Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it: How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.
Lately, I've been getting into brewing my own beer at home. It's been an extraordinarily rewarding process so far: my brew partner and I finished our first batch just two weeks ago, a typical American Pale Ale, and the compliments we got on it were great. For our first beer, it came out remarkably well, with a full, caramel malt body and a well-balanced dose of aromatic hops. We enjoyed the process so much that we quickly jumped back into it this past weekend, brewing a more aggressive batch of Imperial IPA. With a target ABV of about 9 percent, this batch is going to kick something wicked. But we're also trying a technique we didn't use in our first one. We're going to be dry-hopping that bad boy.
Dry-hopping is essentially adding an extra dose of hops -- the floral pods that give beer its tell-tale bitterness and aroma -- at the very end of fermentation. Normally, hops are added in during the boil process along with the malt sugars, allowing bitter alpha acids to be extracted into the beer. In a late hopping process, the hops have little time in the boil to release these acids. Instead, only a small portion of essential oils are extracted, imparting aroma but not as much bitterness. With dry-hopping, hops are added after all that takes place, once the yeast has converted all those malt sugars into alcohol. The hops sit in the fermentation vessel with the beer for five days or more, releasing a floral, heady aroma that hop heads crave.
So what does all this have to do with this week's featured brew? Well, Hazed & Infused, from Boulder Beer Co., is an American ale that's been given the dry-hop treatment. As a result, it's a light, crisp beer that is not as harsh or bitter as a typical IPA.
Boulder Beer has the distinction of being "Colorado's First Microbrewery" and one of the oldest craft breweries in the United States, having just celebrated its 30th birthday. Hazed & Infused is one of the beers they're well-known for -- others include Mojo Risin' IPA and Sweaty Betty Blonde Wit.
Hazed & Infused is a bit of a paradox. It's a beer that pours fairly thin, with a light body and a decent bit of carbonation. But you'll notice right away that, despite its thin frame, it's quite cloudy, with a ruddy, burnished copper color (that's the "Hazed" part). The texture is slick and a bit watery -- the former being a side-effect of the dry-hopping. You won't taste much in the way of malt in this one. Instead, you get a crisp, light flavor reminiscent of a very weak ale, coupled with the floral, piney hoppiness of an IPA. It's a strange combination but one you can get used to.
Couple all that with a low ABV of under 5 percent and this is great session beer that may satisfy hop fans looking for a break from heavy-hitting, bad-boy Imperials or IPAs. It could also be a good beer for fans of lighter brews looking to dip their toes in hoppier waters. Either way, it's a good example of what dry-hopping can do for a beer. It certainly made me more excited about my Imperial, which is getting dry-hopped this Saturday.
Pick it up at BX Beer Depot, Total Wine, or Whole Foods.