January 09, 2021
of the first things I learned at the shop was that the term “hoppy” didn’t mean anything. Before, working in a beer-oriented pub (or so I thought), I assumed that I knew what hoppy meant - I associated the term with this floral bitterness, that I actually wasn’t that fond of. I found it often aggressive, attacking the back of my tongue and leaving an unpleasant taste.
first days at BeerCraft, I tasted every single beer we had on tap at the moment – I know, what a horrible job! They were all extremely hazy, extremely fragrant, and full of flavours I had never really tasted in a beer before… And they were so, so good! I started to understand what hoppy really meant, and what hops REALLY were. Before, I already thought they were magical little things, small but oh so mighty, but now they seemed even better. I could taste so many different things in these beers – tropical fruits, bubblegum, banana, grass even! And I realised this love for hops was only starting.
sometimes come to the shop without any idea how beers are made, usually when they’re buying for someone else, or sometimes they just want to learn a bit about beer, and I’m always happy to oblige. One of my favourite ways to explain what hops are is to compare them to wine grapes – different types give different flavours, they taste different according to where they grow, and harvests can influence this as well. They are the little flowers of the hop plant which are then dried and added to beer for a few reasons – bittering the beer, flavouring the beer, and also preserving it. Incredibly enough, hops were first used in beer more than a thousand years ago, at least in 1079 when their use was first recorded – around 200 years after, they started being used a lot more and slowly replaced the others herbs that were used before, like dandelion, chamomile, heather… Towards the end of the 1800s, hop production even had a big social impact. The demand became so big that harvest time needed mass labor, and workers, often migrant, would travel to work on the annual hop harvest and live in hoppers’ huts in the meantime. One of my favourite facts is that some growers issued their own currency adorned with hop images… This, of course, coincides with the birth of the Indian Pale Ale in the Victorian Era – when going to India, Victorians would bring extremely-hopped beer so it wouldn’t spoil in the boat during the journey.
illustrate all this, I decided to try two different beers, with very different profiles. No flavouring added to these, just the magical hops they’ve been brewed with. I wanted to find very hop-forward beers, with the emphasis on one hop, or one hoppy flavour. I started with New Bristol Brewery’s The Happy World of Sabro, for the simple reason that it showcases the Sabro hop. Sabro is fascinating because it completely divides people, its flavours so sharp and obvious. It is also a hop that has been completely developed by cross-pollination, which I find fascinating. Well, my beer, on the nose, is pretty tame, with some soft tropical notes. When I drink it, though, it is a completely different story. The taste of fresh, sharp coconut instantly hits me, like I’m chewing some juicy flesh from a coconut I just opened up. It also feels quite creamy, tropical as usual, and overall, to me, extremely enjoyable. This coconut flavour stays until I’m done, and my mind is fully blown. The second beer I chose was Dank Is Short For Danke by Cloudwater, obviously because it is described as a very dank beer, another hoppy flavour I’m very interested in. No surprises – this beer hits you straight away on the nose, and the tongue, with a crazy dankness, like eating grass and onions, which doesn’t sound good but actually is. The can description, accurate and hilarious, sums it up: “Dank is an abbreviation of Danke, and in English it means “thank goodness there are hops that smell like armpits, cat wee you kinda want to drink, weed, and cumin, underpinned by juicy fruit flavours.”” This beer was phenomenal – dank as all hell, soft, juicy, and ridiculously smooth for an 8% beer. A true dream.
have we learned? Well, that this whole craft beer malarkey is only just starting. Who knows what crazy hops will be developed, or found in the future. I, for one, can’t wait.
February 18, 2021
February 11, 2021