When following the craft beer market it can seem like the current trend for brewers is to favour a beer with more hops than the competitor. When that fails, it moves to “use more hops than any sane person would”. There are a lot of beers coming out this year which boast hop overload. So the question is: why is that desirable?
Basic Beer Chemistry
Hops are one of the basic ingredients of beer and they have a fairly simple job: leaven out the sweetness of the malt. Since beer is made from grain, it can get sickly sweet if there’s nothing in the mix to keep it in check. But as the craft evolves, the role of hops is expanding far-and-wide beyond the sweetness hall monitor.
Hops offer an opportunity to add dimension to the flavour of a beer. Depending on their origin, hops add floral or herbal tones, acidity, earthy flavours and sometimes even more sweetness. Hops have given the mad scientists of craft beer a chance to activate the entire array of taste senses.
When is it Too Much?
The desire to add more hops is centred around the urge to experiment with how rich and complex the flavours provided can become. A mucho-hops beer might become too bitter if not handled well. However, when a lot of hops are leavened with the rest of the beer, you can get amazing flavour combinations. That being said, you can also go too far. Brewers new to the game are aplenty. There are more than a few beers on shelves where the overload of hops creates bitter, sappy, and highly acidic beers that nobody wants to cross their tongue. But high hops isn’t an instant fail — you need to have the skill to balance it.
Giving High-Hops a Try
This month’s Dead Kettle IPA from Right Brain has a high IBU rating and boasts a high hops make-up along with additional dry-hops. This might sound crazy, but the techniques used to produce it leaven the hops with high malt and develop flavour with a dry-hop near the end of the process. The bitterness is kept to a minimum, but the flavour goes through the roof.
Upcoming beers from Canada Craft Club will feature some high-hops, but all of them use it wisely and to enhance flavour or allow it to evolve in the tasting. When properly balanced against the malt/ABV and with the right choice in hops, a whole world of herbal, floral, leafy flavours opens up to your taste buds.