I’m going to contradict myself in this post … more on that in a minute.

It’s just beer, people. As you may know, I was on the scene for the Pontoon/ Sprayberry Rainbow Smiggles release on Friday. It was a vibrant scene, and I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, in terms of lines and crowds … and crowd management. The doors were set to open at 5pm, and although I knew a line would form in advance, I didn’t know how long it would be. I got there at 4:45, in no way expecting to be near the front. Surely enough, I was +/- 100 people back. The doors eventually opened and the line started crawling forward. With a four 4-pack max, I assumed it would be a pretty smooth affair. (Somewhat complicating things was the addition of 2 additional bottles for purchase along with the removal of an additional special can release. Consumers were probably trying to figure out what they could buy and what was no longer available.) Regardless, as I got about 10 people from the counter, it was announced that it was now a one 4-pack maximum per person. To say that there was frustration and disappointment in the crowd doesn’t quite capture the emotion. I was able (as a somewhat rational adult) to understand the situation, process my emotions and go on about my day. As I left the brewery with my bottles and singular 4-pack, I saw people still in line, red-faced screaming at staff at being unprofessional, unprepared, etc. He was close to stroke levels of stress and anger … over a beer. And I couldn’t help but think, it’s just beer.

Fast forward to yesterday when my friend CH sent me this article. The short version … people were camping out for a special beer release at Other Half Brewing in New York. A man and his date stumbled by and starting yelling at craft beer snobs for being so ridiculous as to camp out for a beer. (Note: please read the article; the comedy inside is phenomenal. Example: the belligerent started pelting the campers with cans of White Claw. Hence the title of this post.) The story culminates with the couple getting a gun from their residence and threatening to put a Glock in someone’s mouth.

via GIPHY

Again … it’s just beer, people. Losing your mind because you don’t get enough of the special release or assaulting people because you disagree with their beverage choices … is it really worth it? And now for the contradiction I mentioned earlier. It’s all about context. A few years ago, I was with a few friends at a very well-known craft brewery in Chicago. We were poring over their impressive and extensive draft selections. I couldn’t decide what my 4th beer was going to be, and the server said (and I quote), “Dude, it’s just beer. Pick one.” I’m sorry, but what?? I agree with that concept if someone is losing their mind and fails to know how to act like a human being over beer, but to tell me I should just pick any beer when trying to put my flight together – fine, just give me a Zima Gold. Again … it’s all about context. Had I been pitching a full-on tantrum over an empty keg, I would have deserved the “Dude, it’s just beer.” But deciding between a quad and a barleywine as my flight finisher is a real head-scratcher!

 

Bottom line here … it’s all about context. I mean, it’s just beer, except when it isn’t.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington
Smiggles Can Art
The bunny has been overserved

There’s hype and then there’s hype.

I’m not referring to run-of-the-mill, buzz around town in the beer snob circles hype. And this isn’t even a FOMO/ need to make sure I’m in line to get a taste hype. I’m talking Atlas lets the Earth fall off his shoulders – construction on 285 halts – cats and dogs living together – outright hysteria.

So, what’s causing all the buzz? A beer from Pontoon called Rainbow Smiggles. Fun to say, and creating a buzz that I don’t recall ever seeing for a beer that no one has ever tasted. This is such an unknown quantity, and yet Fortune, MSN, CBS46, and a bajillion other global media outlets continue to report on it. There are two ways to look at this: the glass half empty guy says, “You better deliver with something phenomenal or it’s going to be a big bust.” The glass half full guy will say that the publicity is a one-of-a-kind ride, and we should all hop on.

Your intrepid neighborhood beerblogger went to the release party at 5pm today. Put me in the bucket of ‘glass half full.’ Wait – just put me in a bucket of this amazingly unique and fabulous brew. This collaboration between Pontoon and Sprayberry Bottle Shop brought the masses: lines of people clamoring for a drop, a swig, or as many 4-packs as they’d sell of this magic-in-a-glass. It’s a Berliner-Weisse brewed with … wait for it … 100+ boxes of Trix cereal and over 300 pounds of Skittles. The can art of a Trix-style white rabbit vomiting a rainbow into a brewing tank tells you what to expect. They added a Uhaul full of strawberries, pineapples, vanilla, and lactose to the brew, too.

