Anchor Distilling in San Francisco's Potrero Hill is a pretty small operation—the copper stills they use to make Old Potrero Whiskey, Junipero Gin, and Genevieve could probably all fit in my living room. They've recently released a new, unusual product—a vodka distilled with two types of Yakima Valley hops.
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Careful readers may have caught my first article on how to identify the "three C" hops in beer a few weeks back. If you did, the fun must be winding down by now—there's only so many times you can call out a whiff of that Cascade grapefruit before the other regulars at your local get a little sick of you. It's time to expand your repertoire.
These days, there seem to be more hopheads out there than uhh....human heads. And yet, not many people know what exactly goes into their bitter beers—what makes each brew different from the other. Hoppiness exists not merely as a linear scale of IBUs, but as an array of flavors, aromas, and bitterness. Each hop variety (and there are dozens) is different, and identifying them is easier than you might think. Let's start with the hope you're most likely to be sipping in your pint of American IPA: a group of hops known as the "Three C's."
American beer geeks have consistently worshiped the iconic hops of the Pacific Northwest: the grapefruity Cascade, the orangey Amarillo, the resinous Columbus. This obsession will likely continue into infinity, but there's a recent trend in American craft beer that bears acknowledgement: the growing popularity of Southern Hemisphere hop varieties, particularly from New Zealand and Australia.
Hops are extremely versatile, but that versatility is underexploited by homebrewers, microbrewers, and—of course—macrobrewers. Many brewers have pushed our palates to the limit of our hops bitterness tolerance, simply by cramming more and more hops into each pint. Few have stretched our palates to appreciate the many nuances hops have to offer. Here are a few techniques that will help you get the most out of your hops.
Knowing your hops is key to brewing great beer. There are dozens of varieties to choose from, and each year seems to bring more. Being familiar with the characteristics of a few essential hops can help you improve your recipe designs and make it easier to find substitutions when your homebrew shop's selection runs low. Here are a few tips on common hop varieties and the best way to use them.
Hops are a hearty perennial that will continue to produce more hop cones each year they mature. A first year plant may produce no more than a few ounces of hops, but by the third year some varieties will yield 1 to 2 pounds per plant. That's as much as many homebrewers use in a single season.
Opening a sealed package of hops from the homebrew store gives a blast of that fresh aroma that sometimes seems to be difficult to capture in a beer. The truth is, the simple technique of dry hopping is all it takes to bring out those wonderfully fresh citrus, pine and earthy aromas in your homebrew.
Photograph from v1ctory_1s_m1ne on Flickr With hops prices skyrocketing as fast as gasoline, a pint of beer can run you at least five dollars, and it might not even be a real pint. Some bars are sneakily shrinking glasses from the traditional pint size of 16 ounces to only 14 ounces. According to the Wall Street Journal, two of the world's largest glassware makers (Libbey and Cardinal International) both noted that "orders of smaller beer glasses have risen over the past year." To keep drinkers fooled, the glasses have a thicker bottom or shaft, or bartenders just devote the extra space to foamy head. Over at Beer Advocate, a forum related to the article has emerged, and many consumers...
At Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego, the brewing part might get toned down. With hops up from $6 to $30, according to the San Diego Reader, brewer Yuseff Cherney is struggling to make his Dorado Double India Pale Ale. Over at Pizza Port in nearby Carlsbad, Hop Suey Double IPA is also in harm's way. With worldwide hop acreage about one-fourth of what it was 15 years ago, microbrewers might be diluting signature flavors in the upcoming year, or even considering vintner's licenses....