Showing posts with label hoppy beers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hoppy beers. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2012

Too Many Hops?

There are times when I get the feeling that I come across as being something of an anti-hop crusader. However, I prefer to think of it as being sick of the apparent notion that seems to float around the indie beer drinker world that the more hops there are in a beer, the better. The reality though is that I like beers with a firm hop bite, a nice hop flavour and a pleasing hop aroma, I like the hopping to be a distinct element of the beer, not the sole focus of the beer - and no, IPA is NOT 'all about the hops'.

Having said that, and for fear of completely contradicting myself, there are times when I think beers have, to bastardise the , 'too many hops'. By this I don't mean that a beer is 'too hoppy', whatever the hell 'hoppy' actually means anyway, but rather that some beers have such a melange of hop varieties as to effectively become a mess.

Often, though not always, such beers are in the generic world of 'pale ale' or a 'black india' version of something. When I read a list of 7 or 8 hop varieties, usually, though again not always, the high alpha varieties, I can't help but wonder at times if the beer that results would benefit from fewer hop varieties and more attention being paid to the effects of the remaining hops so they are more distinct and pleasurable when drinking.

In thinking about many of my favourite beers to drink, as opposed to sample, they tend to have a maximum of three hop varieties, though in reality the vast majority use just one or two. Take my current favourite pilsner (sorry Pilsner Urquell, you've been usurped for the time being), Port City's Downright Pilsner, which gets all 43 of its IBUs from that majestic hop, Saaz, or even my favourite IPA being brewed in Virginia today, from St George down in Hampton, with its judicious, and exclusive, use of Fuggles. From further afield, take one of my favourite stouts, Wrasslers XXXX from Ireland's Porterhouse, hopped with Galena, Nugget and East Kent Golding (which reminds me, I should stock up on this beer at some point). With all three beers the hops are noticeable without intruding on the drinking, in a sense you could say that the hops know their place.

Maybe this feeling harks back to something I mentioned in my previous post about balance being an essential part of my definition of 'good' beer. For me it is not just a case of the overall beer being balanced, but that there is balance within the elements of a beer as well, and perhaps it in the hopping that this balance is most important and most easily disrupted.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Session Hopping

Reading the ever interesting Boak and Bailey yesterday, I was intrigued by a comment about St Austell's Proper Job as failing "as a session beer because it is too intensely hoppy". This got me wondering whether there exists an upper limit on "hoppiness" when it comes to session beers.

Clearly the hipster lupulin loonies in the crowd will immediately shout that such a thing is impossible before going back to taking self portraits with their iPhone camera in an attempt to recreate Blue Steel. To me, as someone who actively likes drinking beer (I am convinced there is a difference between being a beer geek and actively enjoying drinking good beer, though I am yet to thrash that out in my head) the idea that there is an upper limit to the "hoppiness" of session beers seems self-evident.

A couple of the criteria for a session beer, as proposed by Lew Bryson, are that a beer be:
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
Balance and flavour then are key identifiers of a session beer. If we accept Lew's proposed ABV limit of 4.5% that means a beer with a starting gravity of 12° Plato, or less. Whilst acknowledging that different yeast strains have differing attenuation properties, I think 12° is a perfectly acceptable ceiling for gravity in session beers. When I think about 12° beers, my mind automatically ambles over to the many dark, perhaps dingy, drinking dens in Prague that sell Pilsner Urquell. Brewed at about 12°, with an ABV of 4.4% and 40 IBUs, Pilsner Urquell is a dream of a session beer.

Perhaps that then is the ball park upper limit of hoppiness for session beers, somewhere in the 35-40 IBU range? I realise that IBUs tell us nothing about the flavour and aroma of a beer, but as a general guideline, I think 40 is a good place to stop with the hops, so that the important part of beer is not impeded, the drinking of it with mates.

BTW - if you haven't read Boak and Bailey's blog you really should, it is an excellent read.

The picture above was taken by my good friend Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...