What’s the result? Yes, please. Glass half full means, please fill it to the rim again. And again. And then maybe again again. It’s a Berliner, as previously mentioned, so it has the tart flavors. (This is when you say, “Well, duh. It has metric ton of Skittles in it.”) Berliners are tart to begin with, and then adding Skittles and the fruit have potential to put it over the top. Ahhhh, but that’s where the sweetness of the Trix, and smoothness from vanilla and lactose counter-balance the tart. It can be a very delicate process (aka trial and error) to try to hit that right balance. Too much in either direction and you’re either drinking lemon rind or a strawberry milkshake. This one tiptoes on that line and delivers a fantastic beer, and I know it sounds of but the purple Skittle is the strongest flavor.

I’d say more, but let’s leave it to Brij Patel, head dude at Georgia’s #1 bottle shop, Sprayberry, “The best thing about our industry now, is that we are willing to push the limits and come up with the most creative beer possible. The best thing about partnering with Pontoon is that they are always willing to push the boundaries. There is a reason they were rated the best new brewery last year in the state of Georgia.” Couldn’t agree more; Pontoon has been killing it with sours recently, especially with stuff like Fruit Cup Vol. 1, Double Cup Purple Stuff, and Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries.

This is the ultimate while supplies last moment, but get in your car and go to Sprayberry (because Pontoon already sold out) and load up on the Smiggles. Tonight, you’ll taste the rainbow!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Close your eyes, and let’s take a trip back in time. (Figuratively close your eyes, or get someone to read this to you.)

You’re 10 years old … it’s the middle of summer, and you’re playing outside with a gaggle of friends. Tag, hide & seek, running through the sprinkler. You’re happy; you’re carefree; and you don’t even notice that the heat is suffocating. The only concern you have is the internal struggle of not wanting today to end versus excitement over what tomorrow will bring. And then … those magic words from your mom …

I’ve got ice cream!!

But it wasn’t just ice cream – it was an orange creamsicle. It was orange, but it was sweet and creamy. Yes, it melted off the stick and onto your hand … but that was part of the fun. Yes, you’d be a sticky mess as a result, but that was part of summer. Can you taste it? Do you remember those times in the yard with your friends? This beer will take you back to the exact same place.

We’ve written about Wild Leap several times. From sours and hazy IPAs to stouts and dessert beers, they’ve been knocking it out of the park for over two years now. First brewed in early 2019, WL’s original Truck Chaser was immediately a huge crowd favorite. They followed that success with a Strawberry Eclair version that was mostly well-received, but had many people thinking that the original was better. Fast forward to early 2020 and Wild Leap brought back the Orange Creamsicle version.

Let’s go back to our time machine. Eating that orange creamsicle in the yard … what did you taste? Sweetness – orange – creaminess. All good things. And all of those are there when you take a sip of Truck Chaser Orange Creamsicle Double IPA (and some vanilla beans for fun, too). Wait … what? This sweet, creamy, citrusy beer is a DOUBLE IPA?!? Yes, yes it is. This ain’t your daddy’s IPA … tasting faintly of pine resin. This is a fabulously well-balanced and sinfully delicious beer.

From CEO/ Founder Anthony Rodriguez: “We’ve had so much fun creating this beer and fine-tuning the blend of hops and creamy milkshake flavor. We’re excited it’s back and we can’t wait to share what we’ve got in store for 2020.”

We can’t wait either, Mr. Rodriguez.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

This coming Monday is the big day. Well, it’s actually the tenth big day. More on that in a minute.
Updated. Information on Alpha Abstraction X is at the end of the post.

It has been very well-documented that Wild Leap in LaGrange continues to churn out amazing beers. Voted best new brewery in the country, they don’t just specialize in one style of beer. You want something sour? Done. Feeling like you want to go dark and heavy? They have you covered. Need a lawnmower beer after that workout? They’re your huckleberry.

But they probably have gained more acclaim and praise over the Alpha Abstraction series. Wild Leap first burst onto the scene with Alpha Abstraction Volume 1 in June 2018. It was an absolute home run, and so the series has continued. Every version, if I recall correctly, has clocked in at exactly 8% ABV. Always double dry-hopped, but always with a different hop or combination of hops.

Well, the tenth version of Alpha Abstraction will be released on Monday. Early social media teases make it seem as though it will simply be called ‘X’. In an effort to keep thing straight, I decided to list the nine previous versions, and which hops they featured. And I added a brief description of the flavor profile of each of those hops as well. As soon as details on X are released, I’ll update this post with the latest …

 

Volume 1: A combination of Loral and Citra hops

Loral – Mostly known for carrying lemony-citrus flavors and aromas, it also adds a floral and sometimes peppery character.

