Monday, June 6, 2011

Brewing - Hops: A bilateral opinion

Hello and welcome to today's post.

Today I was considering my next brew (more on that process, or the one I follow anyway, later).  As I was coming to the conclusion that I would like to do a big Imperial IPA with around 100 IBU's, it struck me as funny that I used to hate this beer.  In fact, at one point I hated beer altogether.  Yes this was when I was very young, but the actual enjoyment of beer did not occur for me until very recently.  Even then I refused to drink IPA's because of that bitter after taste.  Now suddenly if a beer doesn't have some level of bittering, I'm not into it.  How could my palate change so drastically?

Hops and bittering are considered to be one in the same.  Though hops do provide a bittering flavor, that is not the only sensation that they bring to beer.  Hops are aromatic, they can provide some fruity notes. Yes ultimately they do bitter a beer, but not always to an extreme or even noticeable degree.

So my thoughts expanded beyond me.  Lets take a look at beer consumption in America.  Miller, Coors, and Budweiser hold around 90% of the market share for beer consumption in this country.  None of these breweries ever claimed to make a beer that had a great hop characteristic.  Miller Light does now claim "Triple hops brewed", however I fail to understand exactly what that means.  The best that I can guess is that either they use three hop variatals, or they hop the beer at three points during the boil.  In either case it is obviously not a beer with a large hop characteristic and I wonder exactly how well that ad campaign is treating them.  The converse of that is an old advertisement that my room mate reminded me of.  "Bitter Beer Face", I can't recall who created this advertisement, but what I can recall is that having bitter beer face was a very bad thing in a beer.  To put it all together, 90% of beer consumed in this country has little or no hop quality and to top it all off, having a bitter beer is considered a crime in beer advertising.

Now it all makes sense to me.  Bitter is not a flavor that is well liked in the old US of A.  In fact we avoid that flavor at all costs!  So to drink a beer that has an IBU of 40 or more is quite shocking to the palate.  In fact the first time I ever drank an IPA, the only thing that I even noticed was the bitter.  I didn't notice the fruity nose, the malty characteristics of the various grains used.  In fact, I didn't even notice the great aroma that the hops gave when smelling the beer.  Bitter was all that beer was to me, and I didn't like bitter.

So how does one overcome this deficiency? (this is of course my opinion since I obviously have a much more refined beer palate than you. Kidding of course!)  I think that gradually one has to expose themselves to hops.  Try different beers, different varieties of beers.  Some with more hops, and some with less hops.  Eventually you will find that the bitter flavor you found so shocking is not that any more.  Maybe you will get to a place where, in some beers, you actually expect or want that bitter finish.  In either case, what hopefully would come out of such experimenting is that hops are not a bad thing! They are after all, in EVERY single beer you drink.

Thanks for reading!
- Chad

1 comment:

  1. I need a clean finishing hop like Magnum if I'm going to drink a hoppy beer. I don't care for the dank/skunky finishing aftertaste of some hops. Ninkasi Total Domination was the first IPA I ever tried and I hated it. The aftertaste killed it for me. Later I tried Red Hook's Long Hammer and Edge Brewing's Obligatory Double IPA and really enjoyed them. Both finish clean. We all have different tastes. Today I'm brewing a cream ale for the wife and she hates any hop flavor whatsoever.