More than twenty L.A.-area craft breweries pitched in at Three Weavers Brewing Co. last week to brew the next installment of Unity, and they’ve cooked up the hoppiest edition yet of the official beer of L.A. Beer Week.
Brewed at Eagle Rock Brewery for the first several years, Unity is now made at a different host brewery each year. Last year’s edition was a bright and crisp saison brewed at Smog City, and for 2016 the Los Angeles Brewers Guild membership voted to make the host brewery Inglewood’s Three Weavers. While previous batches of the brew have featured interesting additives such as prickly pears, ingredients sourced solely from California, or hibiscus flowers, this year’s style is a straightforward American IPA with a focus on the hops.
A special supply of experimental hops from grower-owned hop supplier YCH Hops was procured for the creation of Unity, and the two star varieties are so new they don’t even have names yet. When a new hop variety is being developed, a process that can take nearly a decade from first cross to full scale commercial plantings, the experimental strains are known only by their numerical designations. HBC 522 is still early in the testing phase, and less than two acres of the strain were planted last year. It is being developed as a more agronomically viable alternative to the classic American hop strain known as Centennial — the backbone of countless American IPAs. Alexandra Nowell, brewmaster at Three Weavers, says that while there isn’t yet many examples of how HBC 522 performs in beer, her early tests were promising.
“I was impressed by the character of the raw hop,” she says. “It has a bright orange character and a subtle pine resin scent. It’s got that quintessential hoppy aroma.”
That “quintessential” aroma is characteristic of hops with high essential oil content, and she’s using an aggressive hopping regime for Unity to take advantage of that pungency. The new beer also features a more established, but still too-new for a name HBC 342 hop, and Nowell calls that variety’s contribution to the beer “pineapple dankness.”
Unity was brewed on April 20th, and the whole Los Angeles craft brewing community turned up at the Three Weavers brewery for the annual pre-beer week gathering. It doesn’t take 35 people to make a batch of beer though, and the brew day is more of a team-building exercise for the tightly-knit community of brewers and business owners.
Once the brewing is finished and the yeast takes over, the beer just needs some final touches to give it a vibrant aroma. For Unity, two doses of dry hops (hops added after the beer is fermented to provide a floral punch) will be added over the next week. Hopping rates are purposefully “heavy handed” so that the hop growers can get a sense of how their experimental strains react in beer dominated by hop character.
Unity 2016 will debut in advance of L.A. Beer Week at a release party at Three Weavers on Friday, May 27th, then bottles and kegs will be available around Los Angeles for your Beer Week celebrations. Art for the bottles was provided by Bay Area designer Nick Fullmer, who’s worked with dozens of craft breweries, and he was given free reign to craft “something weird,” says Nowell. “As brewers, we express our art through beer — and rarely with any hindrance from others. Why not allow our label artists to do the same?”