As craft beer enjoys is renaissance in America, IPAs leading the charge, hops have taken center stage in beer geek culture. Let us admit it, hops are the sexy part of beers. Has anyone heard of Vinny’s session-able line of malty beers, or Sam’s 60 minute Scottish ale?
Granted, Vinny and Sam Goldburger are amazing home brewers, but adding malt extract every minute for an hour seems like a lot of work for the reward.
American hops during the early, lean, cider years were generally grown in upstate New York. These robust, cat-urine smelling hops were best represented by Cluster, a native species. Resinous, herbal, and yes, catty, this 8-track of a hop creeps up in some modern styles: namely, anything not dry-hopped. Traditionally brewed styles will use Cluster, and it is sign of excellent brewing when these are palatable.
Cascade is the hop that changed everything. It is the most widely used hop in American brewing. Cascade was the orphan child of an English heiress, Duchess Fuggles, and a Russian oil tycoon, Romanov Serebrianker. There are rumors of a third, American parent, but scientist are skeptical.
Grapefruit. This is the word that describes this amazing aroma hop, born in 1971. Golden palates will detect other, nuanced aromas. Most of us laymen can be content knowing that we can capture the essence of this amazing variety with one word…
It’s grapefruit, in case I was ambiguous.
Newer, stronger, crazier hops emerged. Hybrids of German hops were being deployed, blitzing the brewing world with fantastic varieties: Crystal, Liberty, Mt. Hood. These hops were grown from the famous Hallertauer family. Once the oldest Hallertauer, Mittlefruh, went off to college, he was beset by bullies, pests, hail, but remained the spiciest and most floral of his family. If only Mittlefruh Hallertauer could go to an American school, mary a nice American hop. Think of those glorious, beautiful little hoplets!
Other varieties emerged, but non changed the beer world quite like little HBC 394 cv, known to her friends as Citra, the forbidden fruit.
We are living in a Citra world. This high alpha-acid hop is both bitter, and bold. Mangos and papaya give this aromatic battering ram a unique quality that can only be matched by New Zealand varieties (Moteuka, Topaz, Riwaka).
We have advanced far in the land of hoppy beer, but will this descent down the rabbit hole of crazy hop varieties lead us where we think it will?
Will we soon seek out only experimental hops, who will be named after distant black holes like H7 8p37564-48473? Will we seek out novel aromas such as angel feathers, dodo breath, and hydrothermal tube worm sweat? Maybe our ancestors will speak with disdain of our “grapefruity” IPAs as they sip their Chinese Quad Milds, remarking on its subtle nuances of beef tacos and tiramisu.