Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hop Crisis

It seems we are in the midst of a hop crisis. Weather conditions have wreaked havoc on the hop crop in Europe. Demand for Bio Fuels have farmers in the US trading in hop space for corn and other potential biofuels. The crisis will not effect the big brewers as much as the craft brewers. Watery beer doesn't use as much hops to come up with its distinct tastelessness. The average beer drinking American probably won't even notice that we are in the middle of a crisis. As for the rest of us, the hop crisis is as serious as the gasoline shortage of the 1970's and the price increases on barrels of crude oil today. Take away my SUV, charge me over $4.00 a gallon for gasoline, but never, ever mess with my Imperial Brews and my IPA's.

As craft beer consumers, we can expect a beer price increase due to the hop shortage as well as an increase in the cost of harvesting barley. Add transportation fuel costs to the mix and good beer is going to be more expensive. The price increase won't be an issue for me. I will keep the cost relationship for good beer in perspective. An average four glass bottle of wine costs $12.00. A six pack of beer or a couple of bombers or even a champagne corked bottle of Belgian Ale is still a bargain compared to wine.

The problem is what to do with the lack of hops situation. Hops are the distinct ingredient in all of our beers. We get our tastes, flavors and aromas from a variety of hops. Craft brewers will probably use their creativity and use more spices and less hops, ala the Belgians to make up for the shortage. But I have come up with an alternative. Start growing your own hops. It doesn't take much space. I planted two hop rhizomes last season in the spring and then filled up a bucket full of hops in the late summer. These two rhizomes literally took a couple of inches in ground space and about six feet in height. I didn't even string them out the way they were supposed to be planted. I had them grow on a trellis. I am assuming most craft breweries must have some yard space. Let's get the Rhizomes planted. It's time to grow hops. Maybe our fellow American Beer Drinkers can take part. Backyard hop gardens. Let's not take this crisis lying down, we can start a hop revolution. Our slogan: Save Your Beer, Grow a Hop!

The Beers

Aktien-Brauerei Kaufbeuren St. Martin Dunkle Dopplebock:
That was a mouthful to pronounce. It was also a mouthful to drink. A deep, dark black malty beer. Thin head with a roasty, smokey toffee taste. Smooth mouthfeel. Classic German Dark Beer! Cold, Strong and Refreshing. Given to me by my good Friend from Michigan, I can imagine drinking this one in Frankenmuth with my lederhosen on and a polka in the background.

Undercover Investigation Shut Down Ale, Lagunita's Brewing Co.: This bitter ale was thick and malty looking with an extreme warming taste sensation. This baby had no balance between malt and hops as it leaned way towards the hoppy side. A huge bitter aftertaste! Delicious. 9.28 alcohol per volume, so it's a strong one.

Butte Creek Brewing Co, 10th Anniversary Imperial IPA: What a beer! Cloudy reddish, copper color, no head to speak of, mild hop smell, moderate malty aroma. This beer went down with a malty start, warmed up with a dry, hop bitter finish. I consider this beer a close second to Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, a compliment to be sure.

Belzebuth: France's answer to Barleywine. This ale clocks in at 13% and pours a cloudy, rusty color. This devil has a sweet malty aroma to entice you with temptation. Once you tasted it, you would dance with the devil's sister. Very warm and tingles all the way down. This is one helluva a beer. The ultimate fireplace brew!!