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Yes! Writer Decries Hoppy Domination Of Craft Beer Scene

Submitted by on May 17, 2013 – 10:11 amNo Comment

This week, Slate writer Adrienne So criticized one of the most sacred cows of the craft brewing scene: the hop. In “Against Hoppy Beer,” So outlined her passion for the flower that gives beer its bitter taste, while arguing that brewers engage in an increasingly meaningless “arms race.” She argues that the craft brewing scene has turned away fans who think good beer must be powerfully bitter; and I couldn’t agree more.

So explains that, despite their many positive qualities, hops also rose to prominence just to help craft beer be different:

Hops’ strong flavors present a stark contrast to watered-down horse piss, which is how I believe one refers to Bud Light in the common parlance. Maximizing hops is a good way for craft brewers to distinguish their creations from mass-market brands.

And among beer connoisseurs (or snobs), Bud Light is death.

But So also points out that the positive flavor aspects of hops, measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs), may have gone past their usefulness: many experts agree that human taste can’t detect differences above 60 IBUs, but brewers are now producing brews past 100. Pale Ales and India Pale Ales, two of the most hoppy variations available, dominate the market; IPAs are generally considered the “flagship” of the craft movement, and are ubiquitous in beer bars and stores.

Finally, So points out that bitterness isn’t the only thing that distinguishes good beer. She lists several fruit, wheat, and lager beers from fine American craft breweries, and urges brewers to put the same emphasis on variations of yeast, barely, and other ingredients (Christmas trees, anyone?) that they put on hops.

The beer community seems to be taking So’s article with a mix of begrudging agreement and disdainful rejection. The Reddit beer forum latched onto certain hyperlinks to the article that said “hops enthusiasts are ruining craft beer,” even though the article never uses that wording or sentiment. The forum objects that hops aren’t “ruining” anything, but seems to agree that they are overemphasized.

A forum on BeerAdvocate, on the other hand, calls So’s article “lazy,” and interprets it as an urging to reach out to the dreaded “Bud Light” drinkers. (Never!)

Personally, I’d be thrilled to see more choice in less-hoppy craft beers. I learned long ago that I personally don’t like pale ales. Creamy Belgian ales, malty stouts and porters, sweet unfiltered wheat beers- they all offer quality beer with little or no with bitterness. But then again, I’m no connoisseur.

Tons of people love hoppy, bitter beer. And they should have it. But if you’re commanding nine out of ten taps at the bar, couldn’t you spare just one more? Thanks.


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