Citra – Citra has a pretty wide array, most notably citrus flavors (obviously), like lime, grapefruit, and orange.

Volume 2: Citra and Galaxy hops

(Note, the next seven versions feature a singular hop, instead of Citra plus a second one.)

Galaxy – Galaxy brings straight fruit flavors – nothing bitter or pine tree-esque. Think citrus, pineapple, tropical fruit.

Volume 3: Mosaic

Mosaic is all over the map, depending on how and when it’s used in the process. Some say that Galaxy brings in berry flavors or even sweeter notes, like bubblegum. Others will argue that Galaxy can be grassy or piney, with a little bit of peppery spice.

Volume 4: Denali

Denali has four main flavors … pineapple, citrus, pineapple, and more citrus. That’s it.

Volume 5: Nelson Sauvin

A newer varietal, this hop has some crisp white wine characteristics – with hints of apricot and mango.

Volume 6: Lotus

This was an experimental hop without a real name when Wild Leap chose it. Now known as Lotus, this hop has a phenomenal combination of tropical fruit, vanilla, and orange.

Volume 7: Barbe Rouge

Developed in the Alsace region of France, Barbe Rouge takes the rouge to heart, bringing aromas and flavors or red currant, strawberry, and raspberry into dance with the tropical fruit flavors.

Volume 8: Enigma

Somewhat like Mosaic, Enigma hops can take on a wide variety of flavors, depending on a lot of factors. This Australian hop serves a chameleon role in the brewing process and can be heavier (red currant and raspberry) or lighter/ crisper (pinto gris and tropical fruit.)

Volume 9: Michigan Chinook

These fellas can bring the heat – both with some spice and some smoky/ piney flavors. They can be aggressive when overused, but also bring a distinct grapefruit flavor when done properly.

Volume X: Strata and Cashmere

UPDATE

On Monday, December 9, Wild Leap announced that AA X will be available next week and features Strata and Cashmere hops.

Strata – I’ve heard these described as ‘passion fruit pot.’ On the fruit side, you’ll get some mango and passion fruit, with a little grapefruit mixed in. On the other side, well … you know. There’s going to be a hint of cannabis, for those of you who know what that might taste like.

Cashmere – Cashmere can bring in notes of coconut, melon, and grapefruit, but can also a coriander aroma. This one tends to be a little more delicate, so it will be interesting to see how this pairs with the Strata flavors. I cannot wait to try this one!

Cheers!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

It’s that time of year again: it’s time to mortgage our vital organs and children’s’ futures so that we can find the biggest, baddest, bestest deals on the latest in consumer goods. Black Friday will be here in just a few days. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been there. Yes – I have camped out at Target to make sure I was in the door at midnight to save $11 on the ‘it’ toy of the year. And with the way people treat each other inside those stores, I’d rather become a hermit and never see the light of day again.

But, I bring to you today a new version of Black Friday specials … brewery specials. Below are some of the Atlanta-area breweries that are either opening their doors super early on Friday, releasing special beers, or offering other specials. Sure, you can go and sit in traffic at 4am to duke it out at the outlet mall for a parking spot, so that you can to arm-wrestle over the last piece of discounted Fisher-Price platic; or you can saddle up at one of the city’s finest watering holes for some delicious beer. I’ll let you choose …

Black Friday Beer Specials!

(note: not meant to be a comprehensive list. If there’s something you think I should add, leave it in the comments below.)

Dry County Brewing

  • Open time: 5-10 am; 4-12 pm
  • New release: Mint Chocolate Stout
  • Also on tap: Old 41, Gourd 41, KBA, Barrel-Aged Quad and More
  • Live Music: Steven Brooks Band
  • Food Truck: Joella’s Hot Chicken

 

Creature Comforts

CCBC has created a new event for this year, special re-releases of a ton of special beers. And they’re adding a few new ones too. Head by if you’re interested in finding some bottles of:

  • Concurrence Blend (#1-4)
  • Subtle Alchemy Blend (#1-3)
  • The Curious #14 and #15
  • Many, many others

Live music from True Born Sons & the Lucky Jones.

 

Cherry Street Brewing

Cherry Street is back again with their Kegs N Eggs Black Friday event.

