Tag Archives: Hops

The Rise of Gruit Beer

Gruits_Bernstein

It’s my new story! Photo: Instagram

One of brewing’s fundamental rules is that beer is comprised of malted grain, water, yeast and hops. Grains supply the fermentable sugars that yeast convert into alcohol, while hops provide balancing bitterness, preservative prowess, flavor and aroma. Today, hops are nearly as crucial to beer as water, especially in this IPA-crazed era. But if you were to time-travel to visit medieval brewers, you’d discover that beer contained nary a hop.

Back then, beers were seasoned with gruit (pronounced “grew-it” or “groot”), which was a proprietary blend of herbs such as bitter and astringent yarrow (a flowering plant), wild rosemary and resinous, eucalyptus-like wild gale (a.k.a. bog myrtle), along with sundry spices. In large quantities, gruit was considered a euphoric stimulant and an aphrodisiac, and brewers often slipped in hallucinogens to enhance the effects. By the 1700s, whether due to health concerns or religious pressure, gruit was largely phased out in favor of hops. No longer.

Increasingly, craft brewers are ditching hops for herbs, creating adventurous gruits that challenge beer’s basic definition. For this month’s Imbibe, I tackled the growing trend of brewers using offbeat herbs and spices that’ll challenge your very definition of beer.

Check out the article right about…here.

Meet the Haute New Hops of 2013

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Like pinwheel caps and Cosby sweaters, hops—the bitter flowers used to flavor some of your favorite beers—are forever going in and out of fashion. For a while, brewers couldn’t get enough of super-citrusy Centennial (found in beers like Stone Ruination and Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale), before being smitten by piney Simcoe. Then along came the white wine–like Nelson Sauvin and tropical Citra, which stole the hearts of brewers and beer lovers alike.

But craft brewers are a restless bunch. In their quest for novel flavors, they are forever seeking out new hops that they can use to transform familiar recipes, or use as building blocks for something entirely.

Curious about the eight of the hottest hops you’ll be hearing about in 2013? Check out my full story at First We Feast.

Get to Know Your Hops: Nelson Sauvin

Mmm…the Nelson Imperial IPA from Widmer Brothers.

Grab your passport — our latest hops lesson plan takes us to New Zealand, a land turned upside down. In that island nation adrift in the southwest Pacific Ocean, fall is spring, pests are few and far between, and, most crucially, there are no known hop diseases. This fortuitous quirk in the ecosystem — made possible by the country’s remote location and the relatively late arrival of meddlesome mankind — has allowed New Zealand to grow some of the world’s most unique hops.

While I could sing the many praises of hop varieties such as Motueka, Riwaka and the sparkling Pacific Jade, today’s featured hop is the curiously delicious Nelson Sauvin. The name tells the plant’s tale: Nelson refers to a region in central New Zealand, while Sauvin is shorthand for the grape variety Sauvignon Blanc. Much like that wine, the Nelson Sauvin hop presents a fruity, tropical profile, with detours to lychee and mango. Sip an IPA dosed with the Kiwi hop, and, like a lightbulb flickering in the dark, you’ll faintly make the connection: “Man, this tastes just a bit like white wine—but better.”

Any questions? Good—class dismissed. Now that you understand Nelson Sauvin, try these five IPAs crafted with the hop. Consider it extra credit.

Which Nelson Sauvin–spiked IPAs should you try? Check out my full story at Food Republic. Drink it up!

So Fresh, So Green

Hop heaven! Photo: Grapes and Grain

While September is usually synonymous with trips to apple orchards and pumpkin patches, this month also signals harvest time for hops, the cone-shaped flowers that impart bitterness and aromatics to beer.

Typically, the moist, sticky hops travel directly from a bine to a kiln, where the hops are dried and either pelletized or packaged in bales for later usage. That’s because the fragrant cones are akin to recently cut grass, which rapidly goes from fragrant to rotten. Still, not every hop has a date with an oven.

Within the 24-hour freshness window, some newly harvested hops are rushed to breweries, where they help create fall’s fleeting brew delicacy: fresh-hopped beer.

Want to hear more about the style? Check out my article at the Daily Meal. Drink it up!

Get to Know Your Hops: Simcoe

Simcoe hops make Weyerbacher's double IPA taste goooood.

During my early years in New York City, when I was young, drunk and prone to staying up ’til sunrise, I often found myself at a Greek diner with a phonebook-long menu — well, a phonebook circa 1982.

At that ungodly hour of the morning, focusing my eyes was impossible. All my reptilian brain craved was greasy, meaty grub to insulate my stomach and sop up the excesses of the night. But flipping through the thick, picture-filled menu, I was struck with indecision: Pancakes? Eggs? A gyro? Fried calamari? Endless choices were endlessly overwhelming. “Gimme a burger,” I’d mumble, retreating into my comfort zone.

These days, many beer drinkers feel the same way at supermarkets and liquor stores. There are more, and better, suds than at any time in America’s drunken history. But which brew should you choose? Why does one IPA taste like pine, but the other recalls white wine? Luckily, Food Republic is here to help clear up the bitter confusion. In our “Get to Know” series, we’ll rundown some of the hops, grains and yeasts giving beers their appealingly offbeat, unique flavors and aromas.

Today’s lesson centers on the Simcoe hop. Released in 2000 by Washington State’s Select Botanicals Group, the proprietary hop variety (yup, hops can be trademarked) is used to impart both bitterness and aroma into beer. It’s identified by a piney, woodsy profile blended with a bit of citrus. Since Simcoe isn’t as pungently piney as Northern Brewer or Chinook hops (more on those later, don’t you worry), it’s often used to add a clean, singular profile to pale ales and India pale ales. Want to know which five to try? Check out the full article at Food Republic. Drink it up!

A Crisis of Beer

Look, don’t get me wrong: Come summer, I love my low-alcohol session beers like you wouldn’t believe. Man, I  couldn’t survive a beach afternoon without a sixer of Avery Joe’s Premium American Pilsner. But sometimes when I’m sunning myself, I crave a beer with a bit more kick. For that, I turn to California’s 21st Amendment, makers of the marvelous Hop Crisis oak-aged IPA. It’s got all the bitterness I love so much, and it’s paired with a lick of vanilla and oak. It’s like a birthday present for my taste buds. Curious? Check out my full write-up at Food Republic. Drink it up!

Back in Black

Heavens to Betsy, you know I love my bitter beers. Give me hops, or give me death! Well, don’t give me death. But lately, hoppy beers have begun displaying a most peculiar pigmentation: black. While this color usually signifies a beer as dark and menacing as Darth Vader, these bitter brews remain remarkably light and nimble, with just a lick of coffee, cocoa, roast and toast. I touch on this trend in my most recent Food Republic post. Curious? Drink it up! And welcome to the dark side.