|Enough hops for you?
When I first started writing about beer back in 1996 my beer tasting notes basically followed what everyone else at the time was writing — the beer was malty, hoppy, fruity, very drinkable or various combinations of the theme. Then I started visiting breweries and began making connections, especially when it came to putting my nose in a big sack of hops. And given others were using the descriptor, I started to use the phrase hop-sack quite often, as in these words on Brakspear’s Live Organic sometime in the late 1990s: ‘Almost like putting your nose in a hop-sack.’ Sometime in the next decade, however, I stopped using it after a newer crop of beer writers suggested it maybe it was redundant given that very few people that we were writing for had smelt a sack of hops, so that was that.
I thought of the descriptor the other day when engaging with this exceptional collaboration of a West Coast-style IPA from Lost and Grounded and Burnt Mill. I felt the aromatics were resinous, oily, tropically fruity (mango, guava) and — here we go — had a raw hop note, a straight to the source character, as if there was no filter between the hops in their raw, pelletised state and their presence in the beer. I thought-hop sack with fear (because I have a visceral fear of using cliches), though the aroma from pellets is less intense than that of whole flower hops. But you would know what I meant if you had ever put your nose in a silver foil-like bag of hop pellets. Beyond the expression of the hops, this beer is a delight to drink and to study and to have and to hold, with its pizzazz, zest and general air of hop and malt showtime on the nose and the palate. It’s bold but light and has a good mid-palate malt bridge between the tropical fruit at the front and the suave piny bitterness in the finish. This is a beer that is bilingual in the way it talks the language of malt and hops with equal articulation. Hop-sack? Whatever.