Hops march forward

hops n kettle

Hops have attained a special status with craft beer enthusiasts. Certainly, this idolization is due in part to the complex, bitter flavors of hops, as well as their pleasant aromas and stabilizing effect on beer. The invention of IPA in England led to the discovery that besides being delicious, over hopped ales lasted the long journey from Burton-on-Trent to Delhi.

Alcohol provided an unfriendly environment for microbial action, and the isohumulone content of the hops inhibited the growth of Lactobacillus


These types of beers changed the landscape of recipe formulation. Although hops were cultivated for brewing as early as the 8th century in Hallertau, they were not embraced worldwide until fairly recently. Their rise to prominence has led the charge for craft beer to follow.

We live in a culture where your favorite local brewer may offer a different IPA for every month. Some argue this has approached Baskin Robbins territory. Mango IPA for summer, triple IPA for winter, session IPA for camping. Belgian IPA if you’re feeling funky, English IPA if you can have your scruples. Cherry IPA for something different, or maybe you just want a dry hopped APA… That’s different, right?

There’s a reason we have these choices. These beers are the Beethoven of craft beers: powerful, dynamic, and mesmerizing. However, just like Ludwig van, IPAs can cause fatigue and overstimulation. Maybe not English IPA, that’s like the Moonlight Sonata.

Furthermore, hearing your craft beer buddies talk IBUs, isohumulone, and beta acids can roll some eyes just like the opera.

Perhaps a better metaphor would be rock music. The driving baselines and percussive rhythms will hook just about anybody… But sometimes some jazz or soul music can liven things up a bit.

So I present to you the jazz of the craft beer world, the unfortunately named grout. This is a secret mixture of bittering herbs. Some would intoxicate, others would satiate your palate, one would even cause hallucinations. Bog myrtle, licorice, and wormwood, respectively.

Heather tips are a wonderful addition to Scottish ales. They impart a pleasant, mild floral aroma.

In early Sumerian beers, raisins. dates, and honey would sweeten and bitter the sour beer that was imbibed through straws. The straw would circumvent the frothy krausen that these young beers would create. Even back then, a mouthful of yeast was not yummy.

Sour, smokey, tepid, yeasty, these ancient brews could be improved with local flora and fauna. Hops filled this void so well, it has become the first thing we think of about beer. Bitter beer face tuba man may have set them back a touch, but hops march onward.

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