As beer drinkers one of the most exciting shifts we are seeing in the craft beer world is in hoppy beers (I know right, spontaneous wild ales and barrel aged sours are old news). When West Coast IPAs, bless their hearts, came to market they defined the IPA, and the word “hoppy,” in terms of bitterness. We developed global standards to measure the amount of bitterness in beer and started geeking out about how many IBUs we could cram into a single pour. We added hops everywhere: take a look through any How to Brew book and you’ll see the long list of addition times, from the mash, through the boil, into the fermenter. As IPAs became Double IPAs and then Triple IPAs, we ramped up the alcohol and we ramped up the IBUs, and these beers became more and more bitter.
Then we started to see a shift. Brewers started talking about “late additions” and “whirlpooling,” they stopped adding hops into a full boil of beer, and started adding them later and later in the process. Here’s what we believe happens when we do that: hops are filled with a beautiful, ambrosia nectar that contains a bunch of different oils, each responsible for a different flavor and/or aroma. These oils are as delicate as they are delicious, and when we boil hops, we “isomerize” these very volatile compounds and turn them into bitter compounds. You could think of it like tea: if your water is too hot when you steep tea or if you steep too long, you’ll end up with an astringent, bitter cup, without any of the complex fruity, herbal flavors of a good tea. So instead of isomerizing these hops and transforming their oils (oil compounds like β-Citronellol, which brings the lemon-like citrus found in things like coriander or lemongrass) to bitterness or even completely evaporating them, we steep them at lower temperature to allow the oils to remain in solution as much as possible.
This late-hop program has been what has separated new IPAs (people are starting to call them Northeast IPAs) from the classic West Coast IPA. These new IPAs are full of hop oil, flavor and aroma, and employ a flavorful yeast (one that has fruity, peach, apricot-like flavors) instead of a “clean” yeast that doesn’t impart its own character. Together, we get something more like hop juice. A cloudy, chewy, resinous beverage that is packed with the most beautiful parts of hops, full of flavors the range from citrus through pine, and at its best into mango, pineapple, and all sorts of tropical fruits. These remain unfiltered, hazy and unlike most traditional beers: which in our opinion is great, but for some a hazy beer is a turn-off still.
That’s our philosophy on IPAs, so when you get a glass of King Tut Hat, our 9% Double IPA hopped with Warrior, Simcoe, Citra, and Galaxy, don’t expect bitterness, be prepared for something closer to orange juice than your traditional IPA.
For further reading check out these:
The Contribution of Geraniol Metabolism to the Citrus Flavor in Beer: for confusing science about how hops and fermentation work together to produce flavors. Great summer reading.
Bear-Flavored Ales: Too Many IPAs: for why you should come to The Brewery at Bacchus in New Paltz and fill a fresh growler of our IPAs.