Category Archives: Hops

Thoughts on IPA (and Other Hop-Forward Ales)

I want to start this post off first by saying that I love hops and I love hoppy beers.  While the rest of this may seem like I am railing against IPAs, I am not.  I am fortunate to live in a great city for food and beer, a city that has largely taken the importance of local, wholesome cuisine and ran with it.  I realize that many are not so fortunate, but I also think there may be some other people out there that will agree with what I am about to say, which is this:

I have had it happen several times that I go into a local bar/pub, and when I sit down and take a look at the beer menu, I find that nearly 80% of beers listed are some sort of pale, American-hopped ale, many of those using similar, if not the same, varieties of hops and yeast.  I would venture to say that most craft beer drinkers wouldn’t be able to discern the difference between some if blindfolded.  With the rise of IPA, it seems more and more people are associating it with good beer.  Where it once was that Bell’s Amber Ale and Oberon were considered their flagships, Bell’s Marketing Director, Laura Bell, is quoted in the new issue of Michigan Beer Guide as saying “Two-Hearted could take over Oberon as our number one selling beer if we can ever make enough of it.”  And while I love Two Hearted, it shows the rising demand for more and more hops.

So back to the bar–I really just want more variety and more knowledge.  I get discouraged when I look at a menu and I have to search for something that is more balanced towards malt and yeast.

When people find out that I make beer, usually the next thing they ask is “So, do you make IPAs?”  And while the short answer is yes, I do, I immediately want to tell them about my Belgian Dark Strong in the works, or the 20 gallons of various sour ales I have aging/fermenting right now.  Just like there is more to beer than light American lagers, there is more to it than IPAs.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I need to figure out when I’m going to have time to bottle my pale ale.

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Hop Terroir and the Non-Northwestern-United-States

There’s an interesting post over at Beervana.com about the recent rise in hop-growing in states that aren’t Washington or Oregon.

Hop acreage in these states is miniscule by comparison to the Pacific Northwest. (Oregon has 4,600 acres under cultivation and Washington a booming 24,300; Colorado has 75 and Wisconsin and the Northeast similarly measure their acreages in the tens, not thousands.)

Still, these are real numbers. An acre of hop fields produces over 2,000 pounds of hops, so that wee Colorado planting is going to produce around 150,000 pounds of hops. That’s not going to go far at Budweiser, but these growers aren’t working with In-Bev, they’re working with craft brewers.

The article goes on to describe that these small farmers are supporting and being supported by small brewers, but what piqued my interest is that these hops being grown elsewhere in the US will develop their own terroir.  Just as a tomato grown in my back yard in Michigan is going to taste different (not to mention fresher) than a tomato grown in California, boxed and shipped to a local supermarket, hops grown in different areas of the country are going to have different qualities than if they were grown elsewhere.  It’s one of the many beauties of life.  It makes me thankful that our state has great resources like The Michigan Hop Alliance.

Last week, two friends of mine (Mitch and Chris) and I brewed an IPA with hops grown in Australia and New Zealand–Pacific Jade, Rakau, and Galaxy.  It’s currently sitting in secondary with some dry-hops, waiting until next week for us to bottle it.  I am very interested to see how these different hops contribute new flavors, and I’ll be sure to post a review/recipe when it’s done.  If it’s anything interesting like the Nelson Sauvin (another New Zealand hop–very grape-like) and Vienna Malt SMaSH pale ale I did last winter, it’s going to be a hit.

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Filed under Beer, Hops, Terroir