Hops – the bitter truth

Brewers don’t need to hide behind a ton of hops

The craft-brewing craze brings with it an extreme fascination in hop aromas and flavours. Only mainstream brewers, it seems, retain the skills to make more subtle beers where the main role of hops is to provide a pervasive, lingering bitterness completely integrated into a beer’s flavour.

Good examples of that style are Cooper’s Pale Ale, with a bitterness level markedly higher than in most commercial brews; and Bavaria’s delightful Weihenstephaner Pilsner.

Smaller brewers on the other hand reveal the wonderful range of aromas and flavours various types of hops bring when added to beer at various stages of production. The hops characters scream from many beers and do, of course, give dramatic bitterness.

Perhaps subtlety will be the next phase of craft-brewing’s evolution. In an interview with James Atkinson recently, American brewer Ben Dobler said, “Brewers are getting more talented, they don’t need to hide behind a ton of hops”.

Little Creatures Original Pilsner 330ml 6-pack $24
Lion, a subsidiary of Japan’s Kirin, claims about half of the Australian craft beer market through a number of brands, including Little Creatures. They recently beefed up their pilsener, using 100 per cent pilsner malt and German perle hops. The change means more assertive, delicious and lingering hops bitterness.

Big Shed Brewing Co Kol Schisel German Pale Ale 330ml $4.50
Although only a modest 4.2 per cent alcohol, Big Shed’s slightly hazy, pale-golden ale lands solidly on the palate. Helga hops take a strong resiny, spicy lead over the underlying sweet, malty richness. Hops bitterness builds with every mouthful and finally dominate the finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 15 and 16 December 2015 in goodfood.com.au  and the Canberra Times

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