How much to you love hops? Hops are the bittering agents in beer and are responsible for a wide range of weak to intense aromatic properties in beer. In the past decade hops have taken the beer world by storm and a huge hophead culture has developed all across the globe, but most predominantly in the United States.
So many people are seeking out massively hopped beers these days that U.S. breweries from coast to coast are producing new beers designed to emphasize the natural aromatic flavor characteristics of hops. The American Pale Ale almost by definition is now a richly hopy amber pale ale. Beyond that, beers like Double and Imperial IPAs are becoming more and more popular every day.
Double IPAs like the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA have made their way on to the regularly available list for most breweries and pubs. These beers could certainly be considered an acquired taste, they are generally pretty intense, but those who like them like them a lot!
Weyerbacher’s history is classic American Homebrewer turned brewery story. All it look for Dan and Sue Weirback’s hobby to explode into a dream reality was a trip to brewery-rich Vermont in 1993. By 1995 they had established the Weyerbacher Brewery in downtown Easton, PA. After spending two years brewing more mainstream products, Dan realized his mistake and began to focus on big beers; the first being a Raspberry Imperial Stout. Although no one seemed too interested in a standard Pale Ale, they were sure excited about a Raspberry Imperial Stout, and soon-to-come Blithering Idiot Barleywine.
This is the real deal right here. Craft breweries creating unique and exciting beers that people will genuinely get pumped about. How do you get pumped for another run of the mill bland beer? I really don’t know, I’ll ask the Coor’s marketing team for the answer.
The Double Simcoe IPA is another of Weyerbacher’s big beers, and it is also a regular now in their beer portfolio to heed the call of all the hopheads out there. It comes in a 355ml bottle at 9% abv. It was designed to provide all of the rich flavor and aroma characteristics of Simcoe Hops without the harsh or aggressive bite. Only Simcoe Hops were used because they are prized for their high Alpha Acid content, maximum aromatic oils, and low cohumulone (a chemical which produces a harsh bitterness). When you brew with hops you are looking essentially at two different properties being imparted to your beer.
1) Bitterness; the longer the hops boil in the mash, the more Alpha Acids will be absorbed into the wort creating a strong bitter sensation. After time though you will loose the flavor characteristics of the hops and are left with the strict bitterness itself. Depending on style and goals, this may or may not be optimal.
2) Aroma; if hops are in the mash for a shorter period of time you are able to extract the hop’s flavor contributions without loosing their potent aromatic qualities. This imparts a more noticeable hop flavor and aroma in beer without becoming excessively bitter on the palate.
Depending on the style, bitter hops vs. aroma hops will be balanced, or emphasized in one direction vs the other. In the case of the Double Simcoe IPA, Weyerbacher has desided to focus on the aroma hops, producing a beer with all the rich flavor characteristics of hops, but lacking the serious bitterness that would have naturally come along with it. I split this beer with a good friend of mine into two tulip glasses. It poured easily with light viscosity producing a glowing amber red beer with a short half inch dense cream colored head. The beer was calm showing a transparent golden mahogany color with touches of bronze and orange – quite beautiful.
The nose was powerfully floral with bright citrus flavors and generous pale and caramel malts. Grapefruit and lemon peel was easily detectable, and pine and earth gave away to the backdrop of sweet dense malt. The nose was very rich and aromatic; hinting on the true power of this beer. We poured this beer relatively warm around 14C (54F). For a big IPA like this we were directly trying to emphasize the richness of the hops, so a touch colder could have muted them.
Drinking this beer is a bit confusing because it is hard to tell what comes in first – rich and potent hops burst in with sweet citrus fruit, pine, earth, honey and spice. But at the same time dense malt glows through with caramel, toffee, brown sugar and sweet candy. It was actually weird cause I was looking for some bitter hops to come in a balance the sweetness, but the hops were in there adding to the sweetness. Very strange sensation, very interesting.
I kept playing with this beer contemplating its construction, and really it just continued to confuse me. Maybe that was a good thing though, proving that the malt and hops here are in perfect unison playing off each others strengths. Really the backbone of this beer is in the malt, but the hops have so much rich aromatic power that they share center stage.
There was minimal carbonation on this beer and the overall mouthfeel was somewhere between silky and oily. It did emphasize the power of the hops, but I actually would have preferred a delicate rumble of carbonation to scrub my palate. The finish was lightly dry but sweet, with a medium short end. We both enjoyed this beer a lot, but it does not go in the top Double IPAs for me. Although many would scoff at the idea of an IPA with desert, but this baby was built for rich chocolate, I guarantee it!