Tag Archives: Hops

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.

America’s Bitterest Brews

A total hop head! Photo: Flickr/NZBrewer

Oh, hi there! I just started writing for spanking-new food and drink website The Daily Meal, penning tales of expensive foodstuffs and, last week, America’s bitterest brews. This, of course,  is completely subjective. One man’s bitter is the next person’s sweet. But for the sake of argument — and doesn’t everyone love a good argument? — I penned a story of America’s bitterest brews for the Daily Meal. Agree? Disagree? That’s the point. Drink it up!

Founders Harvest Ale – Beer of the Week

Look at the size of this beer! One day I’ll learn how to make the picture smaller. Oh, technology.

This week, I turn my tummy’s attention to fresh-hop ales, those fleeting seasonal delights made with just-plucked hops. The beers they create are grassier, brighter, more delicate than their hopped-up counterparts. I finally got my mitts on a four-pack of Founders Harvest Ale and, whoa boy, it’s a beauty of a brew. Easy-drinking as a dream. Curious? Drink up the full review at Slashfood!

Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale – Beer of the Week

Photo: TRAFFIK [US], Flickr

“It smells like kitties,” my friend Julie told me as I poured her a glass of Half Acre‘s Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, my latest Beer of the Week. Well I wouldn’t go so far as to call it feline-like, but it’s a darn aromatic pale, one that smells resolutely of fresh, dank hops. It’s delicious. Curious? Drink up my full review at Slashfood!

Beer of the Week: Flying Fish Exit 11

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Lord, it’s too early in the morning to be thinking about beer, but here I am, telling you about my latest beer of the week: Flying Fish’s Exit 11. It’s a hoppy wheat beer, the sort you don’t need to doctor with a lemon. Mmm…tasty times. Drink it up!

Meet Randall

Lookie here! It’s my latest Gourmet column, about insanely flavored beers. Read it here, or look below.

On an average day, Manhattan’s Blind Tiger Ale House pours 30-plus unique beers on tap, from dark stouts to pumpkin ales. But few are as weirdly wonderful as the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA—a highly hoppy, malty ale—that will soon be infused with lemongrass, tropical fruits, pine and spruce tips, fresh hops, or leafy mint and bourbon ball candy.
“It’s all thanks to Randall the Enamel Animal,” says Blind Tiger owner Alan Jestice.

The Randall, Jestice explains, is essentially a sealed, cylindrical water filter filled with loosely packed flavoring agents and connected to a keg line. When beer is drawn, it passes through the Randall tube, picking up aromatic oils and flavors. The secret is using snifter-worthy 90 Minute IPA, which contains 9 percent alcohol by volume. The alcohol strips off flavorful oils, essentially instant-infusing the beer. (The “Enamel Animal” sobriquet references the fact that extremely hoppy, resinous beer often feels like it’s dissolving teeth enamel—the pungent resins can taste gritty.)

Dogfish Head’s gonzo device is a technological twist on brewers’ centuries-old tweaks: Porters and stouts have long been seasoned in oak barrels, while Hefeweizens and Belgian ales are often re-fermented with additional doses of yeast. These flavors can be subtle and nuanced, but not so the tastes of bourbon ball candy and fresh mint. They’ve transformed the IPA into an ersatz mint julep. Several mint leaves tossed on top provide an herbaceous nose, but the flavored beer is almost oppressively sweet.

“The beer washes the sugar directly into the beer,” Jestice explains.

It’s difficult to drink a full glass, so I switch to the lemongrass-infused Simple Thai. The citrusy herb counteracts the hops, resulting in an almost vegetal quaff. Sometimes the sum is not greater than the parts. Same goes for the Summer Fresco. The dried-melon-and-pineapple barely magnify the IPA’s fruity essence.

More successful is the Northern Winter. Pine and spruce tips imbue the beer with a Christmas-tree nose, and an evergreen-fresh flavor that’s a perfect accompaniment to the already piney IPA. However, my favorite is the Hoppy Giant. A strong dose of whole-leaf hops gives the IPA heady aromatics, resulting in a smooth, delicious flavor. It’s the difference between eating a beefsteak tomato and a farmers market heirloom.

“That’s what’s great about a Randall,” Jestice says. “It’s not meant to transform a beer. It amplifies beer’s natural flavors.”

Gourmet Magazine: Hop(s) to Action

To alleviate microbrewers’ catastrophic hops shortage, Boston Beer Company offers up its stash.

When microbrewer Dave Holmes tried recently to place an order for hops, the aromatic flowers that flavor beer, the response was heartbreaking.

“My supplier laughed at me,” says Holmes, owner of Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Warbird Brewing Company. “I said, ‘I’m hearing rumors about not getting hops. She said, ‘That’s right, you’re not getting hops.’ We didn’t know whether we’d be able to stay in business.”

Basically, beer contains four simple ingredients: water, barley malt, yeast, and hops. No hops? No beer (at least, no beer as most of us, know it). The shortage was caused by a perfect storm of misfortune: A fire destroyed a Yakima, Washington, hops warehouse, while drought and disease decimated crops in the U.S. and Europe.

Mega-brewers like Anheuser-Busch, who hold long-term hops contracts with farmers, are largely unaffected. Small microbreweries like Warbird, however, don’t typically hold contracts. They purchase the flowers as needed in the spot market (a commodities market in which goods are bought and sold for cash), meaning that microbreweries are vulnerable to fluctuations in availability.

“Hops that once cost $3 a pound now cost $30, but this isn’t about cost,” says Jim Koch, owner of Boston Beer Company, the makers of Samuel Adams. Since Koch’s contracts with farmers guaranteed his supply of hops, he helped alleviate short-term shortages by setting aside 20,000 pounds of aromatic East Kent Goldings and Tettnang Tettnanger hops for microbrewers to purchase at cost—$5.72 and $5.42 a pound respectively (plus $.75 a pound for shipping).

“I saw craft brewers who couldn’t make their beers, or couldn’t make the beers they wanted to. We felt like we needed to share,” says Koch, recalling his company’s beginnings as a microbrewery. The hops were raffled off in a lottery, with breweries allotted up to 528 pounds of hops apiece, in 88-pound batches. “We asked brewers not to request hops because they’d save money; buy them because you need them.” More than 350 microbreweries applied—nearly one-fourth of all microbreweries in the U.S. “I knew there would be demand, but I didn’t realize that level of need,” Koch says.

Thanks to Koch’s largesse, and a lucky draw, Holmes can continue crafting his popular Shanty Irish ale and shelve last-resort tactics: “We started researching how ancient Sumerians brewed beer with bark,” Holmes says, laughing.

To avoid future shortages, farmers are planting new hops vines (which take three years to mature). For the immediate future, brewers are crossing their fingers for a bountiful harvest. “I hope the hops on the vine are enjoying a very happy growing season,” Koch says.