Early in this summer I planted a hop that is, for me, a bit of a white whale. Canadian Redvine Hops are a somewhat notorious hop. It arose spontaneously somewhere in Eastern Canada, making it North America’s first landrace hop. Legend has it that it was found in a field of cluster hops, and stood apart due to the massive size of its rhizome. Not much else is known of its origin, but for a time it was a popular hop due to it’s incredibly vigorous growth and high production. It is also modestly disease resistant – a trait not overly common among hop strains dating back to the 1800’s.
Despite its good agrenomics, redvine is not an overly popular hop today. The reasons for this are simple – its a low-alpha and low-humulene hop, with a cherry/berry flavour that doesn’t fit traditional flavour profiles. I’ve had an interest in it as it is a unique part of Canadian brewing history. I also found the descriptors of its flavour profile to be intreguing.
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to find. A few small US hop yards have started growing it. I found one US company that sells rhizomes – but good luck getting a living crop across the boarder. If you’re a hop breeder, the USDA has it. But outside of that, it’s nearly impossible to find. Rumour has it that it can be found growing wild in my area. But in 5 years of searching I have yet to find any hops – never mind redvines – in the wild. And because it’s not a popular hop, pelletized versions are simply unavailable through homebrew stores.
Flash-forward to June of this year, when I received from Grant – owner of The Hop House – a precious redvine rhizome. Despite its late planting, it grew incredibly fast, producing a plant more typical in size to a second year plant. It also produced, after drying, 250 g of hops. To say I was stoked by this plants production would be an understatement!
Brewing with Canadian Redvine
This gave me an unexpected harvest of hops, so I dried them down while deciding what to brew with them. I settled on a Red IPA in the hopes that the maltier style would work well with the redvine’s cherry flavour.
I wanted to maximize the flavour of the hops, so I played around with a dozen or so hop schedules. Ultimately, I went the simple route and decided to add all 250 g (almost 9 oz) of hops as a single whirlpool addition. But this would create two problems – the hops would absorb a lot of beer and plug any pump, siphon, or drain used to drain the kettle.
As a work-around, I cleaned the mash basket of my Brewzilla and put it back into the kettle near the the end of the boil. I cooled the wort with the chiller to 75C, and held this for the whirlpool. Using the grain basket as a giant hop bag, I stirred in the mass of hops. To limit volume losses, I decided to use my extra mash plate to press wort out of the wet hops.
A flaw in my plan appeared when I started the recirculation pump to chill the wort. This meager movement of wort was enough to force the hops into a solid mass at the bottom of the grain basket that no liquid could pass through. Pretty quickly, the pump moved all of the wort into the grain basket. Stirring the hop mass with a spoon was enough to create a slow trickle of wort. Even so, it took over two hours to chill and collect 20 L of finished wort. The plan to press with the mash plate did go as planned, allowing me to collect nearly 3 L more wort that I could have otherwise.
Recipe and Fermentation
- OG: 1.060
- FG: 1.012
- ABV: 6.4%
- SRM: 15
- IBU: 45
|Maris Otter Malt
|Magnum @ 12.0%, 60 min
30 min whirlpool @ 74 C
Grains were mashed at 69C for 60 minutes, mashed-out and sparged at 74C, and boiled for an hour. At the end of the boil the wort was cooled to 74C and the redvines added. After 30 minutes the wort was chilled, I ran into a series of problems, and 2 hours later the wort made it into the fermenter. The wort was fermented with US-05, starting at 18 C, increasing to 20 C after 48 hours. The beer completed fermentation in just 5 days, and on day 14 was transferred to a keg and force carbonated.
Tasting Notes – Redvine Red IPA
Appearance: Dark brown, edging into red, but deeply hazy due to the large amount of hops. Head is creamy, thick, and white, and just doesn’t quit.
Aroma: Up-front is a grapefruit peel aroma, which is typical of redvines. Behind that is a cherry-like hop note that becomes more dominant as the beer warms, along with a nice malty note.
Flavour: Hot damn, this was a good combination! The beer has a nice malty backbone – not overly sweet, but rich with a biscuity character. The beer is only modestly bitter, and serves as the perfect platform for the redvine hops. The predominant flavour of the hops is cherry. Its not a cherry bomb, but it is there and it is unmistakable. There is also a subtle grapefruit flavour, but not near as much as you’d expect given the beer’s aroma. I also pick up some other mild hop notes, mostly a subtle woodiness. The aftertaste is a lingering malt sweetness with a hint of cherry.
Mouthfeel: This is a medium-bodied beer, heading towards a heavy body, but does so without being overly sweet. While its not flabby, it does lack the crispness I prefer in my IPAs.
Overall: I am very happy with my first go-around with redvine hops. The flavour is amazing, and more by luck than design, the beer I built around the hops emphasized the hop character nicely. I would rebrew this IPA again, but with a few minor changes. I’d halve the whirlpool addition, as I suspect I’m over the saturation point for the flavour and aroma compounds. I’d also up the sulfates in the water, to make for a crisper and more hop-forward finish. But that is the extent of what I would change.
Where do Redvines Fit in Modern Brewing?
Since brewing this beer I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where redvine hops could fit into our modern hop flavour pantheon. I can see why it wasn’t popular historically, especially given the hop flavours traditional styles are built around. I think, however, that it fits wonderfully into the much broader range of hop flavours that we’ve seen come onto market in the past decade.
Clearly, these hops worked well in a Red IPA, and I suspect they would work well in nearly any malty ale. I’m excited to try them in an English style barleywine, perhaps as part of a winter warmer. Redvines would be out of place in a bitter, but would be quite at home in a less bitter style like mild or brown. Even a malt-forward lager would work with these hops, so long a you used a deft hand with the hops, and matched them with malts that had a stone-fruit or dried-fruit character. I think these would be amazing in a dunkel.
But where I’m really excited to try redvine is in sours. I think adding a dry-hop addition of these, right before packaging, would add a nice dimension to a sour beer. I don’t know how well the cherry flavour would hold up to prolonged aging, but if it did, this hop would be a wonderful addition to a traditionally brewed Flanders Red or Oud Bruin.
Anyways, I’m a fan of these hops and will be expanding them further in my hop yard this spring.