Ahhh, German beer. There’s just something about the thought of it that conjures up so many vivid images. Men in lederhosen and alpine hats, women in Dirndl dresses holding steins half the size of them, a polka band in the background while the smoke from grilled sausages gently wisps through the air. Maybe I’m just thinking about Oktoberfest. Hmmm…
In either case, the Germans make some of the finest beer in the land. It is always crisp, clean, expertly made and delicious. Some will say the Germans have been handcuffed by the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity of 1487, that stated that only malt, water and hops could be used in the making of beer (yeast was added later after it’s discovery). While it could certainly be argued that German beers don’t have the diversity of their Belgian neighbors, you’ll rarely hear any debate about the technical prowess and skill that the Germans possess. The Reinheitsgebot may have limited their ingredients, but it made them master the ingredients they did have, and modified their techniques in order to achieve their desired flavor profiles. Despite the lack of ingredient options, German beers are extremely diverse, ranging from the light and malty Helles, light but bitter Pilsners, smokey Rauchbiers and “liquid bread” in the form of Doppelbock.
Despite this variety, I’ve never had a true German IPA. In fact, the only “German IPA” I’ve ever had was from Stone Brewing out of Escondido, CA, with their 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA. Maybe it’s because traditionally, German hops were very low in alpha acid and pricy (comparative to American varieties), making it a little impractical to make a true IPA. The Germans have also traditionally turned their noses up at our hops, saying they don’t have the refined character of their Noble varieties. Maybe this dislike for our hops also made them apprehensive about brewing “our” style.
When I was in Portland for the Craft Brewers Conference in April, I had the opportunity to sample some of the newer German hop varieties, which smelled completely different from the German hops I had grown up with and grown to love. With their more aggressive aromas and higher alpha acids, I immediately thought about making an IPA with them. So that’s what we did. The hops we ended up using were Herkules, Opal and Polaris. Herkules has a lot of pine with some melon, Opal has herbal, floral and fruity notes and Polaris imparts more floral characteristics with a touch of mint. Combined, the 3 deliver a very unique hop profile, that is still distinctly German. You can still taste Noble hops characteristics within this beer, which isn’t surprising when you consider the hops are still going to take in the terroir of the region. However, the beer still contains Americanish characteristics that make it similar to the IPAs we have become accustomed to.
In keeping with German tradition, this beer complies with the Reinheitsgebot. The grist is 100% from Weyermann, mostly 2-row with a touch of wheat and Vienna. I wanted to keep the malt bill pretty simple to allow the hops to do the talking, while still providing enough bready background to support the hops. We fermented this with our house Kölsch strain to keep the profile clean and crisp with a hint of fruitiness. After fermentation, we dry hopped with all 3 hops to boost the aroma.
Overall, I get a lot of herbal and floral characteristics with a hint of mint. I pick up aromas that remind me of parsley and oregano, while also making me feel I’m running through a field filled with wildflowers. It somewhat reminds me of an Imperial Pilsner, but with an ale yeast, and much more aromatic.
For the name, I wanted to pick a German word or phrase, but also have it apply to the brewery to show that we put our own fingerprint on it. I settled on “Aufspringen”, which loosely translates to our slogan, “Hop On!” I’ve been told that it more directly translates to “Jump Up”, but that seems pretty close to me. Also, it’s kind of fun to say. Aufspringen.
Whether you’re a German beer or IPA fan, I think you’re going to like this beer a lot. A phrase I learned in this process was “Magst du Hopfen?” which roughly translates to “Do you like hops?” And at our brewery, the answer is definitely “Ja.”