22 September 2010

Better Brewing: Hoppy Beers (courtesy of Russian River)

Thanks to Andy for showing me this post on Brew Monkey from Russian River's brewer/owner Vinnie Cilurzo on ten ways to improve hoppy home brews.  I'd like to see explanations for the rationale behind some of these points, but Russian River has a lot of credibility when it comes to brewing ultra-hoppy beers, so I'm willing to take on faith these empirical discoveries.  I'm not sure how feasible the oxygen purging is for home brewers, but the water chemistry and crystal malt points are definitely interesting things to play around with.

Back to the Lab

Wow, it's been awhile since I've cataloged my adventures in brewing, drinking, and all things beer.  I haven't been brewing too much, but I've done my share of drinking the last couple months, attending the Oregon Brewer's Festival in Portland, OR and Stone Brewing Co.'s 14th Anniversary Celebration in Escondido, CA, as I've slowly been working my way through my own Brown Magic IPA and Isla Vista-licious Hefeweizen creations.  More on how the latter turned out later.  I had a lot of good beers at both places -- the Stone shindig in particular gave me the opportunity to try a lot of one-offs, barrel-aged, and generally rare beers which was a pretty interesting experience (hello red-wine-barrel aged IPA), as was meeting Stone CEO Greg Koch.

Some of my favorites over this summer have been:
  • Deschutes Brewery's "Fresh Squeezed IPA" - An IPA with great hop bitterness/aroma, still very crisp and refreshing.  To borrow terminology from winemakers, I'd call this a varietal beer, and in my opinion, sets the gold standard (sorry, Sierra Nevada) for how Citra hops can be showcased to good effect.
  • Ninkasi Brewing Co's "Maiden the Shade" - Even putting aside the fact I'm a sucker for a good pun, this is a solid brew.  In contrast to Deschutes' varietal IPA offering, this is a quintessential American hop-centric appelation, with seven different varieties of American hops.  A palate-scorcher, but one that's worth it.
  • Laurelwood Brewing Co's "Organic Deranger Imperial Red" - Just incredible malt and hop profiles that work well together.  I find it tough to balance a large crystal malt flavor, strong alcoholic warmth, and nice hop aroma, but these guys do it well.
  • BrewDog / Cambridge Brewing Co / Stone Brewing Co's "Juxtaposition Black Pilsner" - Simultaneously light and drinkable, with the roasted malt complexity and aggressively hopped aroma from something like Stone's "Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale."
  • Russian River Brewing Co's "Pliny the Elder" - Arguably the flagship offering from this brewery, I finally got the chance to try this double IPA at Stone's Anniversary celebration.  A true hop head's dream, and somehow more drinkable (I hesitate to say balanced at 100+ IBU) than Stone's Ruination IPA.