behind ready to stain fingers purple. The hops; picked and pressed between the fingers they leave their resin, sticking with the soft, giving skin; fragrant with lemon pith, herbs, wood, grass.
What are they like?
Make a beer just for them. Something light, pale. Something to show off whatever it is, however it’ll taste. Will it be bitter, will it be aromatic? Will it be subtle or not, high alpha or not? Will it be citrusy or earthy, fruity or spicy? There’s no way to know. Not until it’s brewed, not until you can drink it.
It’s the unknown, that’s what’s exciting. There’s no control; it’s leaving it to that secret wild unknown to change the brew, to give its unique quality, to make it; a magic ingredient.
That’s the Romance of it. Not knowing what you will get. A blind date. A shut-your-eyes-and-hold-out-your-hands, I’ve got a surprise. It’s crafted but the result is a lottery and even the maker has no idea. Brew the beer, use the hops, wait.
When it’s ready you get the first taste. It’s pale and alive, the aroma is subtle but dig deeper and there’s strawberries, barley, a light floral quality. Taste it. Sweet, crisp, refreshing, a little dryness at the end. The hops nudge by, not big, not abrasive, but gentle. It’s saying ‘come find me’, it’s saying ‘come get me’. It’s so drinkable; chase it around the glass because there’s a hidden mystery to it. The hops seem illusive but they are there, playful. ‘Come get me’, they say.
Barry Bit the Bullet and made a Münsterlander Wild-Hopped Ale (with the addition of some Hallertauer Perle, just in case – I campaigned for 100% wild, but what do I know, I was just wooed by the idea of the unknown!). From the moment I knew about it I wanted to try it. I felt the Romance of it, the possibilities of the unknown. Thankfully, and very gratefully, Barry sent some over and I’ve now tried it. It certainly Romanced me!