Xtrem Hop 1: Columbus
I have to admit that even big companies can sometimes do surprising and original things. The Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize has allready developed a quite nice beer offer, but now they even start pioneering ! Tasting beer some questions frequently come to mind, and one of them for me was allways this one: can I taste the hop variety ? I smell the difference when I visit a brewery and the brewer lets me smell his different hops, but most beers are blends, and than I get hopelessly lost.
About a year ago Delhaize listened to the hidden wishes of many a Belgian beer lover, and created a series of three Single Hop beers, around the idea that if the brewing process was identical the character of the hop variety used would stand out, a very interesting concept. This limited series was a great succes, sold out very fast and was rebrewed at least once (I think). The new Xtrem Hop series goes a step further and concentrates on hops that deliver lots of bitterness.
The quantity of hop is allways exactly the same, so you can taste what the hop variety adds to the beer. I just love the idea, and for once I pity you non-Belgian beer lovers ! Of each variety 4000 bottles were made, and the beers have all 7.1 alcohol. All three hops come from Washington State.
I started my tasting experience with the Columbus, normally the most bitter variety of the three. I loved it. It has the extreme but well-balanced bitterness that I adore in a beer, and that I can also find back in for example an Orval (though I don't think they use Columbus). I do however recognise the taste from the beers I drank from the Jandrain-Jandrenouille brewery. This is not so suprising if you know the owner is the biggest European importer of American hop. This must (is!) a lovely beer on a hot day, quite dangerous as it is one of those you can quaff all afternoon, never getting tired of it. I absolutely love it.
By the way, all beers were tasted in a glass from the Belgian Beersommelier so there is no influence from the shape of the glass. This really excellent beer tasting glass is by the way also availalable in Delhaize, with a book (in Dutch) and some Belgian beers in a nice pack with two glasses. The glasses were developed by Ben Vinken, Belgium's first and best known beersommelier, and I'm very grateful for this.