Showing posts with label ibus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ibus. Show all posts

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Humourless Lupulin Loonies

Sometimes, when working at the tasting room, I give tours of the Starr Hill brewery. I try not to waffle on endlessly about the arcane minutiae of brewing, but rather focus on the general process and hope not to lose my audience with trivialities. One thing that I have started to do recently is to go into more detail about the different hop varieties that are used in the brewing world.

This added spiel in my tour came about because I have a bad habit for earwigging (do Americans use that phrase? I honestly don't know, but just in case, it means to listen to other people's conversations). I was sat in Devils Backbone drinking some of the Trukker Ur-Pils and generally chilling out, when I overheard someone claim that "I only like hoppy beers" and then grumble his way through a pint of the pils. His mutterings were mainly related to the perceived lack of hops in said beer and how he wanted an American IPA to get some hops. I have heard similar comments from people drinking an English IPA and restrained myself from smacking them upside the head.

I hate to say it, though say it I shall, I find this kind of attitude remarkably common among the Zythogelicals of this world, and usually what they really mean is "I like my beer to taste of grapefruit". If you follow my Twitter feed, you most likely saw my trick question that I posted, regarding which is more bitter? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Pilsner Urquell? Given that you are an intelligent and learned reader, you know that the answer is of course,......Pilsner Urquell, beating SNPA by 40 IBUs to 37.

It seems elementary to say it, but different hops produce different aromas and flavours. The lemony, floral grassiness tinged with spiciness that Saaz is known for is no less "hoppy" that the pine resin, grapefruit things going on in Cascade. The same is true of Fuggles and East Kent Goldings and their earthy flavours. It stands to reason that 40IBU of Saaz is different from 40IBU of Cascade or 40IBU of Fuggles, but in terms of bitterness, the beers in question are as bitter as each other, so to say one is not "hoppy" enough is just plain daft in my book.

Perhaps, and I admit this may be cynical, but discussions with various brewery related people and bar staff confirm my thinking, many self confessed "hopheads" are in fact devotees of a single family of hops and as such fail to appreciate the delights of other hop varieties. I can't imagine wanting to limit my beer drinking experience to simply those beers that conform to my concept of "hoppiness". To be honest overloading stouts, porters and weizens with Cascade and co leads to some practically undrinkable beers, but I guess you could just claim it as an innovation and create a new style.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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