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Citralogy: Fyne Ales Jarl v Oakham Citra v BrewDog IPA Is Dead Citra v Mikkeller Citra IPA

August 3, 2011 12 comments

Like my black IPA experiment recently, this post is born of finding I had accumulated a few beers of a single type and thought they were worth comparing.  In addition, this post is dedicated to Chris “Citra” King, a man unafraid to call a bandwagon a bandwagon.

Fyne Ales Jarl 3.8%

Prior knowledge:  A much-praised Scottish session ale which uses Citra.  I don’t know if it’s solely Citra-hopped, but don’t know for sure if there are other hops used and what they are.

Smell: Light, slightly bready but also lemon and slighty white-wine grapey aroma.  Kate thought she detected Nelson Sauvin, and I agree.

Appearance: Very pale straw colour, pale white head.

Taste: Quite a thin body but with a noticeable hint of oiliness in the mouthfeel.  Delicate fresh lemon citrus and grape flavours and a slightly alkaline bitterness.

Conclusion:  I got a lot more Nelson Sauvin in the flavour than Citra, but this is a really nice light session beer.  I do wonder if it’s a different experience on cask and more fuller bodied.   I’ve been told that Hawkshead’s excellent and similarly light, low ABV Citra-led Windermere Pale is not bottled, as they’re not convinced the hop flavours will hold up.  Nevertheless an accessible and sensible beer that I increasingly find myself reaching for in the fridge.

Oakham Citra 4.6%

Prior knowledge:  An early adopter of Citra in the UK.

Smell: Not huge, again a little bready and a little lemony.

Appearance: More golden colour, similarly pale white head.

Taste: More assertively bitter in a slightly chalky, grapefruity manner.  Lacking sweetness and body.

Conclusion:  The label mentions gooseberry, grapefruit and lychee in the aroma and that’s not far off in respect of the taste, at least.  Again this is a very nice beer, but not an immediately compelling mix of flavours.  Once again, I think this would most likely be a better beer on cask.

BrewDog IPA Is Dead Citra 7.5%

Prior knowledge: 75 IBU Citra-hopped IPA from BrewDog’s interesting single hop experiment “IPA Is Dead”, which involved four beers with identical IBUs and ABVs, the only difference being the type of hop used. I reviewed each of the beers after trying them at the North Bar launch night here.  On keg it wasn’t my favourite of the four, but others preferred it.

Smell: Rich sweet malty mango aroma.

Appearance: The shade is clearly that of a maltier beer, a different class to the previous session-strengthers.

Taste: Sweet sticky mango and lime taste, with a very sweet to cloying aftertaste.

Conclusion: I suspect the hops have calmed down a bit since the keg version I had in North, this bottle being a few months old now.  I think it lacked depth, but was still a very nice beer.

Mikkeller Citra IPA 6.8%

Prior knowledge:
From a much wider single-hop experiment (see Malt Jerry’s post here), I bought this little rarity from the Craft Beer Company in London.  So it cost a fortune.  88 IBU, which is a bit higher than the BrewDog, but slightly lower ABV.

Appearance:
Similar to the BrewDog.

Smell:
Surprisingly little aroma, boozy with a general maltiness and even some brine.

Taste: For 88 IBU I expected a bit more here.  I found it sweet, lightly fruity and malty, but that’s about it.

Conclusion: It’s difficult not to like a beer this sweet, but I’m not blown away.  I prefer the BrewDog, I think.

In reality I’m really comparing two different sets of beers here.  It isn’t possible to do a direct comparison between two beers, one of which is more than twice as strong as the other, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen not to simply “score” them.  If I were to draw two hypotheses from the above, and these are really just initial thoughts for further investigation, I might say this:

  1. Session-strength Citra pale ales are enjoyable from the bottle, but might well be better and more fuller-bodied from cask.
  2. Stronger IPAs might be better suited to using Citra in addition to other hops, as the experience above suggests it doesn’t, on its own, impart a sophisticated-enough range of flavours with the balance and depth to match the body.

But, as always, I could be wrong, and would appreciate your own thoughts and experiences on the topic.

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