Why are hops-forward, American craft beers so popular right now? And why are there so many hoppy Marzen beers, a style that has not been a traditionally hoppy beer? These are the questions that grew out of our beer exploration in this week's review.
As far as hops go, I think there are many reasons behind their popularity. Hops have long been known for bitterness, but American varietals proffer emphatic aromas and flavors that entice with immediacy.
The hoppy American brews tend to employ simplified malt bills and neutral yeasts. This allows for the hop to shine and for bold fruity, herbal, and earthy flavors to come through.As the craft brewing industry is still evolving -- and reaching out to more and more consumers -- hoppy beers make perfect sense on many levels. I think hoppy beers are accessible and delicious. They are intense and can almost smack you in the face with their offerings.But I wonder if these flavors, the flavors of today's sexiest of beers, are truly complex.They boldly showcase a new possibility for beer and are a great step on the path of beer discovery. Yet few evolve and transform as the beer opens up in the glass.They should not be the destination forever. After a stint with hops, we want something new, such as complex, malted beers, yeast-fermentation-driven beers, crisp, refreshing beers, roasty and/or smoky beers, and -- of course -- sour, almost wine-like beers.The most complex beers involve many of these flavors arranged in a restrained pastiche... not nearly as obvious nor accessible.
Franconian Kellerbiers (unfiltered, unpasteurized lagers): These are equally refreshing, florally hoppy, toasty-grainy malty, earthy, and haylike. And the flavors transform throughout the experience. Now that is sexy.
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