Author Topic: American Fascination with HOPS  (Read 1446 times)

Offline jmsetzler

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American Fascination with HOPS
« on: October 20, 2014, 09:22:17 PM »
Greetings to the forum...

I'm trying to understand the path that American beer culture has taken since I started homebrewing back in the mid 90s.  At that time, Pale Ales and IPAs were popular beers but since then there has been a steady rise in the production of beers that pack more and more hops into the brew. 

When I look at Beer Advocate's Top 250 Beers list, the top 10 are all high gravity high hop beers.  Five of them are Pale Ale / IPA and the other five are American Double / Imperial Stouts.  Similar top beer lists found on the web have similar listings for their top beers.

It appears that high hops and high gravity beers are the overall favorites.  What has happened to the session beers and malt goodness that comes with a lot of those?  What has happened to the beers that have a nice balance of malt and hop character?  I don't dislike these beers but they are not on top of my favorites list.  I have struggled to find beers that are considered HOPPY that have a good malt backbone but I have found a few that I really like.  Maybe it's just my personal taste, but I'm not a fan of a beer that is all about the hop or the alcohol content.  When I feel the desire for the soothing properties of alcohol, it's really tough to beat a glass of single malt scotch on ice. 

Is anyone making a pure hop extract yet so we can just skip the beer? :)

Offline Slowbrew

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2014, 09:34:02 PM »
I know your last sentence was a joke but you actually can get hop extracts.  It's one of the ways brewers are putting so many IBUs in a their beers. ;D

I agree with your point though.  Some of the really hopped up beers of today make me think I'm chewing on a pine branch full of sap.  To me it seems like one upmanship more than anything else.  Americans have always had a tendecy to think bigger, bolder, badder is always better.

For the past few years the beers in my basement brewery have been getting smaller, maltier and less hoppy.  I'm really trying for session beers because you really can't have a monster ABV/over the top hop bomb on tuesday night and expect to perform decently on Wednesday (at least I can't).  Everything has it's day.  In ten years we'll probably wondering where all the hops went.   ;)

Paul
Where the heck are we going?  And what's with this hand basket?

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2014, 10:09:44 PM »

  Americans have always had a tendecy to think bigger, bolder, badder is always better.


I agree. It even extends to the food world - look at the number of restaurants and tv shows that promote extreme eating, either quantity or chile pepper related. It's pretty ridiculous that basically all of the 'highest rated beers' are IIPA or RIS. Just dumb.
I will say that I love hops and hoppy beers, no apologies. But I don't want them all the time. I do tend to hop up my IPAs to a healthy extent, but like balance in most other American styles. I probably brew a couple IPAs most years, with the rest devoted to other styles. Life's too short to drink any one style of beer whether it's good or not.
I've brewed upwards of 40 styles and like variety above any one beer. Maybe these fanboy sites like ratebeer and others, to have any credibility at all, might want to rethink what makes a beer good, great, or mediocre.
Jon H.

Offline Stevie

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2014, 10:41:32 PM »
Wait, so a "99 on ratebeer.com" shelf tag (wobbler for those in retail) doesn't mean the beer is amazing and worth $10 a bomber. Mind = blown.

BTW - I live for west coast hoppy beers, but have been liking session beers the most lately.

Offline erockrph

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2014, 10:46:05 PM »
I think one of the issues with the rating sites is that people generally only give high ratings to beers that seem "special". I could drink 3 All Day IPAs in a session or one Heady Topper. I'm way more likely to drink the All Day, but human nature is more likely to consider the Heady as a "special" thing and rate it higher. But if I'm drinking 3 All Day IPAs for every Heady Topper, shouldn't I be rating it higher?
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Offline Stevie

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2014, 10:52:29 PM »

I think one of the issues with the rating sites is that people generally only give high ratings to beers that seem "special". I could drink 3 All Day IPAs in a session or one Heady Topper. I'm way more likely to drink the All Day, but human nature is more likely to consider the Heady as a "special" thing and rate it higher. But if I'm drinking 3 All Day IPAs for every Heady Topper, shouldn't I be rating it higher?

Not exactly, it would need to be another scale. Maybe 1-5 for drinkability. 1 = six pack at the beach and 5 = where are my pants?

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2014, 11:06:42 PM »

I think one of the issues with the rating sites is that people generally only give high ratings to beers that seem "special". I could drink 3 All Day IPAs in a session or one Heady Topper. I'm way more likely to drink the All Day, but human nature is more likely to consider the Heady as a "special" thing and rate it higher. But if I'm drinking 3 All Day IPAs for every Heady Topper, shouldn't I be rating it higher?

Not exactly, it would need to be another scale. Maybe 1-5 for drinkability. 1 = six pack at the beach and 5 = where are my pants?