  • Bottomless mimosa and Bloody Mary bar? Check.
  • Live music? Check.
  • Breakfast buffet with classic Southern favorites? Check.
  • Holiday beers tapping at 9:30 am? YES!

 

Reformation Brewery

Reformation will open Friday morning at 6am and will have breakfast available from the Maple Street Biscuit Company.

Other than offering discounts on swag, Reformation and will also be busting out some vintage bourbon barrel-aged Jude and some Pinot-aged Cadence. Color me there! First come, first served.

 

Scofflaw Brewing

Go big or go home. Scofflaw is crushing the Black Friday world with a six-bottle Absentium release. Available this Friday:

  • Cognac Barrel Aged Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Vanilla Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Coffee Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Hazelnut Absentium Stout
  • Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Absentium Stout

You can get a 6-pack or individual bottles. And I want all of them. ALL of them.

 

Pontoon Brewing

And it wouldn’t be Black Friday if there wasn’t someone ready to start the fun on Thursday night. Pontoon did a collab with Variant, Gate City, and Sprayberry Bottle Shop. It was a stupid-good Imperial Milk Stout that came out about a year ago. And now it’s back!  This one is a must-have and Pontoon will open at 9pm Thursday night, releasing this monster into the wild. This year, it’s coming in two versions:

🍫Mexi-Cocoa – Peruvian chocolate, Vietnamese cinnamon bark & Madagascar vanilla caviar
🌰Rocky Road – Peruvian chocolate, toasted marshmallow & almonds and Madagascar vanilla caviar.

Translation? Yes, please.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other specials from breweries and pubs all over the city. Feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below. And I’ll see you out there on Friday!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

As my friend Daniel put it … it pays to go to beer festivals. Back in the spring, we wrote about going to the Roswell Beer Festival. While there, other than having an otherworldly great time, we also met some fantastic people, in particular the gang from Pontoon Brewing. We hit it off, and they invited Russ and me back to Pontoon for a ‘tasting panel’ a few days later. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were in. Here’s the short version … breweries will sometimes invite friends from other breweries, growler shop owners, industry experts, and beer media (that’s us!) to a special private tasting of some select beers. It’s usually to get honest feedback on the beer, either what to do differently on a pilot batch of beer; or what to consider for future versions of beer that will soon be out in the wild. Bonus … they had a chef come in and create food pairings for each of the four beers. Rock star status achieved.

Fast forward to this week, they had me back again. THIS time, we were tasting three beers that will be released this week and one pilot batch that is just in testing mode right now. It’s a seasonal that will hopefully come out later this year. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to try several beers before they’re even released. So, here ya go. A quick review of the three beers to be released this week and then the one that will hopefully emerge later in the year.

L-R … Belgian Tripel, Hazenado, Snozz Crumble, Fluffier Otter.
Chicken/gouda skewers, chocolate puff pastry, bacon-wrapped pork w/ cherry coulis, meatballs

Belgian Tripel

I’ve really become a sucker for a good tripel recently, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was a little boozy (9.5% really came through) and slightly syrupy to me, but the flavor was on point. I am certain that there will be some tweaks before this becomes available later this year. Really, really, really can’t wait.

Hazenado

It’s a Double IPA (DIPA) brewed with lactose and vanilla. The lactose, as expected, brought a creamy smoothness to it. Combined with a beautiful nose of pineapple (at least that’s what I got), this is a total home run. The flavor was an intoxicating mixture of milkshake and mild bitterness, very nicely counterbalanced with the sweet citrus from the hops. Yeah, I’ll be back later this week to have this one again.

Snozz Crumble

Pontoon has had a lot of success with a line of tart-creamy Berliner Weisse beers called, “Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries.” (Mad kudos on the reference there.) They took one of them for a ride with the Snozz Crumble, adding a pastry/cinnamon flavor to it. This had a very crisp mouthfeel, and was slightly more sour than I typically like. It has an absolutely stunning color to it and will be sure to be a hit with the sour drinkers out there.

Fluffier Otter

Again, Pontoon has resurrected a former favorite and transformed it into something new. The original, Fluffy Otter, is an oatmeal creme stout and is my favorite Pontoon beer ever. Basically, it’s a S’more in stout form. Now … add peanut butter. Fluffier Otter is an old school fluffernutter sandwich in a 9% abv stout. I almost didn’t want to drink it because it just smelled SO GOOD.

