Are hops overused?
Whoa, perhaps this is an incendiary question. Why, then, am I posing it? Well, I am doing so indirectly, as it was posed to me by our friend, the famous oenophile, Nic Haegeli. Nic knows what he is talking about, for sure. Nic also enjoys challenging the practices of modern wine makers and brewers. He is an old world wine man through and through. So what drove him to push my hop shrouded button? He slyly prodded me under the guise of the new world use (or over use) of oak in wine making.
Many new world wines can be generalized as overly fruity, overly oaky bold wines appealing to a broad class of bold palates. One could even go so far as to label these wines one dimensional and unrefined. The same might be said about countless IPA’s on the market today.
I am an advocate of American brewing, although I have a deep appreciation for traditional brewing from Belgium, Germany and Britain. When forced to declare where the best beer in the world is made I am inclined to say, America. I am well aware that much of American brewing is the bastardization of original styles from other places in the world, but I see both the emulation and the re-invention of these styles leading to some amazing results. We replicate quite well and our creativity is unending. America is very much new world brewing.
One thing that is all over shelves and menus across our great nation is IPA. IPA is perhaps the go-to style (pale can get some credit here too) for most brewing ventures in the US and there is no shortage of hop freaks to support it. So, all these IPAs have to be different, right?
They are indeed. The glory of hops is that there are so many of them, all with wonderful flavors to contribute to beer. There are good IPAs and bland IPAs. There are piney hops and citrusy hops, resiny hops and delicate hops. I could go on, because I love hops.
What about the prevalence of hops though? I suppose I can concede that there exists many a one-sided beer. I do hear the term ‘balance’ about as much as anything else when it comes to talking about beer. I see that this term is loosely applied in many instances. I’ll also concede that there is many an IPA that is not ‘balanced’.
So are hops overused?
In my opinion – no! Hops are what I like and what many others like. They are used to create numerous iterations of a fantastic style of beer. Hoppy beers are everywhere and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Especially now as we approach harvest ale season. Stealing from a previous post… There is little better than beer that is derived from the fresh harvest of the necessary ingredients. The most prominent of these ingredients is hops and usually that is the driving flavor of a harvest ale. Many breweries take this opportunity to make a ‘wet hop’ IPA, where the newly harvested hops are added in immediately with no drying in between. Being one who remains obsessed with the delicious flavor of hops, I find harvest time quickly becoming my favorite beer season. I find IPAs to be more of a summer style than a winter style, but harvest ales are generally coming out as IPAs with a heartier malt balance and many pour a more rich amber than their lighter IPA counterparts.
Bring on the hops! New world brewing is awesome!