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Some bitterness to balance all those hops, please

All About Beer magazine - Please pass the bitternessI should probably wait to comment on Jeff Alworth’s story until our postwoman delivers the latest All About Beer magazine (John Holl tweeted this photo of the cover yesterday), but he hinted at the contents when he posted “How American IPAs Evolved” at Beervana.

At the heart of his blog post you have this: “There has been a shift from very bitter IPAs to IPAs marked by flavor and aroma, but it has happened around the country as brewers each made natural discoveries on their own.”

You’ll notice the cover also says “Trending: Fruit IPAs.”

More data points:

New Belgium Botanical Imperial IPA.

Straight from the press release (or you can watch the video): “Using the fresh aroma of the spring landscape as inspiration, New Belgium Brewing’s Botanical Imperial IPA uses a blast of essential oils from backyard botanicals. basil, sage and juniper help create the freshest IPA around, with Bravo, Cascade, Sterling, and Willamette hop varieties delivering a potent hop punch.”

“The essential oils intensify the citrusy, herbal and spicy hop flavors,” noted Ross Koenigs, New Belgium pilot brewer. “The idea for a botanical IPA came from our love of both IPAs and gin. So back in 2014, we had our hop chemist run a bunch of gin botanicals alongside different hop varieties and then we started beta testing how those different herbs and spices played with the hops. The result offers notes of citrus, pine, wood, cedar, mint, and a little spice.”

Hops Oils & Aroma: Uncharted Waters.

It seems a little weird linking to a story I wrote for Craft Beer & Brewing, but it saves me pounding out 1,200 words again to explain some of the science behind what New Belgium is up to.

YCH HOPS Hop Varieties.

If you take a look at a few varieties (I suggest HBC 291, a hop that really needs a name) you’ll see that YCH HOPS has increased the amount of information itprovides about at least some varieties. It now provides data on linalool and geraniol. This is fun. For instance, notice that New Belgium is using Bravo, a variety with above average oil content and thus more geraniol than the average bear. It’s a hop that brewers can use to create an interesting blend — rather than wasting their time moaning, “Wah wah wah, I can’t get Citra.” Just remember, as the story points out, there’s a lot hop scientists are still figuring out.

Late hopping preserves these oils — about 50% of essentials oil evaporate during just 10 minutes of boiling. Although, as Alworth points out, brewers don’t necessarily need to boil hops as long as previously thought to extract bitterness (technically, they aren’t really extracting bitterness, they are orchestrating a conversion) too often they are creating beers that I find not bitter enough. Part of the reason is those big, juicy, tropical aromas and flavors create an impression of sweetness.

I’m no more interested in fruit bombs than I am bitter bombs.

So I was delightfully surprised last Friday when we dropped by the Virginia Beer Company in Williamsburg after the first session of Ales Through the Ages. I think their grand opening is this Saturday, but they’ve been throwing open their doors for a series of soft openinngs.

Brewer Jonathan Newman’s beers are ready. I didn’t love every one of them. For me, Nelson Sauvin hops and saison yeast may never work together (I am probably in the minority). But the rye saison with Amarillo hops was sublime. Every one of the beers, even the one with Nelson Sauvin, was balanced and nuanced. And, for those of you keeping score at home, even though they are unfiltered every one of them poured bright.

But my favorite moment was after I’d tasted the IPA, Newman asked me if I thought it is bitter enough. It has all the flavor and aroma you expect in a 2016 IPA, but, yes, it is bitter enough.

Because foeders & indigenous

First foeders at New Belgium Brewing, 2000All About Beer posted a story yesterday about foeders (or foudres should you prefer the French spelling to the Dutch) and the Foeder for Thought Festival today in Florida.

I point to this primarily, to be honest, so I have an excuse to use this photo. I think I have posted it here before, but I like it. It was taken at New Belgium Brewing in June 2000. The brewery had recently taken delivery of its first four 60-barrel foeders (it now has 64, many of them larger). The tanks were outside because they were being swelled (filled with water) to make them beertight before they were filled.

This tank didn’t take to swelling all that well, and my back got soaked while I captured this image. Not long before New Belgium had put its first 2,000 hectoliter tanks (about 1,700 barrels, or twice what the average brewpub produces in a year) into place. They are in the background.

