My mother in law had a big birthday recently with a lovely party for which I was tasked with providing the beer. Until now I’ve brewed mostly strong Belgian style beers, dubbels, tripels and quads, with the odd English bitter thrown in for good measure. However, I’ve recently wanted a go at something with a lot more hop character and I thought the name worked very well (she is a Holloway) so here was my chance.
When I planned the brew I had recently returned from Flanders so it was vaguely based on the Westvleteren Blond I’d enjoyed there but was intentionally weaker and hoppier. An extract brew, it contained Hallertau, Saaz and Styrian Goldings though I made a second batch without the Saaz and with a tiny bit of Northern Brewer for bittering to use up spare hops. I had a yeast problem on brew day so I ended up using the end of a Westvleteren Blond as a starter and as a bit of an experiment I gave half of the first brew a week lagering while I bottled the rest. All the second batch was lagered for a week so this gave me three slightly different beers to try.
All were interesting with great hop aromas but I think the bitterness was a tiny bit high and didn’t combine well with the yeast; this was also full of character and took a long time to start clearing and calming down. After about a week in the bottle the unlagered version (HH1) was really too bitter though the other two were mellower. A couple of weeks later and the bitterness seemed more of the refreshing variety but this beer seems to have split people quite decisively into those who like and those who really don’t. The next Holloway Hop is going to be closer to a standard IPA using new world hops, however, after all had been in the bottle for over a month I thought it would be interesting to do a proper comparison.
Holloway Hop 1 was very floral, very aromatic, refreshing, a little bitter with a bit of tang, had a nice light body, and Jess and I decided it was a very nice summer beer. HH1a was similar but subtler, it had been much better earlier on but now seemed a bit lacking. HH2 was again similar but with a slightly harsher, more pervasive bitterness. Presumably this was from the Northern Brewer and in future I will keep this for the dark beers I bought it for.
I was surprised that what started as the worst became the best but it seems lagering speeds up the aging and while this helped early on it may also have increased the rate that the desired hop aromas decayed.