IPAs, Barley and Hops, Oh My!

Susan says…


An interesting discussion has developed in the comment section of the Shogun review post.  Several folks are expressing their opinions concerning the hops content in beers, which brews are better than others, which are overhyped, and the brewing process itself.

Tom (faithful reader) mentioned the Beer Advocate 100 in one of his comments.  Beer Advocate is an independent network of over 150,000 beer enthusiasts worldwide.  The 100 Top Beers on Planet Earth are determined by user reviews and are weighted based on the total number of reviews a brew has received.  Mentioned many times in the comments, Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmund Fitzgerald appears on the Top 100 in slot #83.

Another interesting topic:  limitations imposed by West Virginia law on the beer selection in the state.   Current law states that only “nonintoxicating” beers may be sold in our state.  I don’t know what kind of alternate reality the legislators live in, but I’ve seen plenty of people get drunk from drinking Budweiser.   Nonintoxicating beers, according to the delusional lawmakers, is a beer that does not exceed 6% alcohol content.  Many gourmet/craft/microbrews exceed that level and therefore cannot be sold to West Virginia beer connoisseurs.

Last year, a bill was introduced in the House proposing a change to WVC 11-16-3 which would change the definition of nonintoxicating beer to allow the sale of craft beers containing up to 15% alcohol.  A similar bill was introduced in the Senate, however that version allowed only 12% alcohol content by volume.  If you are interested in this issue, you should consider notifying your delegates and senators.  You can follow legislative activity on the WV Legislature website.

Ron posed a question in one of his comments: “what is the only true American Style Beer?”  Phil I. Stein (another one of the faithful) responded with this:  a beer brewed using bottom fermenting lager yeast at ale temperature levels because refrigeration was unavailable and the warm California climate did not provide the cool cellars for the aging (lagering) process which lagers brewed in cooler climates used.  Ron, is that the answer you were looking for???

Feel free to continue the lively debate.  I’ll be reading and learning, not commenting, because I don’t know a thing about beer.


19 responses to “IPAs, Barley and Hops, Oh My!

  1. well thats a great answer, it it sounds correct. I just know that it was the process by which Anchor Steam Ale does or did their beer.

    But like all things I’m sure there’s an exception somewhere since my copy of the Beer Encyclopedia was published.

  2. Well, “style” is a very vague and amorphous term. To decree “steam” beer the only “true American style” I think you have to define style very broadly otherwise to include “ale” and lager” as the other styles of beer. (Maybe lambics should be considered a “style” in this sense too since they don’t involve the manual introduction of cultivated yeast but ferment naturally due to wild yeasts in the air– but they are top fermenting and ferment at warm teperatures as with other ales.)

    As I, and I think most people in casual conversation, use the term there are many “styles” of beer and some beers brewed in modern America really do represent new “styles” in this sense.

    For example, I think American Pale Ales should be considered a different style than the English pales, bitters, SBs and ESBs with which they share characteristics.

    I also think that American IPAs and especially Double or Imperial IPAs also should be considered distinct styles because the modern American variations often are considerably different than what Europeans traditionally brewed using these labels.

    In the end, names are just names and only serve to direct people to things they expect to be similar if they share the same name.

    That’s why people even distinguish between German or Czech pilseners let alone the European ones and their American bastard stepchildren.

  3. Could anything in the whole wide world be more overrated than beer?

  4. Nice troll, Hillbilly. Now, back under your bridge, you!

    Susan, the bill the Senate introduced was the clone of the House version that actually made it through the committee (where it was tabled after a second reading). Who knows the fate of the bill this year?

    Also, one (1!!!) other beer available in WV is on the BA list: Rogue Chocolate Stout is #85 (E.Fitz. is #82). That’s a total of two of the top 100. Man, this state…I dunno.

    Phil, I consider APA, DIPA, American Barleywine and the modern Russian Imperial Stout to all be “American.” Without U.S. brewers none of these would exist. I’m also one of those nuts who honestly believes the best beer in the world is made in this country and not Germany or even – gasp! – Belgium. Yes, I’d put the works of Stone, Avery, Alesmith, Great Lakes, Troegs and Victory right up there with the greats of Europe.

    Also, where’d you get a Dark Lord? Those things are insanely hard to get. I mean, seriously difficult. Bravo.

  5. “In the end, names are just names and only serve to direct people to things they expect to be similar if they share the same name.”

    One of the smartest statements in this thread.

    Beer is not overrated. IF anything it is underated. So is tea.

  6. Senate Bill 739 was introduced by Chafin in February 2008 and proposed raising the maximum alcohol content to 12% by volume. The House bill proposed a 15% max. That came striaght off the Legislature website. I didn’t make it up, I promise.

  7. Susan, now that’s not what i said. The House bill was indeed 15% and also required ABV to be on every label. Then the committee got hold of it and reduced the % to 12 and dropped the label requirement. Earl Ray then introduced the House Committee substitute in the Senate, hence the 12%.

    I followed this one literally day by day last session.

  8. In the end, 12% would be a great improvement to the beer culture. I’ve scanned my BA reviews and only have 2 or 3 over 12%, with a couple of MIAs (I didn’t review the DFH World Wide Stout, for example, which is an astounding 18%).