 

Again, Hazenado, Snozz Crumble, and Fluffier Otter will all be available this week! One is being released each of the next three days … check their site to see which one is dropping when. And then GO!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Borrowing again from my favorite comedian, Brian Regan …

Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck. Somebody put our engine in upside down, and there’s only one tool in our galaxy that can fix this … and it’s in Madagascar. Apologies for the delay.

But we’ve all been there. Sitting in the airport when you get the announcement or phone notification that your flight has been delayed 1, 2, 6 hours. What to do? If you’re like me, you’re faced with several options. I usually decide to be less unhealthy and use the ‘opportunity’ to get some Fitbit steps in. That usually lasts no more than 30 minutes as I grow weary of dodging people either walking at a zombie pace staring at their phones with zombie face or the people late for flights doing the OJ Simpson thing through the airport. (This OJ thing, not the other one.) I could peruse the shops in the airport and buy something that I don’t need at 8 times the price I could get it at home. But I want to do most is to saddle up at a watering hole and have a good local beer.  I don’t mean some sports bar that only serves mass-produced national stuff through questionable keg lines. I want to find somewhere that serves a good pint of local beer.

During my most recent flying-home-experience, I found myself with 6 (yes, six) hours in the airport, trying to get home from DC. (Note: I do not recommend drinking for 6 hours before flying home. For about 37 reasons.) But the delay made me think. I did the Google-thing to find the best places to get local beer in airports, but I could not find a good list. There were lists per city, or the top 7-9-10 places to get a drink. But there wasn’t a single good list.

 

So, here is my first stab (no, not another OJ reference) at a good list. PLEASE comment below with your suggestions.

ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Sweetwater Draft House (Terminal B)
  • Chicken + Beer (Near gate D5)
BHM – Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Birmingham Brewhouse (Concourse A)

BNA – Nashville International Airport
  • Yazoo Brewing Company (Gate C23)
  • Fat Bottom Brewing Company (Gate C14)
  • Tennessee Brew Works (Terminal A/B food court)
BOS – Boston Logan International Airport
  • Harpoon Tap Room (Terminal A)
  • Boston Beer Works (Terminal C)
BTV – Burlington International Airport

The Skinny Pancake (past security – both concourses)

BWI – Baltimore/ Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
  • DuClaw Brewing (Main Terminal near B)
  • Flying Dog Tap House (A/B food court)
BZN – Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

Copper Horse (main level between escalators)

CLE – Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Great Lakes (Gate C14)

Bar Symon (Concourse C)

CLT – Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  • Carolina Beer Co (Concourse D/ Gate D7)
  • NoDa Brewing (Concourse A)
  • Captain Jack’s Tavern (Between gates E3 & E4)
DEN – Denver International Airport
  • New Belgium Brewing (Near Gates B32 & B80)
  • Boulder Beer Tap House (Jeppeson Terminal)
  • Root Down (C Gates/ Center core)
DTW – Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Shed Bar (Gates A2 & A38)

EWR – Newark Liberty International Airport

Caps Beer Garden (Gate C120)

GRR – Gerald R Ford International Airport (Grand Rapids)

Bell’s Brewery (Grand Hall near food court)

GSP – Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport
  • RJ Rockers Flight Room (Concourse B)
  • Thomas Creek Grill (Concourse A)
IAD – Dulles International Airport (Washington, DC)

DC Chophouse & Brewery (between ticket counters 2&3)

IND – Indianapolis International Airport

317 Tap Room (Civic Plaza)

LAX – Los Angeles International Airport
  • Rock & Brews (Terminal 1)
  • The Parlor (Terminal 3)
  • Point the Way Cafe (Terminal 6)
LGA – New York LaGuardia Airport

Biergarten (Terminal C)

MCO – Orlando International Airport

Cask and Larder (Gates 100-129)

MKE – Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport

Leinenkugel Leinie Lodge (Concourse D)

MSP – Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport
  • Stone Arch Craft Lab (Terminal 1)
  • Lolo American Kitchen & Craft Bar Terminal 1)
ORD – Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Publican Tavern near K Gate

PDX – Portland (OR) International Airport
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery (Concourse E)
  • Country Cat (Concourse D/E)
  • Deschutes Brewery (Concourse D)
  • Laurelwood Public House & Brewery (Concourse A)
PHX – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Four Peaks Brewing (Terminal 4)
  • O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery (Terminal 2)
PWM – Portland (ME) International Jetport

Shipyard Brewing (Gate 5)

