By Jenny D.
In August, I attended a beer talk at Loaded Question entitled Beer Nerd Chronicles #1. Brewers from Loaded Question, Bad Lab, and Northwoods Brewing Company came to talk about hops, and samples of beers were offered. I went to learn more about hops, because I kept hearing different terms, such as “dry hopped” or “hopped with Citra, Simcoe, Nelson, etc.,” tossed around in some of the beers I was drinking, and I had no idea what it all meant. Apparently, it’s a weird thing to want to learn more about the specific ingredients in the beers you’re drinking, because I was the only non-brewer there. As a result, a lot of what they were talking about was pretty technical and left me with more questions. But, this led me to research the answers to some of these questions for this blog, and aside from learning a thing or two about hops, I also had the opportunity to network with some brewers which made it well worth the trip! Also, I find it helpful to know what these terms mean when browsing menus of beer that I have never had before as it gives me some idea of what I might like.
Hops are a type of flower, used to give beer such as India Pale Ales (IPAs) their bitter taste. They can also impart other flavors and aromas such as flowery, citrusy, or fruity, depending on the type of hops. When hops are boiled into the beer, that’s what gives the beer its bitter taste. When hops are added after the beer has already cooled, or “dry hopped (hey!),” that’s what gives the beer much of its aroma. But what I didn’t realize, is that there are actually many varieties of hops that can be added. That’s where these names like Citra, Nelson, Simcoe, etc. come in. Hops can be bred, and are named after the farmer who first cultivated them, the region they are from, or by their growing habit. If you’re curious about the different hop varieties, there’s a list here.
At the event, we were able to sample a couple different IPAs that had very different flavors as a result of the different hops used in them. I still wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference in flavoring between one type of hop and another, though this is something that I am interested in researching (via sampling different beers of course)!
After the event, I spoke to the brewers at Loaded Question about my trips to various can releases. One of them cautioned about keeping IPAs too long as the flavor changes the longer you store it. Sometimes this is a good thing, depending on your taste. Sours, for example, become more sour over time because the yeast keeps eating the sugar. But for IPAs, the outcome is not necessarily as good as if you drank it fresh. He suggested experimenting with this by keeping an IPA in the fridge for 90 days, and then buying a fresh one and tasting the difference between them. I have not tried this yet, but I did notice that a couple cans of my Deciduous Sun Day did not taste as good after I had kept them in the fridge for a month. Since then, I have become more conservative about how many cans I buy, and I have been more generous with sharing what I have with friends and family so that there are fewer beers hanging around in my fridge. However, I have talked to other people who have kept IPAs for a year and they claimed that they still tasted good. So, there are likely exceptions to this rule but it is still probably better to drink it fresh to be on the safe side.
At a recent beer tasting, my friend Matt D. asked me what the difference is between a west coast IPA and an east coast IPA. He’ll probably never read this, but I will answer his question anyway. I tried googling this and I came up with some answers on the Beer Advocate website which did not satisfy me. So like some kind of normie, I asked my dad. He said that West Coast IPAs are more pine-y. However, New England IPAs are more citrusy due to the popular use of Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic and other citrus-tasting hops. NE IPAs are also “hazy” rather than clear, due to more hops being used and being unfiltered. For me, I love the unfiltered look and taste of a hazy IPA. If you count it as an IPA, my current favorite is the Deciduous Antonym Sour IPA, which I have rated 5/5. Other faves of mine: Elysian Space Dust IPA, Throwback Hoppy Oat Lucky, and Tree House Julius. Which types of IPAs do you prefer? Do you find that there is a particular hop that you enjoy more than others?