How much does the taste of the turf affect the flavour of the brew?
That was the question the team from Sawdust City Brewery hoped to answer last month when they traveled to eastern Ontario to undertake the “terroir project”.
The idea was to brew two beers using the the same recipe but with freshly picked Chinook hops from different Ontario hop farms. The goal of the experiment was to taste the difference between the same hop grown at different farms – or as the experts put it – a difference in the terrior.
On September 5 and 6, Sawdust City’s brew team travelled to the Clear Valley Hop Farm in Nottawa, ON and the VQH Farm in Tillsonburg, ON, respectively.
The brew team helped with the harvest at each farm and before noon each day had successfully picked and bagged 140 lbs of fresh Ontario hops. These hops were then brought back to the brewery and were used to brew the beer that same day.
“Since we used ‘wet hops,’ the hops needed to be picked, packed and used in the brew within 24 hours of harvesting,” says Sam Corbeil, brewmaster at Sawdust City,
The results of the experiment were put to the taste test during Sawdust City’s Oktoberfest celebrations held the weekend of October 1.
According to the brewmaster, the results of the terroir test indicate where the hops are grown does, in fact, affect the flavour of the beer.
“There most certainly was a difference,” says Corbeil. “The brews were so very similar, that the only possible taste difference could be attributed to the hops. Now, that being said, we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it was solely the terroir that affected the beers, but it’s fun to speculate, and by speculate I mean drink.”
Corbeil says the project corresponds with a spike in the growth of Ontario hops, something he says the brewery is excited to see in terms of facilitating more locally grown ingredients.
There’s a limited opportunity for members of the public to get out and taste the difference geography makes, as the the Terroir Project can currently be found in 473ml cans at the Sawdust City retail store and at select taps across Ontario.