12 Mar 2012

Silly question, but I need to ask it

If I remember my history well, those Beers that during the 18th and 19th century were sent to India were more hopped and attenuated (?) than their contemporary Ales and Beers so they could survive the four in the hull of a ship that went around Africa.

An unexpected, but welcome, outcome of this was that due to the heat and the general conditions of the voyage the beers matured much faster than they would have in the breweries' cellars (to get an idea of how, read the experiment Martyn did a while back).

Taking this into consideration, could it be that American hop bombs taste "better"* on this side of the pond than at home? Has anyone had the chance to taste one of those beers "fresh" and after it had crossed the Atlantic?

Na Zdraví!

PS: Perhaps the question is silly, I've got no idea about the conditions the bottles travel from their producers to the warehouses of their distributors in Europe, they might do it in refrigerated containers. As for the duration of the trip, of course it's not four months anymore, but I guess that from "door to door" (that is to the retailers) it lasts quite a few weeks.

(*) needless to say, this is all relative, I mean more balanced, rounded.

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21 comments:

  1. I am from the NW (the other land of hops),now in Prague. I prefer the 'hop bombs' fresh. This, of cource, is just one mans opinion.

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    1. Fair enough. But is there a noticeable difference between the same hop bomb here and there? (provided you've done such tasting, that is)

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    2. I find they start to lose those citrus or sometimes pine aromas. Unfortunately I can not find the North West Ales that I get at home (Pliny the elder, hop stupid, racer 5). My experience is from the one's I have transported in my checked luggage. I'll have to bring you one this summer.

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    3. I've heard that the aromas from cold (or dry) hopping wear off with time, so that must be the thing with those NW Ales.

      I've had Pliny the Elder, great stuff, wouldn't mind tasting some others along those lines :)

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  2. One thing to take into consideration, is that those beers are not meant to be balanced, in the first place.

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    1. Good point. But what if the actually get some balance after the trip?

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  3. So the question to ask is: Can balance be an unwanted result? If a hop-bomb is supposed to be a hop-bomb and it mellows as a result of an extend exportation, is that a good thing? Wouldn't the mellowing be considered an off-flavor, just like light-strike or oxidation? It's not necessarily wrong, but it might not be what the beer was originally intended to taste like. What would be really interesting would be for an American brewer to make a hop-bomb, with the expectation of "balance", due to exportation, for the exclusive distribution in Europe. Would that beer be a super hop-bomb that mellows to standard hop-bomb, hop-bombiness, after the trip? We might be on to something here!

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    1. Well, of course that achieving "balance" is an unwanted effect for the brewer, but perhaps not so for us. The consumers.... On the other hand, there are a few hop bombs made on this side of the pond that are exported there, I wonder if they go through similar changes...

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  4. Guess 'better' depends on preference, but I have tended to think of that loss of upfront hoppiness as a bad thing when, in fact, I could consider it a natural development of the beer in transit.

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    1. It's nice to know I've made your life a bit happier :)

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    2. Or, perhaps the natural development of the beer—period. Maybe a lot of hop-bombs get "better" by simply aging them.

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  5. Always look on the bright side, etc.. Similar to the breakthrough we had a few years ago which means we try a bit harder to work out if a beer is bland or subtle. Sometimes, it's just us being lazy.

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  6. Meh. As an Oregonian in Franconia, I can say two things. 1) SNPA is a hop bomb compared to local stuff. That non-sequitor aside, 2) hop bombs delivered to me here are not appreciably different from over there. IME, anyway, which is quite limited. Bottled EuroBier in the US also doesn't seem appreciably different from over here.

    IOW, the hand-wringing over shipping bottled beer is way over-rated.

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    1. I find it hard to believe that several weeks, if not months, traveling will not have any effect on a beer (bottled or kegged), but it's only speculation on my part and you seem to speak with more authority.

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    2. How are the hop-bombs getting to you? Are they being brought by family or friends, who purchased the beer a day before they traveled? Were they mailed to you? Or were they being shipped to Germany, stored and distributed?

      I think Max's point was it's both the time and "agitation" that effect the beer.

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  7. No, the hopiness of the beer wont change in the bottle.

    The hoppy bitterness of the beer comes from adding bittering hops (like Chinook or Warrior) at the start of the wort boil. Later in the boil other hops are added to give aroma (like Saaz or Kent Golding). For a hop blast other aroma hops can be added in the last couple of minutes of the boil. Once the boil is over the IBU's of the beer wont change.

    For the IPA's that travelled to India, they would have been dry hopped as well. Dry hopping wont affect the taste but will give the greatest possible hoppy aroma. You would wait until fermentation is finished, keg up the beer and dry hop directly in the keg. In this case each pint you draw from the keg will have different hoppy characteristic depending on how long it has been left conditioning. Usually you dont want to leave it too long as the hops can give grassy or oily off flavours.

    The other way would be to dry hop in the fermenter. After fermentation is complete the hops are added and left for maybe 10 days. Then the beer is bottled/kegged leaving the hops behind. At the point of bottling the hoppiness of the beer will be pretty much defined but other flavours will mellow as the beer conditions. The beer you buy in your local shop will obviously have already conditioned unless you left it for years would not change too much in flavour.

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  8. I don't think hop-bombs taste better after a long trip, it is either insignificant in terms of taste or it has a detrimental effect, as hoppy, non-roasted beers are meant to be drunk fresh. I've had a domestic (Polish) American IPA 6 months past its BBE date and it was significantly more caramelly and less hoppy in terms of the aroma than when drunk fresh. Needless to say, it was far worse (unless you want to lower the caliber of your hop-bomb, possibly even disarm it).

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    1. I believe I read somewhere that beers can take up to two months to reach Europe, plus the time they spend in warehouses and shelves, and all the moving around and about. All that must have some effect! If I'm right, the beers as we consume them might not taste the way the brewer intended. Whether that is a good or bad thing, will depend on each one's tastes...

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  9. Funny I bumped into this. My movers got ambitious when I moved to prague and packed some Kernel (UK) I had been drinking right before the move. It was Black IPA and either Centennial or Citra IPA… can’t quite recall now. It appeared 3 months later after sitting in what I assume to be a pretty warm container during that hot indian summer. Kernel isn’t PacNW IBUs but a similar hops philosophy. His beers aren’t supposed to keep, so for what it’s worth… the hops in both were noticeably toned down. For the black IPA that was bad news as the dark malt was big and without the massive hops it seemed to unbalance the beer vs how good it was pre-move. But the taste of the Centennial/Citra was a combo of more rounded hops + dulled, less prominent hops. It was interesting but nothing too funky... too bad. So perhaps a heavily hopped IPA with a lighter malt could transform in a cool way on mistreated beers which are intended to keep longer. If I score a CZ import license next time I am in CA I will try to run a Stone or Lagunitas experiment...

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    1. Thanks for this. So the beers are affected in the way I though. Whether that is a good thing for them or not will depend a lot on the beer and your taste. I've been thinking of doing the Cornell experiment but shaking the beer a bit instead of just letting it sit there in the balcony...

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