Thursday, January 16, 2014

Love & Hip-Hops

You know how much all of us at the Beer Barons enjoy sharing craft beer. Fortunately, we have some great friends who are willing to let us share with them. From time to time we'll bring you a guest post featuring their opinions and experiences. Today's guest post comes from a good friend and colleague of El Duque.

Science and I don’t get along very well. However, I am quite a fan of beers so when the two are mixed together…actually I do not know what I would get, but what I do know is that beer makes science tolerable, especially when drinking it is involved. As a result, I decided to do a little science experiment with El Duque involving ten different types of hops and a case of Bud Light. More specifically, we took our ten hops added roughly a gram to various Bud Light bottles and let them sit in the fridge overnight. Now if I were you I would be asking two questions: “why do I want to hear about the taste of Bud Light?” and “wait, wasn’t it flat?”

The first question I'm going to have to answer with another question. What does Bud Light taste like?...NOTHING and that's the point. Bud Light's flavor and aroma are next to none; because of that, we can get an actual sense of the hops without worrying about any other flavors of significant influence our senses. Really any type of light beer would work for this experiment. As for the second question, we saved all of the bottle caps and after adding each hop pellet we recapped and put it back in the fridge. This conserved a majority of the carbonation.

After we tried every bottle, we separately wrote down the aroma and taste of the beer and then discussed. Below are the ten different styles of hops and my impressions of each one.

1. Motueka - This hop has a light prune aroma and leaves a very light lemon-lime coating on the palate. Its flavor was subtle and is clearly meant to add a nice aroma and not any significant tastes or bittering.

2. Amarillo - The smell has light citrus floral notes. While I could smell and taste undertones of grapefruit, orange was the dominant flavor. It also had a light-medium level of bitterness that did not overpower my pallet. It reminded me a lot of the hops Centennial and Simcoe, but more on that later.

3. Citra - It had very light passion fruit, citrus and grapefruit, notes in both taste and aroma. It had low levels of bitterness. There is really not much to say about this one. Its name does all the work for me.

4. Mosaic - Mosaic has a fantastic smell, a very strong tropical fruit flavor and medium bitterness. It tasted as if someone set off an atomic fruit bomb in my mouth. This resulted in two sentiments. First the bitterness was suppressed by the fruit flavor and secondly, I more smell it than drink it. In relation to other hops, it tasked like Citra on roids.

5. Falconers Flight - Its floral characteristics were lemon and grapefruit. While the flavor and bitterness level were lacking, it was clearly intended to add more aroma than anything else. It is important to note that Falconers Flight is a hop blend and while the recipe is a secret, it was created as an aroma hop. It was probably my favorite aroma out of all the hops used.

6. Nelson - This hop had a bright white grape taste but added little aroma. It almost tasted like watery white wine with a smooth bitter taste that lingered on the pallet.

7. Simcoe - Just like the Mosaic, the Simcoe reminded me of the Citra except more bitter and with a more subtle aroma. Since the aroma was so subtle, I was left disappointed.

8. Centennial - What I enjoyed about the Centennial hop was that it had a great flowery aroma, citrus taste and could be used to add higher levels of bitterness. It basically tastes like a more intense Cascade hop. I know I am not reviewing that particular type of hop, however, if you have ever tried a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, then you have experienced Cascade first hand (in case you haven’t tried it, imagine a lot of grapefruit and mild hops levels).

9. Palisade - Palisade had one of the most interesting tastes to me, mostly because it was so different. Its flavor and aroma were both subtle and complex, leaving my taste buds asking for more. What stood out the most to me were the earthy and sweetly floral notes that paired elegantly with the citrus undertones. While it was probably my favorite tasting hop used, I wish it was slightly more bitter.

10. Columbus - Last but not least, the Columbus hop. This reminded me of Centennial’s taste, but with earthy undertones to the citrus and slightly more bitterness. In addition, its aroma was where most of the earthiness could be found and smelled bitterer than it tasted.

Now we have to ask ourselves, “What have we learned?” For starters, I always thought that the big attraction towards hops was bitterness. According to this experiment, great hops do not equal strong levels of bitterness. So then why do the bitterest beers always have a hoppy pun title? Well there are two reasons.

The first, and simpler to explain reason, is that I bought hops that were more known for aroma/taste. This feeds nicely into the second reason, putting the hops in beer that has already undergone the brewing process (and at least begun fermentation) is a hoping method called ‘dry hopping’ and brewers do not typically use dry hopping to achieve strong levels of bitterness. Rather, they add hops during the boiling process. The longer you boil hops, the more bitter the beer will become (maybe I will go into more of the science behind this in a later post, if you are lucky). However, what dry hopping does add is the hops aroma. There is some taste involved, but I felt as if it was because I was tasting the aroma.

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