The Relax hop is grown in Germany, one of the oldest hop growing regions in the world. The country is known for its low-yielding aroma hops. Germany accounts for 60% of the hop production in Europe, and also accounts for one third of the world’s overall acreage. Hallertau is Germany’s largest growing region and has been producing hops since the early date of 736.
The historical Barth-Haas Group has hop trading history that dates back to 1794. The Schlafly team has been sourcing hops from Barth-Haas since 1998 starting with the German and U.K. hops, which soon led to great American and Australian hops as well. The Relax hop came about through a casual phone call when they gave us a lead on this new hop.
Head of Brewing Operations, Emily Parker, reflects on finding out about the Relax hop, “The nice thing about having a long-standing relationship with one of the oldest hop supplier groups, is that you can find out about new hops just by picking up the phone. When they told me how low the alpha-acid levels were, I was blown away.”
Hops (humulus lupulus) grow from a large climbing vine, that usually hangs from a trellis or support wire. In the best climates and conditions, hop vines can grow almost 25 feet in one season. The hop cone itself is actually the flower of the plant. Hop cones only grow on female plants, while the males are only used for creating hybrids. These cones are where the lupulin glands are located. The lupulin glands give the hops their different aromas and flavor profiles.
The Relax hop variety wasn’t bound for beer in its infancy. It was actually meant to be used in tea. The hop has a very high oil content; this makes it quite useful when it comes to brewing. Relax shows off flavors of lemongrass and hibiscus, and when just the oils are extracted it can show off flavors of honeydew. Relax has an unusually low alpha-acid level of 0.25%. The hop is small to medium size, with broad petals fraying from the cone.
Being based in the Midwest, Schlafly’s relationship with farmers is natural, yet unique in the craft beer industry. We work directly with those that grow our ingredients. Due to these relationships, Schlafly is often asked by the hop growers to provide feedback about how the hop performs in the brewing process. They want to learn what aromas are released, what flavors develop as the hop is boiled.
As this became a repeated request, Schlafly has developed a standard approach to trialing hops. We brew what is called a SMaSH, or Single Malt and Single Hop beer. The only variable in the brew is changing out one sole ingredient, the hop. The same amount of hops are used in each brew (32lbs), these are added at the same time (beginning of the boil) and the same malt is used. This allows us to isolate the changes to the beer in from the hop. Thus, a Hop Trial.