Right then, cards on the table. Face up. It’s admission time. I don’t care for the citra hop. It la-de-dahd onto the hop/beer scene around 2007, one of the new breed of supermutant hops that was touted as all-singing and all-dancing, able to draw circles freehand, bend iron bars and flavour a beer all by itself. It certainly can do the latter, and for a time breweries fell over themselves to churn out single hopped citra beers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine hop, I just think it’s highly overrated. It’s certainly never wowed me.
Still, given the vogue-ish nature of the hop, and its ability to provide aroma, flavour and bitterness to a beer, it’s expected, necessary almost, that Brains Craft Brewery would use it as the first expression in their new Single Hop Range. Following on from their successes at making various IPAs last year, Brains Craft are presently experimenting with single hopped beers.
Weighing in at 4.2% and available on cask in the Cardiff area (see their website for stockists; I had a pint at the Duke of Wellington, Cardiff city centre), Citra is a light, golden brown ale with a tight, white head. The aroma is a balance between the citra hop’s typical grapefruit, mango and lychee notes, and Brains’ signature sweet toffee malt base. The mouthfeel starts off full bodied, gradually tapering to a more watery body as the pint progresses. Watery always sounds negative, but don’t think thin and tasteless, think clean and refreshing (also negative words with beer, as you’re drawn to mass-market lager connotations. Language can only do so much!)
Initially, Citra is tart on the tongue, but the sharp fruit flavours of the citra hop mesh with the Brains’ malt profile to create lemon meringue and toffee cheesecake dessert-like flavours. There’s a soft grapefruit and biscuit finish, and little evidence of lingering aftertaste.
More dessert than hop-bomb, Brains Craft Citra is a gentle, pleasant pint that had me thinking ‘best bitter’ throughout. There’s still too much bad blood between me and the citra hop for this pint to convert me, but if Brains Craft put this in a four-pack of tins it would go down easy on any occasion. And don’t take my irrational hatred of citra hops too seriously – I also froth at the mouth for no reason when I seem dreamcatchers – Brains Citra is a fine entry into their single hop range.