Hops reign supreme among American-made craft beers. Hop-heavy beers such as IPAs are often the best-selling beer in any brewery's lineup, and given the almost fanatical attention paid to humulus lupulus, a casual observer might very well think hoppy beers are synonymous with craft beer.
But many beer drinkers don't care for overtly hoppy beers -- whether because they perceive them as too bitter, too over-the-top or simply don't care for the flavor. Thankfully, the world of beer is much more diverse, and there are plenty of styles that feature hops in a more balanced presentation, either for bittering the beer or in its flavor and aroma.
Bristol Brewing Co.'s Yellow Kite Summer Pils, for example, is a German-style pilsner that makes use of German Hallertauer and Czech Saaz hops, along with Pilsen barley, for a snappy yet balanced beer. The earthy aroma is topped with sweet floral notes, with a pleasant graininess that carries through to the sip and moderate hop bitterness that washes over the palate before a crisp, dry finish. There are no bells and whistles in this straightforward style, just good, clean beer.
Breckenridge Brewery's SummerBright Ale is another lighter example, although with a citrus twist. It's brewed with orange- and lemon-peel additions and features a zesty orange aroma backed by bready malts. The relatively thin body is high in carbonation, with a slight creaminess and delicate citrus flavors that give way to a moderately bitter middle before a lingering finish.
Saisons are another refreshing yet highly variable style that typically makes use of Noble, or European hops, which tend to display a little more couth than their brash American cousins. Boulevard Brewing's Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, for example, is a complex yet highly accessible beer that has a lot going on. Its sweet, bready aroma hints at underlying spice and pepper, with nuanced banana and clove flavors that give way to a lingering interplay of sweet and spice in the finish.
Amber ales are also a good choice when looking for a fuller-flavored beer with balanced hop bitterness. New Belgium's Fat Tire Amber Ale, for example, is ubiquitous as a "gateway beer" to introduce newcomers to craft, with its approachable, slightly sweet flavor profile. Dry Dock's Amber Ale takes things a step further, with a big, sweet malt aroma and yeasty undertones reminiscent of the way a brewery smells on brew day. Rich caramel emerges on first taste, with a supporting yet slight hop bitterness that rounds out the sip before a finish that washes the sides of the tongue with lingering bitterness.
American-style brown ales are typically more assertive than their milder, sweeter English cousins, yet ideally the style should still feature a moderate to aggressive hop bitterness with rich, roasty malts at the fore. This is exactly what you'll find in Upslope Brewing Co.'s Brown Ale. The rich aroma brings to mind S'mores and cocoa, which carries through in the sip, although with a lighter mouthfeel and higher carbonation than one might expect from a beer that features darker roasted specialty grains.
While hop-forward beers might represent the most visible part of the craft-beer spectrum, there's still plenty of range to satisfy just about any taste. p
Oskar Blues' Big Ordeal
Tickets are on sale for Oskar Blues Brewery's third annual Oskar Blues Ordeal, a series of special tours taking place during the week of the Great American Beer Festival. Whether you're looking for something to do before the GABF's evening sessions or missed on tickets entirely, the Ordeal is a good option for touring and tasting among the many locations in the Oskar Blues' empire.
The Oskar Blues trolley departs and returns to the Falling Rock Tap House in Denver daily Oct. 9-11, with a unique itinerary scheduled for each day. Tickets range from $75 to $100 for each day's tour and include beer, meals and round-trip transportation. Highlights include behind-the-scenes tours of Oskar Blues' brewery in Longmont, a visit to the original brewery in Lyons, a Gospel Brunch and a bonfire and pig roast on Oskar Blues' Hops and Heifers farm. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit oskarblues.com
Contact Tom Wilmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.