First, Golden Thing is bore of a long series of Scratch Beers that were released across six months at Tröegs. I really enjoy watching these develop. Scratch 312, 318, 332, 338, and 339 show once again the inner workings of brewers refining their work via iteration and learning through doing. The breadcrumbs dropped along the way for us to pick up, consider, and track as they work towards a new release still feels like a unique opportunity within craft beer.
This path was winding but never lost. It began with Scratch 312 pairing Lemondrop hops with “Caliente hops to layer in hints of pine and stone fruit.” Next, the brewers released 318 which infused Centennial, a classic and familiar lemony hop. For me, the series appears to have come clearly into focus in the next release, 332. Here they added Denali hops; a new variety which John Trogner describes as having a “deep stone fruit” character. The Lemondrop hops now get to shine and are playing with a complementary partner that develops a harmony. As we see in the final release of Golden Thing it is here that notes of lemon from Lemondrop and Centennial become cords with the jam like favors of Denali. 338 and 339 were released alongside each other. 338 added Citra to the mix and 339 was of sweet lemon and custard (I missed trying 339). The Citra hops were a tangent in my opinion; a brief wander down a dead end path before returning to the proper trail.
The second itch is what I have called “imaginary smells or flavors” Golden Thing does not have any lemon in the brewing process. There is no fruit. The flavors and aromas are developed via the alchemy of water, malts, hops, and yeast. Therefore, these clear and recognizable notes of lemon and lemonade are a fiction written by the brewers to invoke recollections of other experiences and pull at your sensory memory. It is a beguiling illusion crafted by masters that have deftly manipulated the four basic ingredients of brewing to create something wholly new yet comfortingly familiar. In this instance, it is an elemental alchemy that created liquid gold.
Golden Thing releases notes of sweet lemon immediately as you crack the 16oz can and pour into the glass. The deep gold and clear ale offer little head even with a vigorous pour. Light in body and mildly charged it starts out and finishes as an easy drinking double IPA. While cold I get notes of lemon, sweet lemonade, and some earthiness to me. As it warms that earthiness comes through as pine. The body is light and refreshing. The label on the can says that the ABV is 8.2% but you would be forgiven if you asked Chris and John to double check their math. It is never boozy, lacks astringent and is so light and easy drinking as to belie its double IPA nature. The finish is brief and clean; inviting you back for another pull. From start to finish, Lemondrop hops are present but they are never aggressive or overwhelming.
When chatting with John Trogner about the making of this beer there was one story that really struck. He talked about the moment he “met Denali and Lemondrop while they were still in small plots and Denali was just a number out of the breeding program. The rows of the two hops happened to be planted next to each other…”
This is a bit of serendipity but for me, it also shows the nascent idea of how a beer is formed for the Trogner brothers. That John is walking through a field of hops and the aromas of these two hops wafting through the air later becomes a beer is just whimsical. It is alchemy meets serendipity. It’s almost too much to comprehend.
In Golden Thing, we have the Lemondrop hop properly executed. It is approachable but never boring. It is enjoyable by proletariats or the most cynical of beer geeks.
It is exceptional.
I referenced brewers (plural) above and I want to be clear here. The Scratch program is a team of brewers. All of them deserve credit for their work on Golding Thing and all the other beers Tröegs puts out week-after-week. The Scratch Brewers are: Tim M., Andrew D., Ben B. Shaun G., Joel B., and Matt C. (H/T to John for reaching out and ensuring his coworkers get the credit they richly deserve.)
I loved how John described when he “met Denahi and Lemondrop.” Met them.
The glass above is the one you get when you take the tour for with Tröegs in 2018. I chose it specifically for this post. It shows the four elements: water, malts, hops, and yeast. Like I said, this beer is elemental alchemy.
What brewers can achieve in 2018 with these four basic elements of brewing is mind-blowing. I frequently reflect on Anthony Bourdain’s statement that the best food is simple, quality ingredients coupled with proper technique. That applies here too.
I have had about a half dozen different Lemondrop beers in the past by other brewers. My experience with these beers has ranged from “this feels like I am fighting to the finish,” to asking “did I pick up furniture polish by mistake?”
That can of Golden Thing you see in the photo above was one of two given to me in advance of Tröegs releasing this beer on Friday (October 5th) as part of their Harvest Hopfest. I will be there this Saturday morning running the Hopdash 5K. If you are too, please say hello and let us toast a beer together.