I was first exposed to the concept of Lupulin Threshold Shift* when Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker collaborated on an online presentation, about hops of course, for Brewers Association members. I’ve since seen it on Russian River apparel and heard real live human beings use the words “Lupulin Shift.”
As a defender of the excessive use of hops I probably should have checked with my doctor before leaving the United States last September. Was it safe for my family to be in the car with me, traveling on some European back road, were I to seize up because I desperately needed an American IPA?
But, you know what, I didn’t end up fantasizing about Double IPAs or Simcoe hops. Downshifting hops was just as pleasant as getting off the German autobahn and on to roads that wound through picturesque small towns. No, not down into first gear; beers with single digit bittering units with imperceptible hop flavor or aroma.
I had plenty of beers with underlying bitterness and undeniable hop character. Turn down the volume a bit and it’s astounding what you can hear, or taste. Saison Dupont, Senne Taras Boulba, Schönramer Pils, and Koutský 10° Svetlé Výcepní for starters. Oh, and Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel at the brewery cafe — it drills a hole directly to the back of your brain.
And there were beers with American hop character, most notably those at the 1516 brewpub in Vienna. When I saw Birra Del Borgo’s Re Ale on cask at Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa’ in Rome in late October I knew it would be my first beer of the evening. Daria went right for it too.
The smell of citrusy hops arrived well before I got my nose right over the glass. “Smells like home,” I said to brewer Leonardo di Vincenzo. He smiled the look of a man whose seen hop-deprived Americans linger over this beer before. More important, it is his best seller. And customers eagerly await the release of each batch of Re Ale Extra — the first was a “mistake.” He forgot to add hops until the final five minutes, then dumped a whole recipe’s worth in the kettle.
Am I happy to see crazily hopped beers again? You betcha. Was I surprised to find that brewers in other countries understand how to use hops? Of course not. This Lupulin sabbatical reminded me how important hops are even when they aren’t playing lead guitar.
* If you can’t see the image at the top, it reads: lupulin threshold shift/lu·pu·lin thresh·hold shift/n 1. When a once extraordinarily hoppy beer how seems pedestrian. 2. The phenomenon a person has when craving more bitterness in beer. 3. The long-term exposure to extremely hoppy beers; if excessive or prolonged, a habitual dependence on hops will occur. 4. When a “Double IPA” just is not enough.