SAN – San Diego International Airport

Stone Brewing Co (Terminal 2)

SAV – Savannah Hilton Head International Airport

Southbound Brewing Co (Pre-Security)

SFO – San Francisco International Airport

Anchor Brewing (Terminal 3, near gate 70)

STL – St Louis Lambert International Airport
  • Schlafly Beer Bar & Grill (Terminal 1, Concourse C)
  • Three Kings Public House (Terminal 2)
TPA – Tampa International Airport

Cigar City (Airside C)

 

Cheers! Here’s hoping you’re delayed in one of these airports soon. Wait … that didn’t come out right. You know what I mean.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

You know there are those moments that forever change your life. You remember where you were, who you were with, maybe even what you were wearing. For today’s post, I’m talking about one of those moments. I can’t give you the exact date … mostly because I suck at remembering things like that. I can, however, tell you where I was and who I was speaking with.

Several years ago, I found myself at an airport watering hole in Washington, DC. As is my norm, I found myself in conversation with my bar-neighbor about beer and breweries. There was a beer on tap from Dogfish Head out of Deleware (actually two, 60 and 90-minute IPAs) that had him trying to decide. I started discussing with him the differences before he settled on the 60. He loved it and moved onto the 90 … and yes, I couldn’t let him drink alone. I had the same order.

His love of the two beers led to the inevitable, “I wish I could get this at home.” What happened next changed both of us. I told him about the FishFinder on Dogfish Head’s website. If you don’t already know, the FishFinder lets you choose any of the DFH beers, a ZIP code and radius, and whether you want to find it in a restaurant/ bar or in a store. In short: “I live in 30303 and want to find all package stores with 25 miles of me that carry World Wide Stout.”

In short, his mind was blown that this level of info was available on their website. And my mind was blown that sharing information and knowledge about beer and breweries could be so impactful. I’ve made it a mission ever since to be free to share opinions about the beer-iverse with anyone near me who will listen. Annoying? Potentially. But you might be surprised how often this creates connections.

A  lot of breweries have similar features on their sites now. Does your favorite brewery?

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

New beer styles seem to emerge (or re-emerge) almost every week. Once you think you decided that you like an IPA, along comes the New England-style IPA (NEIPA), Double IPA (DIPA), West Coast IPA, Brut IPA … the list goes on and on. What are the differences? If I like this, will I like that? That conversation could be a post of its own.

What Are Hops?

For this post, we’re going to talk about one of beer’s four main ingredients … hops. Hops are those magical little cone-shaped plants that impart flavor, aroma, and some preservative qualities to beer. Hops can bring bitterness, sweetness, citrus flavors … it all depends on which hop or combination of hops the brewer chooses to use. Although there are only about 80 different types of hop plants, with cross-breeding and experimentation, the number of hops that can actually be used is difficult to pin down. This list from morebeer.com explains a bit about many of them, as well as the flavors they typically impart.

But there’s more to it than just adding hops to the brewing process. You may hear terms like DDH (double-dry hopped), dry hopping, wet hopping, dried hops, wet hops, fresh hops. What does it all mean? And what do these processes do to a beer?

Dry-Hopping

Simply put, dry-hopping is the process of dumping some hops into the beer within a few days of the bottling process. Brewers may arm-wrestle on when it’s best to do this: (one school of thought is to do so 2 weeks before bottling, allowing the flavors to meld. The other thought is to add dry-hop about 3-5 days before bottling, which brings the maximum aroma to the finished product.) Regardless, dry-hopping does not add to the bitterness of a beer. It simply extracts aroma and some hop flavor to the beer, without affecting the bitterness. Hops added early in the brewing process break down – that’s what brings the bitter to the party. Back to dry-hopping … this process releases aroma and hop flavor, but it doesn’t break the hop down, releasing the plant’s oils and resulting bitterness into the beer. If you’re reading between the lines here – yes, you’re correct. Hop flavor does not necessarily equate to bitterness. If you’ve ever smelled a beer and thought, “that smells like grapefruit,” it’s likely that you’re smelling a hop varietal that brings that aroma … not grapefruit added to the beer.

What is DDH, or Double Dry-Hopping?

The DDH-style beers (double dry-hopped) is basically the same thing, but with an additional round of dry-hopping.