I like it  :D  Another example aside from All Day IPA -  it's not exactly 'session', but after trying both in person I'm a bigger fan of Blind Pig IPA than Pliny, in that I can at least have a few Blind Pig and function. Pretty much all the hoppiness in a 6% abv beer. Great beer.
Jon H.

Offline Stevie

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2014, 11:13:55 PM »
+1 to blind pig. Only issue I have is it is tougher to find fresh. Pliny kegs would kick every other day at the bars I used to go to, 1 week tops.

Either one I can drink by the growler full.

Offline duboman

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2014, 12:27:53 AM »
Another thing to consider is those doing all the rating as I believe the ratings to be extremely scewed just by the people taking the time and being socially networked.

I just had this conversation with a friend and we agreed, its getting more difficult to find beers that aren't about being over the top about everything!

I'm all about the balance and being able to have a few nice beers than sit around on a 10% after a long day....makes me happy to be a brewer
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Offline el_capitan

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2014, 01:15:04 AM »
I probably brew a couple IPAs most years, with the rest devoted to other styles. Life's too short to drink any one style of beer whether it's good or not.
I've brewed upwards of 40 styles and like variety above any one beer.

I'm with you all the way there.  I love an IPA as much as the next guy, but I've really been enjoying brewing standard-gravity and session beers.  It's hard to beat a dry stout, or Scottish 70/-, or an ESB, or a Munich Dunkel or or or...  There are so many wonderful beer styles in the world, and it's a shame that people tend to focus hugely on one style or characteristic.  At least the masses are overcoming the bitter barrier - now if we could get people to start embracing darker-colored beers we'd really see some growth in beer appreciation.  I know lots of people who think amber ales are super dark.  Weird. 

Personally, I tend to appreciate lower-gravity beers because for me, it's all about the flavor.  I just love the taste of a well-made brew.  Lately it seems that if I have more than 2 beers a night, I'll wake up with a headache.  What a bummer!  The other night I picked up the Sierra Nevada fall sampler and indulged in 3 beers.  Next day - BAM!  Mild hangover until mid-afternoon.  I also think strong alcohol flavors don't usually fit well with the other flavors I look for in beer.  It just leaves the beer way too unbalanced.  I don't think it works to balance one strong flavor with other strong flavors - you just end up with competing over-the-top components. 

Offline jmsetzler

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2014, 03:31:39 AM »


I just had this conversation with a friend and we agreed, its getting more difficult to find beers that aren't about being over the top about everything!



I guess I can buy that.  It's obviously more about the marketing than the beer.  Everyone is trying to differentiate themselves and the only way they can find to do that is by topping the next guy's hop bomb or high gravity offering.  Makes sense from a $$ aspect.

I guess you can't differentiate yourself with an exquisite saison or phenomenal nut brown ale. 

This is now why I homebrew.  It's getting harder to find good beer :)

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2014, 04:38:23 AM »
Some are pulling away from hop bombing only. Ninkasi for quite a while was all hops in every beer, seemed like. But lately they've been putting out some mighty fine German brews. Lux, Venn, Wunderbier, love all three of them!

Offline duboman

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2014, 01:35:12 PM »


I just had this conversation with a friend and we agreed, its getting more difficult to find beers that aren't about being over the top about everything!



I guess I can buy that.  It's obviously more about the marketing than the beer.  Everyone is trying to differentiate themselves and the only way they can find to do that is by topping the next guy's hop bomb or high gravity offering.  Makes sense from a $$ aspect.

I guess you can't differentiate yourself with an exquisite saison or phenomenal nut brown ale. 

This is now why I homebrew.  It's getting harder to find good beer :)
Well, the reality is that in order to succeed in the industry you need to produce what sells and if the trend right now is to make over the top beers because that's what the general public is seeking out then you have to brew it. I've said this before, when I go to various ber festivals every brewery represented has a major hop bomb, high ABV beer in their lineup and in some cases, every beer they offer is that way and the lines for them are looong! This works well for me as I try to find the things that aren't over the top and the lines are usually smaller, the beers are usually better and the people serving them have more time to talk about their craft and spend time with you:)
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2014, 01:37:45 PM »
I think we are starting to see a revival of smaller beers and I would say among homebrewers the trend towards smaller beers and more balanced beers is even further along. I suspect you will start seeing some of those basic craft styles that were more popular in the 90s come back around. For craft breweries it's a no brainer. If you can sell a 4% beer with moderate hopping at the same price as the IPA that is more expensive to brew then there's a lot of profit to obtain on the smaller beer.

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Offline redbeerman

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Re: American Fascination with HOPS
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2014, 01:42:09 PM »
Absence of finesse.
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