Our 2018 SIBA Gold award for Green Devil IPA has inspired us to write something more about our love for Citra hops and the story behind it.
So how did it all start?
John Bryan, our Brewing Director, is well known for his quirky ideas, his innovative approach and his passion for quality.
His first hop sourcing visit to the USA was back in 2003 and (with the exception of 2006 when he had the little matter of opening our new brewery to attend to) he’s been back every year since. On his visit in 2009, he discovered a quite exceptional new hop variety – Citra. He was so excited by its potential that he rushed some back to the UK by air to ensure that Oakham Ales were the first UK brewery to brew a beer with 100% Citra hops.
Blown away by the variety’s powerful citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavours, John’s initial idea was to brew a strong, single hop IPA with Citra. Very much the type of beer that this brewing legend himself prefers to drink. But he didn’t have enough hops to do more than a couple of brews of that and the stronger beers weren’t fast sellers for Oakham at the time, so John decided to brew a 4.2% beer with the hops he’d flown over and Oakham Ales Citra was born.
John still jokes about it: “This was my first sensible decision at Oakham Ales – to brew a hoppy, sessionable beer”. Some Decision!
Citra is now Oakham’s No.1 brand!
And the driving force behind the brewery’s success in recent years!
From that first brew on 20th November 2009, via bi-monthly brews in 2010 and elevation to the Oakham permanent line-up in 2011, Oakham Citra has grown and grown and almost 1.7 million pints and just under 1.7 million 500ml bottles are now brewed per annum.
What happened to John’s original intention of brewing a strong Citra IPA?
Well of course that followed on in 2011 when the supply of Citra hops increased, Oakham’s Green Devil IPA made its first appearance.
Twice “World Champion Cask Beer” at the prestigious International Brewing Awards and winner of many other major awards, Green Devil IPA is very much the big brother of Oakham Citra, double hopped with a huge 2KG of top Citra hops per brewer’s barrel (288 pints) and aged in a cask for at least 6 weeks letting beautiful flavours develop even further.
That’s around twice the quantity of hops used in Citra – itself very generously hopped for its strength! It’s not just the quantity of hops we use though. The quality of our ingredients is also vital as is the Oakham commitment to quality and consistency.
John’s annual visits to the US hop fields mean that he has unrivalled relationships with the key hop growers and he still personally selects the hops that go into our beers – quite a task when you consider that we now use almost 25 tonnes of Citra hops alone every year!
And his passion for quality has been passed down to Head Brewer Alex Kean and his team who continue to brew Citra, Green Devil IPA and all of our other beers to the highest possible standards.
Our brewing team, From Left: Ed Sharman, Brewer, Alex Kean, Head Brewer and Stewart Poulter, Brewer.