If there’s an archetype of American craft brewing, it’s the IPA. The cult of the bitter beer grew quickly, and brewers responded by cranking IPAs to 11, devising increasingly intense and pungent brews that, in equal measures, both pleasured and punished palates. But things are starting to change. “There was a period where putting 300 calculated IBUs [international bittering units, an estimated measure of bitterness] into a beer was the thing,” says Stone Brewing brewmaster Mitch Steele. “Now, brewers are exploring more nuanced ways to use hops.”
As America’s craft-beer scene has evolved, so has its approach to the IPA. Breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Victory and New Belgium are turning to newfangled, heavily juicy, tropical American hop cultivars such as Mosaic, El Dorado and Citra, as well as German—yes, German—varieties such as the honeydew-like Hull Melon and Bavarian Mandarina. Freshness initiatives and education are rising, helping drinkers enjoy IPAs as bright and aromatic as the day they were bottled. And brewers are packing low-alcohol beers full of hop aroma and flavor, birthing summer’s hottest trend: the session IPA, as exemplified by Stone Go To, Drake’s Alpha Session and Easy Jack from Firestone Walker.
For Imbibe, I took a deep dive into the changing face of the IPA. Care to read the full story? Check it out right about…here.
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.
Photo: Ross William Hamilton
This month, I started contributing to The Oregonian‘s food and drink magazine, MIX. It’s great to be ale focus on the craft beer goodness of the Pacific Northwest, which is about as close to heaven as a hop head can get. For my inaugural piece, I touched on the quirky, flavorful contributions of a couple new breeds of hops: Nelson Sauvin and Citra. New Zealand’s Nelson has a lovely white wine–like character, while Citra smells strongly of mango, papaya—the tropics, if you may. Curious about this new breed of IPAs? Check out my full story over at MIX. Drink it up!
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.
Posted in Beer
Tagged Beer, Bitter, Black IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ale, Craft Beer, Deschutes, Food Republic, Hops, IPAs, Stone, Widmer
This week in Time Out, I sing the praises of Trader Joe’s Mission Street beers, both the IPA and Pale Ale. Dollar for dollar, these are the cheapest, tastiest beers you’ll find. Recession drinking, you see, has never tasted so good. Curious? Drink it up!