Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hop it up!

I started growing hop vines in my backyard garden. I did this because I am a home brewer and thought it would be neat to add my own home grown fresh hops to the kettle. My other reason was that as an avid beer drinker and brewer, the hops, which happen to look really cool, would serve as a conversation piece and attention grabber. As it turns out, my hop vines are now the most interesting and physically imposing plant in the garden. Now, into my third hop season, the vines are pretty massive and yield a lot of hops. This year I came up with an innovative use for my fresh hop cones. The hop garnish. Instead of a wimpy piece of fruit in your guests glass of beer, I now place a fresh hop cone into mine and their beer glasses. Talk about a conversation starter! The great thing about the hop garnish, other than how cool it looks floating in the beer, is that it "belongs there." What better garnish then hops with beer?

For the brave among you, when you finish drinking the beer, eat the hop. Bitter as can be, but not that bad!

The Month in Beers

Sirius, from Lagunita's Brewing. Not the satellite radio company, but a special release, high gravity cream ale. Lagunita's Brewing released this batch as a celebration for spring. I was a little late and did my part by drinking four to kick off the summer season. I don't know if it was the 7% alcohol or my nostalgia for my high school go to beer, Genesee Cream Ale, but this beer was damn good. Well balanced hop bite with a malty follow through. Cool, creamy and delicious.

Flower Power IPA, from Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca NY. Dr. Stu once again provided the refreshments. He loves all things Ithaca. He not only went to college in Ithaca, he went to two colleges in Ithaca. I wonder if this beer had anything to do with that? An extremely drinkable IPA with ever present hops in the aroma and taste, but not overpowering enough to make this beer have a one or two beer limit.

Here is one with a limit. West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego, Ca. Highly hopped and the taste is in every sip. Very strong grapefruit rind taste. This is a tasty brew, but I couldn't drink more than two. 7.5% alcohol, with a huge hop wallop in every sip. This beer was not only brewed with a large amount of hops, it was brewed with four varieties. Simcoe hops for the extreme grapefruit rind taste, Centenial hops for the piney taste, Columbus hops for the bitterness and Cascade hops for the aroma.