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Tick-tock, today a cover, soon a book

For the Love of Hops

I threatened to retweet the link hourly last week when Kristi Switzer posted the “For the Love of Hops” table of contents and passed along the absolutely gorgeous cover.

But then I realized I’d be all over the unfollow button if somebody else did that. So instead, here’s the cover. Book should start shipping beginning of December. You can find out more at Brewers Publications, and read endorsements from Ken Grossman, Jim Koch and Vinnie Cilurzo.

Man, I hope they know what they are talking about.

Sam Adams sharing hops with smaller brewers

Jim Koch, Samuel AdamsJim Koch sent a big old hops valentine to smaller breweries on Thursday. Ten tons worth.

He told them that Boston Beer, brewer of the Samuel Adams beers, will sell 20,000 pounds of hops that otherwise would not be available to smaller breweries. The company will sell the hops at its cost, which is considerably less than they would bring on the open (or “spot”) market.

Koch revealed the offer to Brewers Association members Thursday in a forum for association members, telling them:

“For a couple of months now, we’ve all been facing the unprecedented hops shortage and it’s affected all craft brewers in various ways. The impact is even worse on the small craft brewers — openings delayed, recipes changed, astronomical hops prices being paid and brewers who couldn’t make beer.

“So we looked at our own hops supplies at Boston Beer and decided we could share some of our hops with other craft brewers who are struggling to get hops this year.”

The brewery will sell 10,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings from Great Britain and 10,000 pounds of Tettnang Tettnangers from small farms in the Tettnang region in Germany. Both are “aroma hops,” horribly under appreciated and the kind being dissed by brewers chasing alpha, but at the same time becoming crazily expensive.

Samuel Adams will limit the amount sold to any one brewery in order to assure as many as possible get hops.

“The purpose of doing this is to get some hops to the brewers who really need them. So if you don’t really need them, please don’t order them,” Koch wrote. “And don’t order them just because we’re making them available at a price way below market. Order them because you need these hops to make your beer. We’re not asking questions, so let your conscience be your guide.”

This is explained in the “Hop-Sharing Program” area at the Samuel Adams website (you will have to verify your age). The FAQ answers most of the questions I’ve been receiving during the day. (These are not “left over” hops for instance; in fact they haven’t even arrived in the country. Boston Beer will be glad to use them if any aren’t claimed.)

I know whose beer I’m drinking tonight.

Samuel Adams creates an ode to noble hops

Samuel Adams Hallertau PilsnerBack for a second time, Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner remains a beautiful — if big at 8.8% abv and 110 IBU — tribute to the Hallertau Mittelfrueh hop. Or Mittlefrüher as it is spelled in the Halltetauer region of Bavaria.

Lew Bryson already provoked a long enough discussion about calling it imperial pilsner, inspiring a nice treatise on balance by Stephen Beaumont. Consider those topics dealt with.

Instead, some answers to the question “Why?” The short answer is: “Mittelfrüh (Mittelfrueh)”

“We think they are the best hop in the world,” Boston Beer founder Jim Koch said when the 2005 vintage was released. “We wanted to showcase them. It is neat you can get all those flavors from one hop variety.”

Mittelfrueh aroma

Mittelfrueh Aroma

There’s a technical aspect to this you may already know. Or not. Basically, IBU stands for International Bitterness Units and an IBU is one part per million of isohumulone. Brewers calculate how much bitterness to expect based on the alpha acid percentage of particular hops, the amount of hops used and the utilization (length of boil is most important; there are other factors and let’s stop there).

The most efficient way to add bitterness is by using high alpha hops (with AA percentages ranging from the mid to high teens) This is true even for international lagers hopped below the threshold at which you can can taste hops. What isn’t efficient is using a low alpha hop like Mittelfrueh (3-5% AA).

In fact most international lagers include about two ounces of hops per barrel (31 gallons). Boston Beer uses one pound per barrel to make Boston Lager. The brewers tossed in 12 pounds per barrel (100 times the amount in an international lager) in the Halltertau Pilsner.

