Harvest Season - Part 1/4 Beer Ingredients: Hops
WELCOME BACK FRIENDS!
It has been a while since we updated the blog, but this is a good time as the season is changing and fall is setting in. This summer was great for beer Uptown. Soured beers were the hype. (Long Bay Brewery just rolled out another excellent example of one). I know we've talked about soured beers a few times in our posts, but this style has really shown the range of flavour it can present throughout the summer. Local breweries did a great job showcasing this interesting light summer beer.
Fall is in the air!
This is the time for harvesting hops!!! If you follow us on other forms of social media, you have probably guessed that this is one of our favourite ingredients. With hops being harvested fresh around the area, breweries will often use fresh hops to make their beers distinct. On some occasions breweries will throw hops in their boil less than 2 hours after they are harvested. The addition of hops is usually a somewhat scientific process, but the flavours that are produced by fresh hops can vary depending on the season.
Dried hops or hop pellets that are used during much of the season have more predictable characteristics. Technology and science have reached the point where essential hop oils are being concentrated down into their purest form and cryogenically frozen for preservation. Known as "cryo hops" this is a super predictable way to ensure only certain flavours are making it into a batch of beer.
SO WHY HOPS? Really why is there so much hype about hops? What about the beer lovers who don't like hoppy beer. Also what about the "hop heads": people who seek out the hoppiest IPA's ever know to exist?
Hops have not always been the "go-to" for beer makers. Hops were simply added at first because they could add shelf life to a brew. The essential oils form the female hop cone picked at exactly the right time provide the preservation quality as well as a subtle (for the most part) balance to the maltiness of a beer.
Prior to the addition of hops things such as juniper, nettle, horehound, mint and other herbs that contained a good amount of essential oils would be used to preserve a beer. Check around Uptown, you may notice some unusual things thrown into beer. Originally people would use whatever they could find until hops came along as a standard. (Some we have tried are juniper, lavender, hibiscus and sumac. All produced locally!!!!)
These beers are now mainly categorized as a "gruit". Gruit beer does not use hops as the main preservative, rather a different essential oils to preserve and flavour. Historically gruit was mixture of different "essential oil producing" additives sold to brewers to tax them on their products they wished to sell. If you are adventurous enough to try one of these we suggest sticking local to see if you recognize the flavours. (Still waiting for a fiddlehead beer!!!!....good luck with that!)
FOR THE UPTOWN BEER DRINKER: When it comes to hops do not fear. The range in the flavour, bitterness, sweetness, smell and texture that hops produce can vary.
Hops, like any other plant has several different varieties within the species. For brewers they look to Alpha Acids to determine the amount of essential oil that each variety will produce. In turn they can better predict the flavour that will be produced. There are generally 3 categories of hops: bittering, finishing and all purpose. All purpose falls between the bittering and finishing spectrum and can be used for either. Generally the bittering hops are higher in Alpha Acids and finishing hops are lower. For a beer drinker some knowledge of hops comes in handy if you are trying to narrow down a flavour that you like.
LOOK TO IBUs: International Bitterness Units (IBU) are sometimes offered on beer menus. If you are hop conservative look for lower IBU numbers. If you are a "hop head" look for higher IBU numbers. This is a good general indicator of hop additions and bitterness. Generally the higher the IBU number the more bitter.
BUY LOCAL BEER!
This time of year the path from farm to table (or glass) is easily traced; so get out there and support your local farmer by drinking beer featuring locally grown hops and malt. You will be surprised at the amount of ingredients that are sourced locally. It is really exciting to see as each region is beginning to develop networks with farmers for ingredients. In turn this creates beer that is unique to specific climates, soils and tastebuds.
If you know a little bit about wine, regional specific taste is a major driver, as each region produces specific characteristics that people may enjoy. Beer may be headed in this exciting direction as well, and although we love us some locally made New Brunswick beer we encourage people to try locally crafted beer wherever they may travel. There are some small hometown producers doing some very interesting things, experimenting with locally found ingredients that give some distinct experiences to even the less adventurous beer drinker.
Here it is....our shortlist of beer Uptown right now!
1. Beer to Drink Now! - Bantam American Pale Ale, Long Bay Brewery - This is a great ale. Is all about balance. Except the end of your sip you get a good bitterness that fizzles out quickly and pleasantly. This is a staple ale. Nothing flashy. Just good beer.
2. Gateway Beer! - For Shore Maritime Session Ale, Celtic Knot Brewing - MIght be hard to find this around Uptown still, but this can get you interested in ales and trying something with a bit more flavour. This is one of the most drinkable beers we've had recently. Hard to resist another.
3. Most Crowd Pleasing! - Mount Carleton IPA, Hammond River Brewery - Yes another from Hammond River Brewery. This is almost a bit early as this beer has just been released and may take a few days to make it Uptown, however from the last few batches expect this beer to sell out quick. A tribute to the tallest peak in NB using hops that tend to grow better in higher altitudes this IPA drinks very well. This beer has a strong local following for good reason!
4. Most Adventurous! - Purple Maize, Big Axe Brewery - This is a unique pilsner brewed using purple corn as the base. It creates an amazing purple colour. Many breweries use corn as part of the malt, but usually corn is selected to simply add sugar for fermenting without changing the flavour of the malt, colour or taste. In this beer the corn takes the driver's seat, especially with the colour.
Thanks again for following us! Get out there and try something unique! Come on a tour for more information and amazing beer! Cheers!!!!.