The AAB story features Foeder Crafters of America prominently. They are local*, and I wrote about them for Beer Advocate magazine last July. Their business has really taken off since Nathan Zeender of Right Proper Brewing and I visited them last April. That’s Nathan on the right in the photo below and Matt Walters of Foeder Crafters on the left.

Nathan and Phil Wymore from Perennial Ales* will be talking about foeders in one of the Salons at SAVOR in June. Here’s the whole skinny about Foeder Beer: A Search for Delicious, “Perennial Artisan Ales of St. Louis and Right Proper Brewing Co. of Washington, DC both use large oak foeders as a conduit for the expression of their house mixed-fermentation cultures. The goal is characterful beers with layers of complexity and charm. For the vast majority of the human endeavor of fermentation, wood vessels were the medium—these current-day foeder beers are really more revivalist than innovative. Taste the results of their experimentation with four unique beers.”

You can catch that and still have time for Indigenous American Beers – Past & Present at 9:30. Again, the description, “What did the first beers brewed in America taste like? Join Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and ‘Brewing Local’ author Stan Hieronymus as they provide insight into the beers Native Americans had been making for hundreds of years before Columbus arrived. Sample beers recreated from ancient recipes—once you try all three, Stan and Sam are sure you will agree that militant beer laws like the ‘Reinheitsgebot’ and pants are equally cumbersome and unnecessary. They invite you to wear a loincloth or one of those sweet brewer’s kilts to this seminar in a show of solidarity.”

Matt Walters, Foeder Crafters of American, Nathan Zeender Right Proper Brewing

* Perennial Ales is also local, meaning St. Louis, Missouri. I point this out because yesterday I was talking to a college student who noticed my cell has a New Mexico area code. I explained I live in St. Louis and he asked where St. Louis is located.

A gose. w/ cactus. in a can. from Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevad Otra Vez

Remember back in the day when you said “We’ll see Ballast Point sell for a billion bucks before Sierra Nevada releases a gose-style beer made with prickly pear and grapefruit and packages it in a can?”

Put that prediction in the loss column.

Otra Vez will be available year round beginning in January. In case you are curious, it means “another time.” And I thought it meant “alternative universe.”

(Photo courtesy Sierra Nevada Brewing)

Ales Through the Ages, March 18-20

Ales Through The AgesA weekend of beer and history in Colonial Williamsburg, with a speaker lineup that includes Randy Mosher, Martyn Cornell, Ron Pattinson, Mitch Steele, Tom Kehoe and other people more interesting than you realize (plus me, so there’s the disclaimer).

You need to need more? “Ales through the Ages offers a journey through the history of beer with some of the world’s top beer scholars. We will explore ancient ales and indigenous beers of the past, examine the origins and consequences of industrial brewing, discover the ingredients brewers have used through time, and share a toast to brewers past.”

I’m not sure where else on earth you’ll be able to see Martyn Cornell, Mitch Steele, and Ron Pattinson give presentations on a Sunday morning. (Here’s the whole program.)

So pardon the plug for an event I’m speaking at. Even though it’s not until March 18-20 I thought you’d want to know about it. Registration is already open.

What if [fill in the beer blank] never happened?

This bit of speculation from W. Blake Gray hit my radar too late to appear in the Monday links: “The Judgment of Paris tasting was the single most important event in the history of wine. In a 1976 blind tasting, French judges chose Napa Valley wines over the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The repercussions still echo to this day. But what if it never happened?”

His speculation — starting from a slightly different but important perspective, that the tasting happened, but Time magazine never reported it — is both amusing and illuminating. There must be a beer doppelgänger out there, right? Maybe we’re looking at a Session topic. Even though no beer event, event, incident, development, whatever, resonates like “Judgment of Paris” there’s got to be a starting point. What would it be?

Three quick contenders . . .

What if Fritz Maytag had not bought Anchor Brewing in 1965?

What if the committee charged in 1906 with interpreting the meaning of the Pure Food and Drug Act had decided to implement some sort of legal differentiation between all malt and adjunct beer, or enacted a proposal that lager beer be required to lager at least three months? (Both were considered and rejected.)

What if the USDA had not released the Cascade hop variety in 1972? The story.

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