Wet-Hopping

To understand wet-hopping, we must first understand the hop harvesting process. Most hops are kiln-dried almost as soon as they’re picked. From there, they’re formed into little pellets that are then shipped to brewers, ready to be added to the process. Some harvested hops are dried and left in the full cone form (not pelletized, while some others remain ‘wet.’) Wet hops are harvested and are ready to be added to the brewing process. And that’s the tricky part. Freshly-harvested hops have a very short shelf life and need to be used with 24-ish hours of being harvested. Since almost all US hops come from the Pacific Northwest, most true wet hop beers are going to come from the left coast. Since these aren’t pelletized, their flavors are less concentrated and therefore do not bring the same level of flavor or bitterness as the kiln-dried cousins. The main benefit is the addition of earthy, almost grassy, flavors to the beer.

Also, Fresh-Hopping is basically the same thing as Wet-Hopping, but these hops are kiln-dried in full cone form. This is a compromise between the longer shelf life of kiln-dried pelletized hops and the less concentrated earthy flavors of wet hops.

 

Does this help? Well, for now, hopefully. I’m sure that a new IPA varietal will come along tomorrow, making us write an update to this post. For now … happy drinking!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Since the dawn of man, we have exhibited a bizarre and innate desire to compare and contrast. It’s not enough to be good … is it better or worse than something else? Here some things I have heard debated …

  • What’s the most important invention of all time? Fire, paper, or the internet?
  • Who would win a one-on-one basketball game? Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain?
  • What’s the most disappointing movie sequel of all-time? Actually, there’s no debate here – it’s Caddyshack 2.

Along with debates like these, you’ve also likely run across lists of “The Best ____” in each state, city, region, etc. Just like the comparison game, these lists are incredibly subjective and prone to massive leaps of faith and logic in order to come to a nice, tidy conclusion. More often than not, they’re just there for the click-bait and actually hope that you’ll hate what they shared. Because if you’re angry, you share and comment … and they get more hits.

Knowing this, I’m still here to discuss a list that I found particularly egregious in their flawed logic. This particular list used only fact-based criteria in order to create the content, which is certainly laudable. But there are two steps to create a fact-based list that actually carries some credibility: 1) stick to the numbers, and 2) use numbers that actually matter and prove the point. Groupon ignored the latter. In a recently published article, Groupon set out to list the “Best State for Beer Lovers.” Intrigued by the title, I dove in. My first stop was at the metrics used to create the list. After all – “best state for beer” can be a very subjective discussion, and I couldn’t imagine how they’d come to their conclusions. Thankfully, they shared the three main data points:

QUALITY

Groupon proudly shares that their quality ranking is based on “each state’s top 5-rated beer scores on BeerAdvocate.com.” Wait, are they serious? Top five? Meaning 5? ONLY 5?? Ummmm, based on that theory … if one brewery churned out the 5 greatest beers in the world, and literally every other beer in the state was complete garbage, this state would be ranked as having the highest quality. That’s a bold strategy, Cotton.

AFFORDABILITY

I’m going to paste this one directly. Because you can’t make this stuff up.
“The overall affordability ranking considered both the cost of a 12oz. Miller Lite in bars and the cost of a 24-pack of Miller Lite or Bud Light in stores (Total Wine and Walmart, specifically).”  I’m sorry, but what? You’re going to base the results of a study on the best states for BEER LOVERS on the average price of MILLER LITE??? Checking the calendar …. confirmed. This is not April 1st. They’re actually serious.

ENTHUSIASM

Groupon went straight into patting-themselves-on-the-back mode here. They looked for the number of beer-related Groupons offered per 1,000 residents. This could only barely, tangentially be related to beer-related enthusiasm. I’m stretching to give them a sliver of credit on this one. And it’s a massive, massive stretch. How about average line length at bottle releases?

 

To say this list was patently laughable is a gross understatement. But at least we now know that Michigan is a great place to go for cheap Miller Lite and Nevada churns out Groupons like crazy. I’ll sleep better tonight. If you’d like a less ridiculous list than Groupon’s version, try this one from Beer Connoisseur. I particularly appreciate their disclaimer at the bottom:

Building a list ranking the 50 states of brewing is incredibly hard. There’s no way to effectively quantify or qualify a state’s beer scene. With more than 7,000 breweries in the U.S., there’s plenty of quality beer in each state as well as exceptionally gifted brewers perfecting their craft.

The takeaway? Read all of these lists online with a salt lick-sized grain of salt. Except for the ones BabyGotBeer creates. Those are completely legit.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington