Monday, September 12, 2011

Hop 101 (in a Sam Adams box) - Part 1

Do you remember this post, The Goldings taste like Goldings—the Snozzberries taste like Snozzberries!

A Yakima Valley hop yard in spring.
Of course you do. It's the definitive blog post on Samuel Adams' Latitude 48 IPA: Deconstructed, sampler pack. A finer piece of writing, never on this blog, has been seen. Until now, especially since I've actually drank some of them at this point—and can stop all my earlier speculation. Since writing the first post, I've been meaning to pick up the sampler, but as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Either way, I have it now and I feel slightly obligated to write about it. Here's what I'm going to do: Over the next week or so, I'm going to do breakdown posts of the 12-pack, hop-by-hop. I'm not going in any particular order, and I'll probably do two evaluations per post. At the end we'll look at the original Latitude 48 and see how all those individual flavors melded into one rockin' American IPA.

This post will kick things off with a overview of Latitude 48 IPA: Ahtanum and then Latitude 48 IPA: East Kent Golding. So lets get to it!

Latitude 48 IPA: Ahtanum
Alpha Acid Units: 4% to 6.5%
Growing Area: The Yakima Valley, Washington State, U.S.A

Ahtanum, named after a town in Washington State—and arguably the most difficult to pronounce of all hop names (Aah-tăn-uh'm)—is an awesome IPA hop. Their aroma, is bright and sweet—almost like honeysuckle flowers. It balances very well with Lat 48's grain bill—neither falling away into nothingness or overpowering the malt with it's hoppy character. Ahtanum's signature piney and citrus qualities, present well with a resiny orange-like stickiness and very slight, plumy tartness. While its got the classic American flavor profile its a bit less bitter than its Pacific Northwest buddy, Cascade. Its bitterness is medium-high, with a noticeable presence left over after a good mouthful, but pucker-ingly so. With as many American hop varieties as there are out there, the guys at Boston Beer really made a great choice in using this hop.

Latitude 48 IPA: East Kent Golding
Alpha Acid Units: 4% to 5.5%
Growing Area: East Kent, United Kingdom (England)

Kentish hop yards.
East Kent Goldings are the grandaddy of all English hops. Grown in the eastern part of the county of Kent, in England, EKGs have been hopping beer well since the middle of the 18th-century. If you're going to produce a beer that uses hops from the most renowned hop growing regions across the globe, and you don't go to Kent—start over. With the Lat 48s grain bill, the EKG's aroma is both minerally and earthy, almost like dry leaves, with just a hint of honey. The sweet aromatic quality of the malt pushes into the hop nose a bit, but doing that helps to bring out the EKG's very subtle floral notes. Its flavor is very mellow with a slightly peachy, citrusiness—with no pine quality at all. Its bitterness is low to medium, but present. Initially on the sip it's understated, but builds after the swallow and then lingers for a while.

As great of a beer as this is, and as much as I love the qualities of both the malt and EKGs, I have to say this one leans more toward an American made ESB, rather than an IPA—English or American. Its great, but just not bitter enough for me to be what I think of when I think IPA. I would however drink a ton of it whatever it is!

There you go, two down four to go. Stay tuned!

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