Arbor Ales are producing a range of single hopped beers, the latest one which I have bought is Arbor Ales Phoenix Single hop, not a hop which I can say I am hugely familiar with so this beer should be interesting to try.
Arbor produce some very good beers, furthermore their single hop range are really interesting and highlight the individual character of the hops which are used.
The nose is is citrus lemon and grapefruit, the initial hit of bitterness is full of resin and lemon, this leads into a slightly thin middle with overtones of lemon, the final flavour is orange and lemon peel bitterness.
Overall this beer has a bitter flavour and not much else to it, I think that the danger of single hop beers has been hit here in that it is quite one dimensional. This is in no way the fault of the brewer, these beers are created to highlight the character of a particular hop – if the hop in question has only really one flavour then the beer will stay very flat in character.Arbor Ales Phoenix Single Hop shows off the lemon citrus of phoenix hops, you cat taste how they could be used to give a beer hopped with other more earthy hops a bit of bite and some airy citrus overtones. As an addition hop I think that phoenix would taste really nice, the trouble is that it is very much an additional flavour and not a hop that gives a real character to a beer. The bitterness is not unpleasant just I feel that it needs some other flavours to back it up – a bit like the single instrument in the symphony.
If Arbor Ales Phoenix Single Hop was not supposed to be characterising the hop then maybe a bit more complex malt flavour might work with the lemon zest hoppyness, however is was all about the hop. I would guess that Arbor have actually been quite restrained in not over playing the malt flavours in this beer and drowning out the quite subtle flavour of the phoenix hops. Because although the hops are strongly bitter, they do have a bit of a single flavour which I am sure could be easily lost if fighting for space with malt complexity.
In summary, I think that as a single hop exploration of phoenix hops, Arbor Ales Phoenix Single hop works well and is restrained, however as a beer I do not think it is exciting enough or enough of a sessionable beer to really pull me back for more. That said I will be sure to keep on trying the Arbor Single hop beers as single hop beers are the best way to learn about the individual character of hops and Arbor Ales do seem to do them very well.