Monday, April 2, 2012
The Arrival of Spring and the Craving For Hops
Are you a HopHead? You know, the kind of beer drinking that loves that bitterness in your beer bought on by a healthy dose of those fresh little pine cones called hops? Fortunately for you (and me) this is the time of year where those winter beers are long gone or tucked into storage and breweries begin to deliver the first round of IPAs and Pale Ales. So breath easy, the down time is over, warm weather is almost here, and Troegs Nugget Nectar has hit the shelves! (along with some other great spring ales)
Being a HopHead isn't always something you start out being in the beer drinking world. Most people prefer subtle Lagers and steer clear of the lip puckering bitterness hops can bring. But with the right introduction to hops, and the gentle nudges here and there from someone, a Double IPA will begin to be as smooth as a gentle Lager. But be careful, don't blow your palate up right away or you may be wary of this whole hop thing for good.
Selecting the right beer to introduce yourself or someone else into the hop world takes some knowledge. Which beer will have the right body? Which hop is more subtle than the other? Do you want to take something that is aged a little bit so the hops are smoothed out by the malt? Or just go for the fresh brew to deliver that punch of bitterness some love? My opinion, do a tasting.
Flights (little 4-6oz samples of beer) are the best way to really pull out every characteristic of different beers. When tasted alone, you may only notice the floral and citrusy flavors of the Cascade Hops in a particular beer. But when tasting one beer featuring Cascade hops next to another with Simcoe hops, you begin to pull out the subtle flavors. The piney floral and citrusy bursts in the Cascade prepares your palate and helps delivery the mellow fruity and peppery flavor in the Simcoe.
This may all seem a bit snobbish. Images of older couples listening to string quartets and dressed in tuxedos while discussing the flavors in caviar come to mind. The great thing is that it is kinda snobbish! Just in a greatly toned down way. And it can be done while in your favorite bar just hanging out with friends. And not in a tux.
Next time your in a bar that does flights, here are some great intro beers into the world of hops. Along with some others that are a bit more to extremely pungent in case you immediately fall in love with the mini cone we love.
Subtle to Moderate Hop Flavor;
Oscar Blues Brewery - Dale's Pale Ale
Climax Brewing - Nut Brown Ale
Otter Creek - Stovepipe Porter
River Horse - Special Ale
Carton Brewing - Boat Beer
Stronger Hop Flavor;
Smuttynose - Finest Kind IPA
Dogfish Head - 60 Minute IPA
Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale
Lagunitas - Maximus
Carton Brewing - 077XX
Strongest Hop Flavor;
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Troegs Nugget Nectar
Weyerbacher - Double Simcoe IPA
Dogfish Head 120 IPA (strongest by far)
River Horse - Hop A Lot Amus