Pictures of the beer taken by David Campion-Smith
Hogsback Brewing Vintage Lager
This is a light and refreshing beer. It’s got a good caramel colour to it and a small head. The hops is kept in check by a bit of sweetness but neither of the flavours are overpowering. The flavours come in waves and they do a good job of making it all count. To put it mildly this beer tastes like what Molson Canadian tries to be, and is an excellent all around sipping beer.
Big Rig Brewing Hoppin Maibock
This is an interesting beer. To begin with it’s a little stronger than other beers, at 5.8 per cent, and while it’s not big you certainly can notice the difference. The flavours seemed to vary quite a bit from one sip to the next, in terms of how much hops I was tasting. I was a little considered that this beer would be too overwhelmingly hoppy for me, but by the end the hops were much more muted than they had been. I’m not sure it’s a favourite but it’s definitely worth a look.
Photo from Creative Commons user Paul Miller
A brief Guide to hops
Hops Hops Hops! Hops are one of the constant ingredients in beer. All beer has hops in it and it serves a couple of purposes. Hops add a lot of citrus and floral notes while also giving a bitter taste. Crucially hops also act as a form of preservative, which was super important back before we had chemical preservatives. In fact it’s that ability to preserve that spawned a whole form of beer, the India Pale Ale or IPA, which was a normal ale with more hops added to it so it could survive the long sea voyage to quench the thirst of British soldiers in India during colonization.
The hops we add to our beer are the flowers of a climbing vine that’s native to North America, Europe and parts of Asia. Humans have been cultivating this vine for a very long time and there are over 100 different types of hops used in brewing.
Like so much else in beer hops are divided into two categories; bittering hops and aroma hops. Bittering hops are added at the beginning of a beer’s boiling process to add a bitter flavour. Aroma hops are added at the last 15 minutes to give a nice aroma to the beer, typically a citrus one.
While it isn’t super important to be able to identify hops, not to mention a little hard to do, here’s a run down on a few different types of hops.
Noble Hops– This is actually an umbrella term for a group of hops like Tettnanger, Spalt, Saaz, and my favourite Hallertauer Mittelfruh. Each of these hops have their own unique attributes but the important fact about them is that they’re the basis of most German and Czech beers.
Cascade-A hugely important hop that was the first commercial hop grown in the United States. This is very popular in Pale Ales and IPAs from West Coast United States and has a very strong floral taste and aroma.
Challenger-This is a popular hop for English pale ales. Some say it has a spicy flavour while others say it has more of an earthiness.
This was by necessity a super short look at hops but if it peaked your interest at all I recommend checking out these sites, which while designed more for home brewers, can give you a run down on almost every type of hop that exists.