I think it’s time to discuss one of my personal favorite elements of the beer realm for this month’s post, HOPS. It doesn’t matter if you’re a light beer drinker, are into darker styles, or one who can’t stand IPA’s, one cannot underestimate the importance of hops in beer and their role in growing the industry into what it is today. I can’t tell you how many people I meet that aren’t a fan of IPA’s or hop forward beers and then try the one that stimulates their olfactory senses to the point of completely reversing their opinion only seconds prior. It makes sense, the average beer drinker probably doesn’t realize that the aroma of a beer exists, let alone one of the best parts of the drinking experience. The rise of experimental hops, International varieties, and a fundamental shift from high alpha acid cultivation (hops used primarily for bitterness) to predominately aromatic varieties has had a direct impact on the public’s perception of hops. In the wine world, the aroma is arguably one of the most important elements of the drink – for beer, the same rule applies. And often, hops are setting the stage. Here’s a look a different varieties from around the world, and how they impact a beer.
THE FUNCTION OF HOPS IN BEER
Let’s cover the basics. The four main reasons why hops are added to beer is as follows:
1. Add bitterness to achieve balance with the malty, sweet wort derived from the mash (where malted barley and water are mixed).
2. Provide unique flavors and aromas.
3. Enhance foam quality.
4. Protect beer from microbial contamination, i.e. – hops will assist preserving beer from infection.
So there you have it – hops augment the appearance (by aiding the beautiful, pillowy-white lacing that catches the sides of the glass), aroma, flavor, provide balance, and even act as a preservative in beer. It’s no wonder that hops are truly an indispensable proponent that make modern beer what it is.
HOPS AROUND THE GLOBE
The Pacific Northwest
It’s no secret that the United States is leading the charge of the craft beer revolution. Much of the reason for that are the unique American hop varieties being cultivated in the Yakima Valley of Eastern Washington. It started with the Cascade variety in 1971. The floral, grapefruity character of these hops were noticed by early pioneers like Sierra Nevada, whose use of the hop in their pale ale changed the industry forever. Other varieties soon followed like Columbus, Centennial, and Chinook – mostly known for their pine-like, resinous, and citrusy qualities. Then a whole slew of experimental, aromatic varieties started pouring out – the infamous Simcoe (Pliny the Elder, anyone?), tropical Amarillo, and relatively newer varieties like Citra, Mosaic, and Equinox – prized for their stone fruit heavy, “dank” aromatic profiles. In the coming years, as craft brewers’ insatiable demand...Read More