Carbonic Plague: a wild hop experiment

 

A little back story: last fall, a friend tipped me off about some wild hops growing in the ditch on a gravel road just outside Carbon, Iowa (pop. 28).
This September, I went out and harvested. A couple of weeks back, I carved out a brew day, and planned a basic pale ale to test drive this unknown hop.

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The beer, Carbonic Plague, is now in the keg, and it’s time for a report on the experiment. I didn’t have high expectations, and I’m here to say that it turned out fairly decent. I used a simple grist of seven pounds pale malt, one pound honey malt and one pound crystal 80L. Fermented with Wyeast 1056, I used 1.5 ounces of Carbon hops at 60 minutes, 30 minutes and two minutes to get a feel for their performance.

Not at all sticky and lupulesque, I guessed they wouldn’t be big on bittering. I was right. What I was wrong about was their flavor and aroma. I feared they would be weedy and unappealing. In the end, they imparted lovely apricot and peach notes, underscored by pleasant herbacious nuances.
If I had my druthers, it would kick a little more bitterness, but they’re worth what I paid for them. I will definitely harvest again next year, using them primarily for late additions.
Take a walk in the country, and keep your eyes peeled. You never know when the hop saints will shine down a blessing in your path.

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