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On the Evils of Hops

It’s fairly well known that I generally prefer the malt to the hop, which is unsurprising given the beers I grew up drinking; thinner, sweeter beers like the browns and milds popular in old-fashioned British Midlands pubs in the 80s. Even when I moved into the pale ales and bitter beers, I was happy enough drinking them as session beers.

The Evil Hop

The Evil Hop

I didn’t mind a little hoppiness, after all it’s what makes a good ale. That said, I came to realise that I loathed too much hop, and I can even tell you where I was. It was a Saturday afternoon, at the Bell pub in Norwich, a debauched post-rugby drinking binge with a vast number of rugger buggers intent on swilling as much beer as possible as quickly as possible. Not a pretty sight, and not an easy one for me, given that they dragged me into their foul antics. It was during the early evening that someone bought me an IPA (possibly because they’d drunk all the bitter). It revolted me. Not oly that but it sent my poor belly into spasm and gave me heartburn. Honestly, it wasn’t the several brews I’d downed beforehand. This was astringent, sharp, and it burned.

When I moved to California, I delighted in finding many beers I could enjoy from a multitude of microbreweries, but as I ventured further afield and pushed back the boundaries, I came across a new phenomenon – the overhopped beer. With names like Hoppy Face Brewery and the Big Ass Hoppy Amber it became clear that many breweries were jumping onto a hop bandwagon and there were many who followed them. Having tried a few (Racer 5 being notable) I decided that I would eschew the hop and stick with my malts.

But I was scorned, and scoffed at, and abused by the hopheads who insisted that unless a beer burned one’s gullet, it was a no-good beer. But it seems that I am not alone in my observation that the hop madness has gone too far.  The excellent Samuel Smith writes:  “…there’s a disturbing trend that needs talking about: a runaway obsession with hops…” Please, good brewers, leave it out, and bring me a good Nut Brown Ale. Oh, and a nice pork pie.

Categories: Beers
  1. 10 January, 2012 at 08:54

    Glad to hear it isn’t just me. Fortunately, there’s lots of experimentation going on with ingredients other than hops. I’m finding lots of incredible sours lately and the Crooked Stave Wild Wild Brett series is playing with some wild yeast in very interesting ways.

  2. Matt Kane
    19 January, 2012 at 16:36

    Was it Greene King IPA by any chance? I seem to recall that they hailed from East Anglia. Damn, I cut my teeth on that stuff before switching to Abbot Ale (a very fine tipple) and then Guinness (much kinder on one’s peptic ulcers).

    If perchance it was, I never thought GK IPA actually burned; I just assumed it was Satan’s stale urine. Nasty.

    • 20 January, 2012 at 07:38

      It may well have been Green King, aye, I do remember having to spit out a mouthful of it on another occasion.

      One good thing about hops? Yes, they help you calm down. Relax, mon.

  3. Matt Kane
    19 January, 2012 at 16:47

    From “The Daily Mirror Big Book of Facts” (after the entry for “Toxteth O’Grady”):

    Now, I have been reliably informed that the hops plant is related to another green plant historically used in the manufacture of rope. Apparently it is possible to graft hops plants onto the root-stock of the, uh, “rope plant”, thus growing a strange hops plant that is, uh, no good for making rope but should never be discarded on the bonfire, if you get my drift. Or not. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is soluble in alcohol; the first person to brew such a hoppy beverage should be awarded a family-size pack of cookies and any album by Hawkwind.

    Not many people know that.

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