“Twelve pounds,” Koch said, sounding downright giddy. “While we were doing it Dave Grinnell (one of the brewers) referred to it as a reckless amount of hops.”

The brewers created several test batches, managing to come up with beers in which the IBU topped 140. That’s measured. Most of the time when you see a small brewery cite IBU it’s calculated. As the amount of hops increase efficiency drops dramatically and those calculations aren’t particularly accurate. Few Double (Imperial) IPAs actually reach the 90s when checked with proper measuring equipment.

The calculated IBU on the batches at Boston Beer were well above 300. “We were in the range where all bets were off,” Koch said. “You have to place it under an analyzer to get an accurate measure.”

He found the version in the 140s was too bitter, so the brewers blended in a 100 IBU batch and eventually found a sweet spot in the 110-115 range.

Mittelfrueh flavor

Mittelfrueh Flavor

The beer is cloudy — the brewers didn’t want to filter out the hop flavor, bless them — and doesn’t look particularly pilsner-like. The Mittelfrueh doesn’t come off as particularly delicate in this quantity — and matched against a solid one-two punch of malt and alcohol — but proves you can turn the flowery-citrussy-spicy hop flavor volume way up without the discordant impression you get from a cheap pair of speakers.

The illustrations here come from a book put together by the hop growers in Hallertau, and for it they commissioned panels to evaluate the intensity of both the aromas and flavors of their hops. Notice (above) how the hoppy/bitterness impression of Mittelfrueh changes from aroma to flavor.

“We don’t like it when the discussion about hops is focused only on alpha acids,” said Dr. Johann Pichlmaier of the Association of German Hop Growers. Once again skipping most of the geeky details, Mittelfrueh has a surplus of hop oils that help qualify it as a “noble” hop.

Koch agrees. “Hops are not primarily about IBUs. Hops are about a bounty of flavors,” he said. “With this beer your tongue is indelibly imprinted with the cornucopia of flavors you can get only from noble hops. There’s a reason brewers treasure these hops; a reason they cost more.”

First time around the brewery publicized the (crazy) bitterness units in the beer. This time there’s no mention of IBU.

That’s the right way to talk about hop flavor in general and Mittelfrueh in particular.

Another Top 10: Most influential people

Rick Sellers of Pacific Brew News Blog has taken our ’10 Most’ conversation another direction:

Ten People Who Shaped the US Beer Scene.

Certainly a conversation I plan to jump into in his comments section after I get a little work done. (OK, I had to leave one right off – Michael Jackson.)

Here’s his list:

1 – Fritz Maytag
2 – Jack McAuliffe
3 – Fred Eckhardt
4 – Charlie Papazian
5 – Bert Grant
6 – Garrett Oliver
7 – Jim Koch
8 – Ken Grossman
9 – Tie Vinnie Cilurzo & Sam Calagione
10 – Empty. “I would like to see . . . someone who makes the beer bar a great place to be today, those who have redefined what a Beer Bar can be.”

Go comment.

When beer is good business

With the help of Boston Beer founder Jim Koch, BusinessWeek serves up a four-course (five if you count the Samuel Adams Utopias served at the end as a cordial).

The story concludes: “Indeed, it was a meal that could convert even the most ardent of oenophiles.”

The article appears at the same time as this announcement:

Robert M. Parker, Jr., world-renowned wine critic and publisher of The Wine Advocate, has signed on as a weekly columnist for BusinessWeek, Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler announced today. Written for BusinessWeek’s discerning [italics added by your editor ;>) ] readers, “Wines of the Week” will run in the Executive Life section of the magazine and will deliver Mr. Parker’s recommendations and descriptive tasting notes along with ratings and pricing information.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to share my passion for the world’s finest wines and wine bargains with the readers of BusinessWeek,” said Mr. Parker. “I have always believed no great business can be conducted without eventually serving the proper wine.”

Looks like BusinessWeek needed to invite Mr. Parker to their little beer dinner.

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