Monday, March 25, 2013

Hops: A brief history

Hops are a common ingredient in beers today, but that wasn’t always the case. In the middle ages, when beer was consumed by the Western world as a safer alternative to water, common flavoring ingredients included dandelion, burdock root, marigold and horehond. But we’ve come a long way, baby, and now horehound isn’t even a blip on our beer-flavored radar. (What is horehound, anyways?)

Hops got big when people noticed ales were less likely to spoil when they were included in the mix. The creation of ‘hop yards’ and ‘hop gardens’ throughout England came about when the Dutch introduced hops to the English brewing style in the 16th century. The U.S. didn’t get on board until the mid-17th century. 

The heyday for the hop really began with the advent of the India Pale Ale, and IPAs remain the most famously hoppy of all hoppy beers. Remember when we mentioned that hops helped ales stay fresh? The legend around India Pale Ales is that they were strongly hopped to remain unspoiled during the long journey from England to India. That’s still up for debate (porters shipped the same distance fared just as well). What’s not uncertain is that the English palate demanded a bitter, hop-forward beer and India Pale Ales rose quickly in popularity in the 1840s.

Hundreds of years later, the world is still bonkers for hops. Beer snobs diligently track which type of hop is used in each brew (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Tomahawk, Golding, etc), and varieties vary even within our borders: the east coast still favors balanced malt, whereas the west coast goes hop crazy, every time. And let’s not even get into double IPAs. Or maybe we should, because double IPAs are even hoppier, and that’s crazy.

So stayed tuned to our Facebook and Twitter and get ready for a very hoppy April, because every Tuesday we’re pairing our favorite variety of hoppy brews with our ideal dishes to balance or enhance our favorite bitter taste.

No comments:

Post a Comment