Experimental beers are brewing at its best.
It is only through trial and error that brewers arrive at the recipes that become the tried and true. Some experimental beers may prove interesting, but not yet ready for prime time. Others become classics and find their way into bottles, cans and kegs.
Sampling all the local, experimental, one-off creations is one of the most tantalizing benefits of living in Bend, Beer Town, USA. We are all part of what’s likely the largest tasting panel in the country. Our honest feedback often dictates which recipes get repeated, which get scrapped and which eventually make it to the broader market. It’s a great responsibility, but one most Bend beer drinkers are happy to take on.
If you made it to our March 10 Media Salon, "The Science of Beer," you probably enjoyed one of those experimental brews—a delicious dry-hopped pale ale made for us by Worthy Brewing Company in celebration of the event and our inaugural beer issue. We love the burst of aromas produced by dry hopping (adding another round of hops late in the production process, after fermenting) and Source Suds, our custom Worthy beer, was exemplary—lots of bright, fresh-hop aromatics and no bitterness.
Worthy, as brewmaster Chad Kennedy explained, is in a particularly unique position to experiment with hops as the eastside brewery has been working closely with Oregon State University and Indie Hops to develop new hop strains. Indie Hops was co-founded by Worthy owner Roger Worthington. (For more on Worthy's experimental hop research and development, see "Hops University" on page 12).
Source Suds isn't the only beer Worthy has been tinkering with. Kennedy has a backlog for Worthy's pilot brewing system—the experimental tank that births these exciting new brews. Kennedy recently produced a hoppy red lager and was working on a new saison when I caught up with him. Next up is a cascadian dark ale made with el dorado hops.
"They're all around good hops, with tropical fruit tastes and aromas," Kennedy said of the el dorado variety. "A good chunk of your taste comes from the aroma."
After that Kennedy is excited to start a string of experimental dry-hop brews made with Indie Hops' numerous new genotypes.
"As a brewer, experimenting with hops that haven't existed before is kind of like going into the jungle and discovering a new species," Kennedy said.