Four yyc breweries that have nailed down the summer hops.

One of the great things about beer is its diversity. It can come in a myriad of colours and also a wide variety of flavours – citrus being one of the most distinct.

Citrus beers tastes and aromas can remind the drinker of anything from lemonade to grapefruit soda. There are several ways to achieve these refreshing characters, which seem to grow ever-more popular on hot summer days.

Hops provide the bitterness in beer; out of literally hundreds of varieties, only a few impart citrus notes. Cascade and Citra are examples of two of the most popular hops used in several styles of beer, most notably American IPAs and India Pale Ales. Cascade hops have been around for more than 40 years, and is the single most popular hop used by the American craft brewing industry.

Citra’s name leaves no guessing as to its attributes. A relative newcomer, this cross-breed of U.K., German, and U.S. hop varieties have been around for less than a decade, but are already extremely popular hops for imparting citrus and tropical fruit characteristics on a beer. It has proven very versatile and appears in beer styles like session ales and IPAs.

It has also become a favourite hop to use for dry-hopping (adding hops late into the boil) due to the exceptional aromas it produces. For even more flavour and aroma, craft brewers now commonly enhance these already citrusy IPAs with actual zest, peel, or juice from citrus fruits to create an IPA/fruit beer hybrid, which sells especially well in summer months. 

Then there is the yeast, and many varieties of yeast produce citrusy esters. The unfiltered hefeweizens, brewed on both sides of the Atlantic, often have a lemony flavour. Sour beers also showcase yeast, which is often cultured from Belgian strains.

These beers are tart and produce a gamut of flavours; many with citrus qualities, and some have added fruit – the easiest and most obvious way to create a citrusy beer. The Belgians also add different kinds of oranges with spice additions to their wheat ales to create wit beers, now emulated all over the world with different citrus and other fruits involved in the recipe.

We also can’t forget the radlers, which are simply a lager beer mixed with 40 to  60 per cent fruit juice – often grapefruit or lemonade.

Whether it’s added the fruit, the yeast, the hops or a combination of all three, citrusy beers are commonplace now. Thanks to new hops like Citra and the increasing popularity of wits and sours, we can expect this trend to continue.

Here are a few local beers with hints of citrus (all are also available on tap!):

Ribstone Creek Great White Combine
This tiny Edgerton, Alta. brewery has been knocking it out of the park lately. Named after the ubiquitous Alberta summer hailstorm, the use of Belgian yeast, sweet orange peel, and coriander gives this beer an orange flavour right in the beginning. When the four different hop additions kick in, it changes more to a sweet, lemony flavour. This White IPA has a very tropical feel that makes you forget it was made in northern Alberta.
CSPC +774162 $16 six-pack cans

Wild Rose Cowbell
Sour ales are the new belle of the ball at craft breweries. Often using imported Belgian yeast strains, they are tart, tangy and well… sour. Calgary’s Wild Rose has taken this flavour profile and added kaffir lime leaves. This makes the beer more like a refreshing limeade and is less bitter than many of its other sour counterparts.
CSPC +778093 $17 six-pack bottles

Citradelic Single Hop IPA Big Rock Brewery
With breweries in two (soon to be three) provinces, Big Rock now has multiple locations to develop new beers. This is the first one from their Vancouver brewery and is full of lemon and grapefruit flavours, and tropical aromas. This beer showcases the Citra hop, fooling one to think that citrus has been added, when it’s all thanks to the hop.
CSPC +778593 $15 six-pack bottles

Alley Kat Main Squeeze
What started out as a summer seasonal has now become a mainstay of this Edmonton brewery. A North American style wheat ale with a 50 per cent wheat and 50 per cent barley mix, it has added grapefruit juice, but tastes more along the lines of pink grapefruit rather than its more bitter cousin.
CSPC +733630 $17 six-pack bottles


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