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Hop aroma impact

Bert Grant smells fresh Cascade hopsUK hop merchant Charles Faram & Co. includes an interesting twist in providing basic information about the hops its sells.

Of course, its chart lists alpha acids and has a few descriptors (“molasses, chocolate, spicy” or “herbal, pineapple, resinous”) but there is also a column for “flavour intensity.” Those numbers are quite subjective. But, just as the colored meters DRAFT magazine featured about six months ago, they are useful as long as you also accept not everybody’s sense of smell is the same.

Also remember intensity is not necessarily the same thing as impact.

For instance, the Faram chart lists Galaxy as an 8, but it surely has as much pop as 9-rated hops like Citra, Amarillo, and Cascade> More than Admiral.

It seems painfully obvious, but how brewers use the hops and how much they use, well, that’s important.

Drink a Marble Brewery Pilsner made with Hersbrucker (6) or a Firestone Walker Brewing Pils with Spalter Select (5) and Saphir (5) for proof.


That’s the late, great Bert Grant at the top. Those as Cascade hops in his hands.

Session #61: Because it’s local, dammit

The SessionThis month host Matt Robinson asked us to write about “What makes local beer better?” for The Session 61. I found myself staring at his marching orders like a deer in headlights (or a thirsty drinker in front of 62 tap handles). Matt asked a series of questions that left me feeling as focused as his Twitter feed. And 852 words into answering each of them individually I realized I still hadn’t pointed out that we have a St. Louis ZIP and there are six breweries between our house and Anheuser-Busch, and the closest is Schalfly Bottleworks. It’s Schalfly’s production brewery, but the beer to drink right now is Amarillo Session Ale, available only at the attached restaurant/pub. In other words, only locally. 852 words? I’m sure you would have loved the technical discussion about volatile hop aromas, but I hit delete. Instead, one thought.

Beer is a sum of its parts, which include the humans who make the beer and the consumers who drink it. It’s not beer when the ingredients arrive on a truck, wherever that truck might have come from. It turns into beer locally. Magic.

But this beer didn’t have to travel to India on a boat

21st Amendment Hop CrisisOops. Forgot to send a change of address to the guys at 21st Amendment Brewery. (The fact is the people who bought our house in New Mexico likely will be receiving stray beers for years. Should have advertised that when the house was on the market.)

So this can of Hop Crisis Imperial IPA traveled a thousand more miles than they might have expected. But it’s not like it spent months at sea, bobbing away. I’m pretty sure it arrived fresh because it was packed in hops that hadn’t gone over to the cheesy side. Instead, lots of citrus and pine, and maybe something a cat left behind.

The basic package for Hop Crisis includes four cans in the colorful box pictured here. The press package contained one can and loose hops that quickly made a mess of my desk. I once joked you could smell the hops in Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA through the crown. Well, I did smell hops when I put this can in the fridge, because it was covered with sticky hop resin.

The fact sheet lists Columbus, Centennial and Cascade as bittering hops, but I think that means those are the ones used at various stages (in others words, also adding flavor and aroma) of the boil. It is dry hopped with Simcoe, Ahtanum, Amarillo and Cascade; thus the blast of citrus (from oranges to grapefruit) and pine that jumps from the glass. They say it has 94 IBU (International Bitterness Units), but I don’t know if that was measured in a lab or calculated. Either way, properly bitter. For good measure, it was aged on oak spirals.

The resulting beer won a silver medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. It’s bold, complex and balanced in the Imperial IPA way.

Hops – No. 3 with a bullet

The brewers at BrewDog have made a list of their six favorite (or should that be favourite?) hops. You can see why co-founder James Watt has said, “We like to think of what we do as U.S.-inspired Scottish craft brewing.”

1. Chinook
2. Amarillo
3. Nelson Sauvin
4. Bramling Cross
5. Simcoe
6. First Gold

Kissed by the hopsThree hops grown in the U.S. Northwest (Chinook, Amarillo and Simcoe), two in the U.K. (Bramling Cross and First Gold) and one from New Zealand. Nelson Sauvin, released only in 2000, seems to be a hop du jour.

Its character has been likened to Sauvignon Blanc, the grape and wine variety, and New Zealand Hops Limited emphasizes its cutting edge attributes.

From the brewer’s notes: “The fruitiness may be a little overpowering for the un-initiated, however those with a penchant for bold hop character will find several applications for this true brewer’s hop.”

And from the suggested applications: “Very much at home in the new-world styles such as American Pale Ale and Super Premiums. This hop is considered by some as extreme and certainly makes it presence felt in specialty craft and seasonal beers gaining an international reputation.”


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