Sunday, January 26, 2014

Can't Get Enough

Saturday’s WSJ had an article on beer called IPAs for People Who Don't Like IPAs. Since I love IPAs it didn’t exactly call out for my attention. However, as I also love variety in my IPAs I read on.

Now fatigue of a different sort has set in. Drinkers are tired of the bitterer-than-thou arms race, and hops breeders are listening. The latest IPAs aren't a taste of pastoral Britain or evergreen Oregon forests, but of the tropics.

That's due to new strains of so-called "high-oil" hops. Hop acids like humulone provide bitterness and preservative value, while oils contained in the plant give flavor and aroma—Citra's orange-soda-like thiol or the clove-like caryophyllene in Apollo.

You don't need a biochem degree to appreciate these hops, just a good thesaurus. Take the Mosaic variety, a galaxy of flavor. Born HBC369 on Jason Perrault's farm in Yakima Valley, Wash., Mosaic is a cross of Simcoe (notes of dried plum) with Nuggets (woodsy, herbal). Mr. Perrault tastes blueberry in this strain; I get a tropical fruit basket. Used in Odell's Woodcut 6 ale, it's apricots in syrup; in Samuel Adams's Latitude 48, it's guava nectar, oily and rich.

Working with small-crop, experimental breeds, little brewpubs like San Jose's Hermitage lead the way—keep a nose out for their satsuma- and tangerine-tinged Mandarina Bavaria. Indeed, batches often have to be small. Some hops go from code name to industry darling to rarity in a season. Citra took off in Sierra Nevada's Torpedo—the most popular IPA in the country—and then became nearly impossible for craft brewers to find. Knee Deep Brewing had to rename (and re-hop) their Citra IPA—it's now called, aptly, Hop Shortage

The article went on to list five of the best of these sweeter more nuanced IPAs. Among them was one of my favorite beers which technically isn’t really an IPA: Eight-Bit Pale Ale from Tallgrass Brewing. I love the unique flavor profile of Eight-Bit and was pleased to see it recognized in such a prominent manner.

My view on IPAs (and beer in general) is the more the merrier and that includes more variety.