Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MAXED OUT: Hop this way.

Max is back and in a much better mood after he was able to get a thing or two off his chest in last week's installment of MAXED OUT. After all, how long can one remain angry when one is talking about beer?

Welcome back my fermented friends. I have been thinking all week about what to write for this week's edition when it occurred to me: Not everyone out there may be as well versed in the craft of brewing as myself. Huh, how 'bout that! So today I'm gonna be takin' y'all on a little adventure I like to call "BREWING 101" while mainly focusing on my personal favorite flower, the hop.

OK, quick question: What would you say is the main ingredient in beer? Don't worry, I'll give you a minute...... That's right my little geniuses, it's WATER! Beer is comprised of about 95% water, so next time you go into a bar and ask for a glass of water, don't be so surprised when the barkeep gives you a funny look. The other two primary ingredients are your starch sources (or malts) & a flavoring component, usually being hops. Now there are a million different starch sources you can use and hundreds of different hop varietals, so I won't be getting into that specifically but I did want to drop some knowledge on you about hops in general.

The Hop plant, or Humulus Lupulus (how cool is that name?), is actually a flower and a cousin of Cannabis, or WEED! The female species is the one that blossoms into a flower and is the one that we use in beer. There are many functions of hops in beer but two in particular are going to be the topic of discussion today: flavor and preservation. The hops are used to cut the sweetness of the malts as the hops are more bitter and floral. So often times you will hear me calling a beer piney, or zesty, a reference to the hop notes in the beer. There is actually a chart that quantifies the amount of hops in a beer called the IBUs in a beer or International Bitterness Units. But the amount of hops in a beer really has no bearing on the overall ABV or alcohol by volume. That's all up to our good friends the Malt family! Thank you Malt family, you've been helping ugly people get laid for centuries!

Now, the preservation of the beer is another big reason why we hop our beers. Did you know that beer is pretty much the harvesting of bacteria for consumption? I mean, quite literally that's what it is. And hops are natural antibiotics which helps keep the bacteria from running wild. You've all heard of an IPA before, right? Well, often people mistakenly call it an Indian Pale Ale, thinking that it had something to do with the American Indians. It actually means India Pale Ale, as in dots, not feathers. What happened was, when those bloody Brits were traversing to and from India, the sailors had to get their drink on, so what did they do? They jam-packed their beer with hops to keep it fresher longer. That's why IPAs are typically going to be the hoppiest beers around and therefore more piney, citrusy, aromatic, and are most likely going to be higher on the IBUs. And therefore DELICIOUS!

Whew! Well, my head is kinda spinning from blabbing about beer so I think I'm going to keep today's lecture short and sweet. Thanks for putting up with my gas-baggery and, as always, feel free to comment in the section below, on Facebook, or at

Until next time, have a drink for me.


B@manMadeira said...

Thanks Max for the tutorial! Appreciate the info.

drozz said...

if you are interested in brewing your own beer, i suggest finding your local brewing supply warehouse. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING OUT OF A CATALOG OR AT A MALL.

talk to the staff, go for a tasting, and start with the basics-EPAs are very simple to do. Just like brewing tea, but only the house smells much better.

Matt said...

Who's this drozz dude trying to sell us shit? Anyway, nice write-up McClain. I foresee a post on the different varietals (without making it too scientific) or perhaps the difference between fresh or wet hopping and pellets. Or not. My only question is where did you get that 95% stat? By its abv alone, Speedway Stout can't be any more than 87% water. Maybe an explanation of how the grain bill affects the alcohol content and character of a beer would be in order. Ok I'll shut up now, thanks for stimulating geeky discourse on beer!

Road Dawg said...

Beer-Smack,you guys make me laugh. Keep up the good work and enjoy!