  9. Oh, Truman – not Earl Ray. See, I go and make a point then step all over it by mixing up my Coalfield pols.

  10. Rob-
    Good luck with the bill this session – I get the feeling you will continue to pursue the goal!

  11. I’m also one of those nuts who honestly believes the best beer in the world is made in this country ….”

    I think that’s a reasonable statement these days.

    I remember going to Europe on the de rigueur post-college backpacking trip and being bowled over by the variety and quality of beers we encountered. At the time, I thought Canadian beer was exotic.

    That was (damn!) 27 years ago and at that time there was simply no comparison between the U.S. and Europe. Anchor was around though I had never seen it let alone drank it and the imports available in most of America were pretty much Heineken and Becks (which are closer to American macros than great European beers) and maybe Guinness if there was an Irish pub in town. In Europe, just about every town seemed to have its own brewery and even within small areas there would be a number of different local beers that were fantastic and each region had not only at least one local style but seasonal special brews.

    I started homebrewing soon after returning and I’ll bet the craft beer movement here was inspired greatly by the return of other more commercially minded backpackers of that era.

    Today, the variety and quality of beer in America definitely rivals Europe and, while a matter of taste, it’s definitely not crazy to rank America higher . On the other hand, we pay quite high prices for good beer here and in Europe the local beers cost no more than and frequently less than the megabrewery products, so Europe sill has that over us.

  12. Had the Dark Lord in Chicago. The Three Floyds Brewery/ Brew Pub is just over the border in Indiana. I have not time to get there when in Chicago but a number of places in Chicago serve Three Floyds beers.

  13. Rob –

    don’t you mean “Coalfield Cons” ???

  14. “Nice troll, Hillbilly. Now, back under your bridge, you!”

    Ah yes, the one with multi-colored lights that makes me feel like I’m sitting on the banks of the Thames on a warm evening in June with Big Ben striking midnight behind me.

  15. Ron, now that I’m using my real name AND trying to get a bill passed, it’s probably not a good idea say what I may or may not think about certain members of our primary deliberative body.

    By the way, the aforementioned Dark Lord is an Imperial Stout brewed by Three Floyds Brewery. Its annual release has become a national event among beer geeks, with people driving from as far away as Florida or Colorado just for the privilege of standing in line to shell out $17 per bottle (limit 6 per person) for this beer. Well, that and getting samples of Oak Aged Dark Lord or Vanilla Bean Dark Lord or whatever else the brewmasters decide to roll out for the event. Boy howdy, wouldn’t it be nice if a West Virginia brewery could create that kind of buzz over something it made? Pop the cap and we’ll see if they can make it happen.

  16. Only 6 per customer now?

    They used to let people buy up to two cases. My buddy in Chicago shelled out $300 for 24 22 oz bottles ( I think it was 2005 edition that I had, but it was spring of 07).

    Strong beer like that can be bottle aged in a dark cool place and some people believe they improve with age .

  17. The 6-per comes from recent chatter over on BA.

    Speaking of ageing, I have the following in storage right now:
    One case each Stone Old Guardian 2006-2008
    One case Stone R.I.S. 2006
    One case Stone 06.06.06
    Half-case Victory Storm King 2006 (the “best-by” date is 2011 on that one)
    Half case Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2007
    Six pack Bigfoot 2008
    Assorted other Stone Anniversary or Vertical Epic Ales, including one 03.03.03
    One flight of East End Gratitude 05-07
    And the crown jewel, Thomas Hardy’s Old Ale 1987.

    Barleywines and Imperial Stouts were made for ageing, IMO. It’s a real treat to taste how a beer progresses as it ages – so long as it’s something that can or should be aged. It’s not so much fun to open up a year-old Kolsch or American Wheat, no matter how well it’s been treated. Other styles, like DIPAs, depend on personal taste. E.g., I’ve had some SN Celebration Ales – essentially an IPA – that were several years old and while they had completely different characteristics than when fresh they remained very, very good. My hop-head pal, however, couldn’t stand them. His loss = my gain.

  18. The only beers I have ever allowed to age myself are my own homebrews. It’s hard to really judge because “taste memory” is so subjective and possibly subject to self-suggestion. since the homebrew is bottle conditioned time definitely makes a difference but “better” or just different is a matter of opinion and probably varies from batch to batch.

    With commercial beers I have had a few that other people have stored to age but there I don’t even have “taste memory” because I never tasted them close to bottling time. I’ve never really had the patience of discipline to hide rare beers from myself to let them age.

  19. Hello everyone.

    I am happy to see this getting some discussion. Just to fill you in, the bill has passed house judiciary, and is now before the going to the floor for its first reading. We still have a long way to go.

    There will be a meeting of the minds on Tuesday 3/10/09 in Morgantown so that we can get ourselves organized and come up with ideas to help get this bill passed into law.

    There will be people from some bars, breweries, distributors and some folks who just like good beer atending to share their ideas and to develop a plan

    If you are interested in coming to this meeting or want to get involved, email me at traviscwv at yahoo dot com for more information

    In the meantime start writing your representitives in the Hose and Senate and tell them how you feel.


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