Posted on July 26th, 2011
Posted on February 18th, 2010
Hops are a key ingredient in beer and as we’ve discussed before, provide much of the spice and flavor that defines many different styles of beer. In our previous article we mentioned that there were a number of varieties of hops grown throughout the world, each having a unique bitterness, flavor and aroma. The bitterness of hops is measured by calculating its alpha acid percentage, a measure of how much bittering chemicals the plant typical carries. The average range is from 2% Alpha Acid (AA) for aroma hops to 15% AA for bittering hops. Here’s a look at some of the most popular varieties of hops.
Posted on July 20th, 2009
In the first of our Style Profile series we’re going to look briefly at the India Pale Ale or IPA. This is a classic style that anyone who’s interested in beer should try out, even if it’s not for everyone. The highlight of any IPA are the hops, the small, green plants which give beer much of its spice and flavor. Although the yeast, water and grains used in an IPA are important as they are in any beer, these other ingredients really take a back seat to showcasing the beer’s hop flavor.
The spicy flavor of hops isn’t the only benefit they provide beer. Hops are also a natural preservative, a quality which lead directly to the creation of the IPA style. During Great Britain’s occupation of India in the 19th century beer would be shipped from England all the way to India for British soldiers stationed there. To ensure the beer survived the long and perilous sea voyage brewers loaded the beers with extra hops, resulting in the hoppy taste that was a hit in India as much as it was at home in the UK and a style was born.
Hops are grown in many regions throughout the world and come in dozens of different varieties which fluctuate in their bitterness, flavor and aroma. Regardless of which hops an IPA features, it can be counted on to feature the spicy bitterness which are a hallmark of the style. Many hops grown in England such as Kent Goldings have a mellow, spicy quality to them, which is reflected in the pale ales of England such as Samuel Smith’s India Ale.
On the West Coast, where most American hops are grown, Cascade is by far the most dominant variety; it’s a style famous for its strong floral and citrus-like qualities. West Coast Brewers, such as Stone, Rogue and Sierra Nevada have experimented with the these hops creating a unique take on the IPA tradition that’s American through and through- the Double or Imperial India Pale Ale.
In craft beer the terms ‘double’ or ‘imperial’ generally refer to a extra strong version of a more traditional (and timid) style. ‘Double’ simply denotes twice as much of something (such as hops) as been used, while ‘imperial’ refers to the Imperial Russian Stout, a particularly strong stout brewed for Catherine the Great (but that’s for another style profile.)
As you might guess, the Double India Pale Ale is a much stronger version of the IPA, both in terms of hops and alcohol (typically ranging around 8-9% alc./volume while a standard IPA is just 5-6%) Rather than simply being a more intensified version of the IPA the DIPA takes on unique qualities all its own.
Glass: IPAs do well in your standard pint glass, while I would recommend a snifter for DIPAs to take advantage of the intense hop aromas.
Food Pairings: The spicy flavors of IPAs and DIPAs pair great with spicy cuisines such as Cajun, Mexican and Indian. Alternatively, a the sharp hop flavors can provide a nice counterpoint to more savory flavors such as barbecue chicken or pork.
Posted on June 15th, 2009
Ice Cold. It’s the way we’ve been taught to drink beer for years by commercial after commercial of icy mountains over flowing with ice cold beer, women in bikinis, and what looks to be refreshment. It’s true, when the sun is beating down on you on a blistering summer day, few things can cool you off like an icy beverage. If however you’re looking for something more from your beer beyond it’s temperature, something like taste, you might want to try letting you beer warm up a bit to a cool, not ice cold temperature.
Why? Because ice cold beer numbs your taste buds and doesn’t allow the beer to develop its full flavor potential. Ice cold anything numbs your taste buds, just like it will with any part of your body, that’s just what ice does. Drinking your beer at ice cold temperatures may be a great way to cool off but it’s also a great way to keep from fully tasting your beer.
Although the optimal temperature for each style of beer varies, a safe bet is to drink your beer when it’s slightly below room temperature, say around 50 to 60 degrees. This will ensure maximum sensation for your tongue and maximum enjoyment for you.
Don’t have a thermometer handy? Just set your beer on the counter for a few minutes after taking it out from the fridge and if you at a bar, avoid chilled glasses.
If you want to get more precise with the proper temperature from one style to another, there is a handy chart from Real Beer for the details.
- Fruit beers at 40-50° F.
- Wheat beers and pale lagers at 45-50° F.
- Pale ales and amber or dark lagers at 50-55° F.
- Strong ales, such as barley wines and Belgian ales, at 50-55° F.
- Dark ales, including porters and stouts, at 55-60° F.
As they suggest, the stronger the brew the closer to 60° degrees you want your beer to be.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “but I’ve tried warm beer before, it tasted gross.” You’re right, it probably was gross, especially if it was a light lager like Coors Light or Bud Light. Unfortunately here in America many major brewers put a premium on value over quality, which means they count on you never getting a proper taste of their light lagers. Beyond that though, the lower the alcohol in the beer the lower the temperature should and many light beers tend to be relatively light in the alcohol as well compared to many craft brews.