On April 10th, the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club gathered again, this time to delve into the world of hoppy beers. Ten club members gathered at Jeff’s apartment on the fringes of downtown Minneapolis to get their bitter on. This event was the second of three monthly events exploring the main ingredients of beer, malt, hops, and yeast. If last month’s Malty Beers event was about the meat and potatoes of beer, this month’s event was all about the spice. As Perfect Pint’s resident CiceroneTM I guided the group through a selection of beers intended to showcase the full range of hop experience from no hops to over-the-top hops with several stops in between.
At last month’s event, the group had been pestering me about bringing one of my own homebrewed beers to taste. I acquiesced, pouring my own pre-prohibition American lager as the welcome beer. This is beer the beer your grandfather or great grandfather might have enjoyed. Full flavored with a grainy/corny malt profile, it is assertively hopped with native Cluster hops with their distinctive “catty” or “marijuana -like” flavor and aroma. Maybe they were just being nice, but many claimed this beer as a standout of the night.
From this historic beer style we moved on to another even more ancient, a 13th Century Gruit Bier from Weihenstephan and the Doemens Institute in Germany. As hops are a relatively recent addition to the brewer’s toolbox, it seemed to me appropriate to begin an exploration of hops with a sample of what beer might have been like before hops. This herb-bittered and wild fermented wheat based beer reveals complex menthol, citrus, and herbal flavors with just a hint of wild yeast funkiness. It received a mixed review from the group with one club regular commenting, “I didn’t say I liked it, but it does taste how I thought it would taste.”
From there we entered a more familiar realm with Well’s Bombardier English Pale Ale. Exhibiting the typical English caramel malt and hay-like English hops with a bite of bitterness at the front, this beer was a favorite of those who do not tend toward the hoppy beers. Next we jumped the Channel to the continent to taste the European Noble hops, starting with the original light colored lager Pilsner Urquell. Because it comes in green bottles and is typically skunked by the time it arrives here in stores, many people don’t fully appreciate the beauty of this beer. Look for the cans to get the full rich malt and perfumy Saaz hop character that makes this a world class beer. The Düsseldorf Altbier style was represented by the regional pick of the month Headless Man Amber Ale from Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This was another good one for the non-hop-lovers with a rich caramel and toast malt balancing the peppery spiciness of the German hops; bitter and hoppy, but not over the top.
The big and bracing flavors of American hops were represented by four beers, Cane & Ebel from Two Brothers, New Dog Town Pale Ale from Lagunitas, Three Floyds Dreadnaught Double IPA, and Old Horizontal Barleywine from Victory Brewing Company. These beers represented American hoppy styles of different intensities and flavors, from the bitter but balanced Cane & Able to the super-intense Dreadnaught, and from the grapefruit citrus of Old Horizontal to the straight-up Christmas tree pine character of the New Dog Town Pale Ale.
Like Malty Beer Night where I had malt samples on hand for tasting, for this event I had examples of English, Continental, and American hops on hand for smelling. Attendees were able to smell and taste the beer and compare that experience to the raw ingredient. Overall the event was great fun, with a good amount of education thrown in. I will say one thing for this group. We can go through some beer. Once again, there was not a drop of beer left at the end of the night.
Next up is Yeast!