Americans love hops. Sales of India Pale Ales, a beer style characterized by the citrusy, sappy, bitter notes hops impart, grew 44 percent in 2013, according to the market research company IRI. Sales continued to grow in the first part of 2014, and with the craft beer sector as a whole growing as well, our IPA obsession shows no signs of slowing down.
We love hops, but it’s not often we stop to think about them. A new variety pack from Samuel Adams is intended to make us do just that. Like most India Pale Ales, Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA is brewed with several hops, in this case five. The Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed pack features the completed IPA, plus five beers brewed with just one of the hops. The beers are labeled one through five, and groups of drinkers are encouraged to go through them in that order to parse out the flavors.
Different hops do different things. With all else being equal in a beer, you should be able to distinguish unique flavors from the use of a single hop that you might not pick up on otherwise. Here are my results:
1. East Kent Goldings: This traditional hop from the County of Kent is the common hop used for English ales. It’s earthy and a bit spicy, and despite the bottle telling me there were apricot notes, I had a hard time finding them. This is a bready beer; it smells like molasses, and the East Kent Goldings don’t do much to tweak the flavor profile. Not my favorite beer here.
2. Mosaic: This recently popular American hop comes up second, and I think Samuel Adams did this on purpose. Added to the mix pack this year, Mosaic is known for its notes of pineapple and orange. If the first hop is like crawling around under cypress trees, these are akin to sniffing some tropical drinks. The flavor profiles couldn’t be further removed from one another, and it’s illustrative of just how divergent the ingredient can be.
3. Hallertau Mittelfrueh: Marketed as the “noble” hop, this German variety has a reputation as one of the best aromatic hops in the world. As the sole flavor of an IPA, though, it’s pleasant but muted, fun to drink but hardly memorable.
4. Simcoe: Used for bittering and aroma, this proprietary hop was bred and released in 2000. There’s a grapefruit punch, but the beer is largely spicy and dank, with hints of onion and garlic. This may sound gross, but many of the big American IPAs are brewed with Simcoe or hops that resemble it, such as Cascade and Chinook.
5. Zeus: An American aromatic hop from the Yakima Valley in Washington, this one gets lumped together with the Columbus and Tomahawk varieties. It’s intensely piney and resinous in character, and by itself it contributes to a beer that’s pretty fun to drink.
6. Latitude 48 IPA: At last we reach the final product. It’s almost a relief, knowing this was how the finished IPA was supposed to taste. There’s grapefruit and lemon zest and pine cones and onions and mud, and it’s balanced! In terms of getting your IPA fix, it’s better to skip straight to this one.
Still, the exercise is a good educational experience, and it would be a hit at a dinner party, a built-in tutorial on America’s favorite beer style in a box. The variety pack is available for a limited time at a suggested price of $15.99 to $18.99.
On Monday, Pan-Mass Challenge executive director Billy Star will brew a limited-edition beer along with Harpoon Brewery staffers who are PMC cyclists.
In its 35th year, the Pan Mass Challenge supports 5,800 cyclists who will ride up to 190 miles to raise $40 million to support patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Jamie Schier, Harpoon quality control manager/brewer, has participated in the race 12 times. Jamie Rudavsky, Harpoon inventory and purchasing manager/brewer, is a four-time PMC cyclist.
“It feels great to be a part of something that each rider will be able to enjoy when they arrive in Bourne,” said Rudavsky. “And knowing everyone else that rode that day can enjoy it puts a smile on my face.”
Schier describes the beer as light bodied, crisp, and dry, with a hint of citrus, coriander, and tropical fruit notes.
globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.