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Old 29-03-2006, 05:57 PM posted to,
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Default New York Times on Hops

Brewers Embrace Flower Power

JUST the kiss of the hops...none of the bitterness," reads the tag line
in a 1940's ad for Schlitz. This was a selling point for beer back when
mild, chuggable pilsners monopolized the brewing world.

A single hop variety, Cluster, dominated the United States market for
more than a century, and that was just fine with the big breweries. They
used hops the green, conelike flowers of the Humulus lupulus vine
sparingly, only to lend a faint backbone of bitterness to the bland malt
flavor of their pale brews.

Today, the "kiss of the hops" has become a passionate embrace as
American brewers are using a whole palette of hops varieties to color
their brews. Almost three dozen major types of hops are being grown in
the United States, in large part to meet the demands of craft breweries.

Some breweries, like Dogfish Head, Stone and Victory, are using
unheard-of quantities in styles like India pale ale that have always
used lots of hops, as well as in styles like barley wine and pilsner,
where malt flavors usually dominate or balance out the bitterness.
They're also seeking out new and highly aromatic varieties.

"Hops are the most obvious way to add complexity to your beer," said Sam
Calagione, president of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del. "It's
a fun way to expand your palate."

In its 90 Minute I.P.A., or India pale ale, Dogfish Head uses two newly
cultivated hop varieties: Warrior, high in alpha acids, which add
bitterness, and Amarillo, for aroma and flavor.

The hops are added throughout the 90 minutes that the malt is boiled
before fermenting, rather than in one or two stages, as is traditional.

The bitterness and grassy pungency of the Warriors give structure to and
balance the sweet, fruity flavors in the ale, the way tannins do in
wine. Hops like Amarillo impart signature aromas and flavors. Dogfish
Head adds Amarillo during and after fermentation so that their volatile
aromatic oils remain intact.

The 90 Minute I.P.A. is what is known as double, or imperial, India pale
ale, an increasingly popular beer that is big on hops. Perhaps the most
extreme is Stone Ruination I.P.A. from the Stone Brewing Company in
Escondido, Calif. It clocks in with 100 I.B.U.'s (international
bittering units), at the far end of the scale.

A message on the Ruination bottle says the beer is "so named because of
the immediate ruinous effect on your palate."

"The idea with these beers is not balance," said Stan Hieronymus, who
writes about beer at the Web site It's not surprising that
these beers, which are also high in alcohol, have a following of
self-described "hopheads." What is surprising is how drinkable they are.

That is largely due to the skill of the brewer. For Ruination, Stone's
brewmaster, Steve Wagner, uses a method called dry-hopping, which means
adding new hops to beer during or after fermentation, often right in the
vessel from which the beer will be dispensed. He uses a combination of
Centennials and Chinooks.

While Centennial, with its fragrant citrus character, is commonly used
for dry-hopping, Chinook has traditionally been used as a bittering hop.

"It can be harsh in a lighter beer," Mr. Wagner said. But its spicy,
piney, grapefruit flavors are just right to stand up to the
mouth-puckering bitterness and alcoholic strength of Ruination.

All this experimentation began with an unsuccessful effort to please the
giants of the brewing industry.

In the 1960's and 70's, Schlitz, Pabst, Anheuser-Busch and other big
breweries that depended on Cluster were looking for a more bitter hop so
they could use less. Hop breeders in the Pacific Northwest, where
virtually all American hops are grown, responded with Cascade.

But while Cascade's bitterness was more intense than Cluster's, its
shelf life was considerably shorter, so it was little used until the
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company introduced its Pale Ale in 1981.

Instead of using Cascades just to bitter beer, "Sierra turned around and
started using them for aroma and flavor," Mr. Hieronymus said.

For many Americans, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was the first beer in which
they could actually taste hops not just bitterness, but a pleasant
floral, citrusy character. It remains the standard-bearer for American
pale ales. Its signature hop, Cascade, became the craft brewing
industry's most popular variety and the ale inspired many of the new
breeds that followed.

The latest canvas for hop experimentation is pilsner not
Budweiser-style pilsner but the hoppier (and original) Czech-German
version. Victory Brewing Company's Prima Pils, with its generous dose of
Czech and German hops, may do for American pilsners what Sierra Nevada
did for American pale ales. Victory, based in Downingtown, Pa., also
produces a limited series of single-hop pilsners called Braumeister
Pils, the most recent version of which used fresh-off-the-vine Mt. Hood
hops from a New York State farm.

Dogfish Head recently released an "imperial" pilsner 80 bittering
units and 9 percent alcohol at Barcade, a Brooklyn beer bar. It is a
deliberate nose-thumbing at vapid, mass-produced pilsners, Mr. Calagione

"We are launching this big, super-hoppy beer to remind people that the
pilsner style used to have a lot of flavor and a lot of hops before the
big breweries and their half-billion-dollar advertising budgets ruined
it," he said.

For him and his fellow brewers, if there is only a "kiss of the hops,"
it's the kiss of death.

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Old 31-03-2006, 10:10 PM posted to,
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Default New York Times on Hops

Here is a link to another story about hops and beer.


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