She said....... It's about the beer He said........
Gina Miller andBill Keeper
Hey Bill, - I was enjoying a few pints the other night with our mutual friend Greg, better known as the Paladin of Beer, when he asked me a question that make me think a bit - are craft beers too hoppy? As you know Greg is one of the most knowledgeable beer guys around so you have to listen when he says that over-hopped beers, especially those dominated by bitter grapefruit notes have overwhelmed craft beer. His hypothesis is that craft brewing is sowing the seeds of it's own demise with a mindless obsession and addiction to hops.
He might have a point since the first thing said by most people when tasting their initial craft beer is that it's too bitter. That's not a first impression that will bring them over to craft beer. Of course not all craft beer is hoppy. There are many styles where hops are not emphasized and there are many craft breweries that create balanced beers with little bitterness. Having said that the craft beer remains in the eyes of many forever stereotyped as a hop bomb.
In a way I can understand that perception. The beer that more or less launched the contemporary craft beer movement, Sierra Nevada’s pale ale, was, for its time, a supremely hoppy beer. In 1980, when most of the nation’s beers were produced by Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, Sierra Nevada’s pale ale was a revelation of flavor as it used more hops than most brewers at the time would ever consider.
Personally, I love the fact that there are lots of choices to be made when it comes to hops. For example, if you want the big, piney flavor you might use Chinook, if you favor the mild earthiness of the traditional English ales you'd pick Fuggles hops. You can decide whether you’ll add them fresh, dried, or pulverized and compacted into tiny pellets for greater consistency. Maybe you’ll give your beer a big burst of hoppy aromatic oils by adding them after fermentation. It's differentiation like that which makes craft beer so exciting to me.
While Greg agreed to the excitement of hops for we experienced beer drinkers, he added that from consumer’s standpoint, beers overloaded with hops are a gimmick of sorts because above a certain level the subtle flavors of the various hops cannot be tasted by the human palate as measured by the number of IBUs (International Bitterness Units) in a beer. That number indicates the concentration of isomerized alpha acid—the compound that makes hops taste bitter. He recalled reading that the tasting threshold is around 75 IBUs. If so, that begs the question of what's the point, with producing beers that exceed 100 IBU's?
Look Bill, if you want I will gladly talk to you about the differences between wild and cultivated lab yeast, and the weird flavors brewers can create with trees or flowers or whatever. I would even enjoy discussing craft-malted barley and how it compares to traditional imported European malts but when it comes to drinking beer, give me hops, the more the better!
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Hello Gina, As an acknowledged hop head I'm happy to say that IPAs remain the #1 beer style in the US. While I can understand why it might be off putting to the less adventurous beer drinkers, hoppy beers are something they will eventually embrace as their palate becomes more sophisticated. And as you mentioned there are many styles like Pilsners, Alts, Berlinerweisse, Kellerweiss, Vienna Lagers, etc. where hops are decidedly in the background.
Look Gina, the main reason hoppy beers gets some much attention and shelf space is simple - they’re popular and they’re the beers that most people want. I don't blame them either. Think about those main stream adjunct laden, watery tasteless,swill beers that most Americans drank for so long. Hoppy craft beers set us free. Need proof? The marketplace has spoken as consumers have continued to ask for more and more hoppy beers. Breweries are businesses remember so they responded with hops!
I don't think we have to worry about losing newcomers because craft beer is too hoppy. New drinkers will easily respond to other craft styles as they get comfortable with more hops. And to be brutally honest I won't lose too much sleep over not being able to convert a Coors Light fan to craft beer. They obviously have a right to like whatever they want,even if it is terrible.
By the way,hops are used in almost all beers these days – by law in the US, In fact, brew without them and technically you're making a food product which means it is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, not the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
I find it interesting that most of the anti-hop arguments seem to be speaking about hops in terms of bitterness. They clearly ignore the flavor and aroma that hops impart to a beer. I have tasted many “west coast” IPAs that have very little bitterness, but deliver fantastic flavor and aroma. As more and more new hop varieties hit the market, the possibilities in new, different and exciting flavors are endless. Hop heads will never get bored.
Consider this Gina, the concept of a beer being too hoppy is totally subjective. One person's hop bomb might easily be another's easy-drinking pale ale. Is the beer too hoppy if it starts out with a pleasant herbal, noble hop aroma and finishes with a crisp snappy bite? My point is that hoppy is frequently mis-used as a synonym for bitter, I actually think that it's wrong to term a beer as ‘hoppy’ since for some it's a pejorative. Let's talk about taste and flavors. By the way that's one reason I read Sandy Feld's beer reviews here on BeerNexus- he's specific and clear in describing what the beer tastes like.
As for the future Ii think the next step is beer brewed from single hop varieties, and possibly even single hop yards - take that you anti-hop folks!