Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hop 101 (in a Sam Adams box) - Part 3

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Four down, two left.

It's building here, layer after layer. I'm really curious to see how each hop plays out in the combined, original IPA. I'm hoping to be able to pull out bits and pieces of each hop. In any case, I sill have one, single-hop brew to get through—Simcoe. Let's see what it has to offer.

Latitude 48 IPA: Simcoe
Alpha Acid Units: 12% to 14%
Growing Area: The Yakima Valley, Washington State, U.S.A

A Washington grown Simcoe hop cone. 
As potentially bitter as Simcoe can be, I've always seen it as a great blend between the classic, earthy English hop and the resiny, biting American hop. The best of both hoppy worlds. The grain bill in Latitude 48, really is a great counter-balance to this hop. Simcoe's have a great orangey-tangerine aroma that mixes perfectly with the vanilla and caramel notes of the malt. The aroma becomes almost almost like fresh cut wood. Those citrus and caramel tones come out in the mouth as well—like a grown up creamsicle—rich and fruity with a subtle creaminess. This beer has just the right bitter edge and no astringency. The other high AA% hop, Zeus, had a tea-like drying quality about it, but there's nothing like that with this one. Yes, it's bitter—very bitter, but not so much that it kills the rest of the beer. Again, another great choice by Boston Beer Company.

Latitude 48 IPA
International Bittering Units: 60
Growing Area: The Yakima Valley, Washington State, U.S.A; The Hallertau Region, Bavaria, Germany; East Kent, United Kingdom (England)

So we've finally come to the end, but there's two things I haven't dealt with yet, that along with the hops, effects all the beers in the Latitude 48 family—the malt and yeast. Let's deal with the malt first, because that's a bit more cut and dry. This beer family uses three Canadian grown pale malts—Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe and Copeland pale malts—the workhorses of the Lat 48 grain bill. According to the Samuel Adams' website, they also use caramel 60º L. This is where the beer gets it's red hue and fantastic caramel and vanilla notes. Lastly, and might I add ingeniously, the brewers added Gambrinus honey malt. I noticed a few times, throughout the tasting, a decidedly honeyed flavor. I expected that came from the floral qualities of the different hops, but Sam snuck one past me—well played Adams, well played.

The yeast situation is a tad more cryptic. Like most brewers, Boston Beer Company is a tad tight-lipped about its proprietary yeast strains. From what I can gather, it's somewhat similar to White Labs' East Coast Ale Yeast (WLP008). According to them it's a fairly neutral yeast, with low esters and just a touch or tartness. It's a little less effective for hop accentuation than some other yeasts, but generally it's a good all around ale yeast.

So how did everything come together? Pretty good, by my estimate. I've basically spent the last two weeks drinking IPAs in one form or another, so you'd think by now I'd be ready for a switch—but I'm not. Honestly, it's a pretty great beer and all of the hops bring something to the party—and they all play well with the malt and yeast. The Americans bring that great citrus and pine explosion, the Brits mellow everything back a bit and der deutschen add a little snap to everything. I've got to admit, the whole project was really well thought out on Sam Adams' end. I've had my issue with Sam Adams in the past, but man, Sammy did this one right! Good job guys. 

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