Oh, Humulus Lupulus, how I love thee! Chinook, Cascade, Galena, Palisade, Amarillo, Nugget, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, and the list goes on. I love each and every one of you.
Hops, you are one of our favorite things. Hops, you are amazing. But you cannot do it on your own. So much depends on the brewers who put you to work.
Back in the 1990s, when craft beer was gaining momentum around here, the typical craft beer drinker consumed a lot of Amber, which was as common back then as IPA is today. Remember that? Those beers were quite mild by today’s standards.
While most people were drinking Amber, the cool kids were all drinking Pale Ale and occasionally India Pale Ale. If you recall, IPA was quite rare in the 90s. Today, pretty much everyone drinks IPA, so the cool kids are looking for something else to drink. That’s fine. Collectively, our palate has evolved.
But let’s be honest here. I love hoppy beer. A Sour Brown Ale is a great beer, and I’ll never complain about a dark and smooth Oatmeal Stout or a crisp and tart Kriek, but there’s something about a ridiculous, completely unbalanced hopbomb that sets my heart afire.
Skip Madsen will soon be brewing at American Brewing Company in Edmonds (maybe the kettles have already been fired). That’s really good news for those of us who love hoppy beer. In the past he has brewed for Water Street Brewery and Boundary Bay Brewery, among others.
Way back in the olden days, before I started writing this blog, I asked Skip a question: “Of all the beers you’ve brewed, which one is your favorite?”
Skip thought about it for a moment and then said, “Boundary Bay Imperial IPA. “
God bless you, Skip.
So how do you brew an insanely hoppy beer? Well, the brewing equipment certainly plays an important role. Some brewhouses are better suited for the task, that’s true; however, I believe there is some kind of magic involved as well. There are certain brewers who just seem to have an unearthly knack for bringing hops to life. I call them Hop Wizards.
Michelangelo looked at a block of lifeless marble and saw a human form waiting to come out. All he did was remove the extra marble. I think that Bill Jenkins (Big Time Brewery) looks at bags of lifeless hops and can taste the end product. It helps that he actually looks like a wizard.
Chris Miller (Snipes Mountain Brewing) doesn’t look like a wizard but he certainly has the gift. Not only does he brew amazing beers, but other brewers regularly consult him on matters of the hop. Chris is like a hop Yoda, now that I think of it.
I’m not sure if the fact that he lives and brews in Sunnyside (the heart of hop country) has anything to do with it. Does living in the middle of a hop farm make Chris Miller a Hop Wizard or did some supernatural force pull him there because he is a Hop Wizard?
A simple man am I. Such questions answer I cannot.
There are too many other Hop Wizards out there for me to mention in this post. I leave it to you to decide who deserves to wear the funny hat. In other words, I’m asking you. Who do you think makes the most deliciously hoppy beer?
The Miracle of Hops
If you go to the hippie pharmacy and talk to them about hops you’ll learn that they have countless medicinal uses. Most commonly, hops are used to treat insomnia. Hops are a relaxant. Works for me every time. Hops are also an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Most importantly, they taste really, really good when you put them in beer.
The spot along the garage where we grow our hops is bare right now. Makes me a bit sad whenever I look over there. But sure as the nighttime follows the day, spring is coming and the bines will be crawling up the wall again. Makes me warm just thinking about it.