October is just around the corner. Every beer enthusiast will once again partake in one of the most significant cultural events in the world: Oktoberfest. Noble hops will once again be front and center, but mixing in American hops can make them a little more interesting.
Intense earthy flavors, sharp spice tones, and an underlying hint of floral notes — Hallertau is the quintessential Noble hop. It works great for lagers and German ales, but it might be a bit bland for American beer drinkers. In terms of flavor, it has a somewhat similar flavor profile to Cascade or Simcoe, but without the citrus or fruit flavors that make the two a little more interesting. Pair it up with a strong flavoring hop like Citra or Galaxy to add a bit of flavor. Don’t confuse Hallertau with Hallertau Blanc when you find them for sale; these hops have entirely different flavor profiles. Hallertau Blanc is closer to New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin with its wine-like flavors, and wine-tasting beer might seem odd at an Oktoberfest celebration.
Tettnang is a more subtle version of Hallertau. It produces softer spice and earth tones with more prominent floral and herbal notes. The flavors are a bit too subtle and can be underwhelming, making it more suitable for bittering and for adding aroma. Tettnang is one of the hardiest German hops, and it is grown all over the world. Of course, if you don’t get your hops from Germany, you might be getting hops that have diverged in flavor and characteristics. German Tettnang is often compared to the American Horizon or the UK’s Kent Golding. Use it for bittering and aromatics together with your favorite flavoring hop to make a somewhat subtle Oktoberfest brew.
Spalt is one of the more flavorful Noble hops. While it retains the strong spice and herbal flavors and aromas that are quite similar to Tettnang’s, it also contains hints of fruit and citrus. Highlight its tea-like qualities by pairing it with Columbus, Nugget, or Simcoe. You can also make it more flavorful by pairing it with a sharp citrusy or fruity hop. Spalt makes great lagers and pilsners, but you can also use it for the usual IPAs.
The Czech Saaz has been brought back from the brink of death a total of 9 times through multiple instances of cloning. It is a very fragile hop with minimal yields and vulnerability to mildew. Saaz evokes rich floral flavors and sharp spice tones with a bit of earthiness and citrus. Beer enthusiasts often compare it to hoppier versions of Summit or Nugget. Saaz’ low alpha acids make it unsuitable for bittering and pairing it with Azzaca, Mosaic or Citra makes a more flavorful brew. Create a delicious batch of lagers and pilsners — just in time for the celebration.
Oktoberfest is a celebration with beer at its very center. Get ready to make those Noble hop brews, but add an American twist to satisfy your more discerning patrons.