If you pay much attention to the hops in you beer, you will probably have noticed that Mosaic is one of the most common varieties listed. This is pretty remarkable for a hop released only in 2012. There were nearly 1,800 acres under cultivation in Idaho and Washington in 2015, which puts it out in front of varieties like Crystal and Willamette–and it well more than doubled in acreage last year, so the growth curve is probably going to push it up into Citra territory in the next few years. The reason, of course, is because these are the words people use to describe it:
Specific aroma descriptors include blueberry, tangerine, papaya, rose, blossoms, and bubble gum.
“I really like that you can create sweet, fruity aromas with Mosaic but still have a dry beer. It’s sort of like gewürztraminer in that way,” says Jesse Friedman, co-founder and brewmaster for Almanac Beer in San Francisco…. “It has a big, fruity punch to it,” he says. “It’s tropical, but has a fruit punch note. There’s a little bit of bubble gum in there, some blueberry, but it also has really nice earthy quality. It’s definitely distinct.”
That sounds absolutely delicious. I would love a hop that tasted alternately of rose blossoms, blueberry, or mango. You know what I get? Caraway seed. Mosaic has a very distinctive aroma compound that my palate reads as savory. It’s not actually terrible, but there’s a reason brewers haven’t rushed to make caraway beers. Mosaic is the daughter of Simcoe, and I think that hop is to blame. I don’t dislike Simcoe nearly as much, but in my mouth it comes across as far more aggressively piney–it’s like pine tar–than it apparently does in others’. That’s not precisely savory, but it’s related, and is what I think gets carried through in Mosaic. (Maybe it’s the thiols.)
As we get ever deeper into the world of designer hops, I think these kinds of mismatches are going to be more common. Some hops seem to read as “true” across palates. They’re often the classics–Hallertau, Cascade, Saaz. But others have this Jekyll and Hyde quality. Sorachi Ace track as lemony to many palates, but come across like dill to others. Summits can be juicy and fruity, or taste like onions, garlic, or durian. Nelson Sauvin taste like sauvignon blanc grapes (hence the name), or musky and sweaty. In each case, the alternative flavor/aroma does not constitute a reasonable substitution. (It’s interesting that most of the alternate flavors, including caraway in Mosaic, are savory notes.) If you’re not tasting the qualities in these hops those who love them are, you probably dislike them.
The upshot for me, as basically every brewer is rushing to get her hands on Mosaic, is that I wish there were more of us who got the caraway flavor. It might make them a more specialty hop–as Sorachi Ace and Summits have become. But my sense is that I’m a fairly rare outlier here. Ah well–I can always have a saison.