Monday, November 25, 2013
Book Report: For The Love Of Hops, by Stan Hieronymus
Continuing my series of book reports about good homebrew and beer related books, this month I look at the recent publication For The Love Of Hops, by Stan Hieronymus. This book is one of the Brewing Elements series from Brewers Publications, a division of the Brewers Association. The series aims to publish a definitive tome on each of the major ingredients in beer, starting with Yeast, then Hops, and the recently released Water. I've got the latter as well, but need time to dig into that meaty book. This series is really aimed at professional brewers and includes a lot of chemistry, biochemistry and large-scale brewing advice. However, with the lines between professional and hobbyist blurring from the advent of the Internet and better general beer knowledge, a lot of the information is useful to the homebrewer as well. Thanks for the book Keith!
Our hoppy journey begins with a forward by Ken Grossman (founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing) about his personal history with the hop and the change in the hop industry over the years. Having been at the forefront of American craft brewing, his take on things is valuable and interesting. I won't ruin it for you!
Next up is a fairly lengthy introduction by the author that spends some time on the history of hop growing and then to the idea that triggered the writing of this book. The gist I got was that even the "hop experts" still have a lot of questions and Hieronymus drew the short straw to try putting all the info currently available into one small publication. Brave man!
Chapter 1 starts with aroma, probably since aroma is the first thing one tends to notice about hops. There is a lot of heavy science in this chapter populated with aroma wheels and spider graphs. The author sites a lot of studies, resulting in plenty of information, as well as the obvious fact that this chapter barely scratches the surface of the subject.
The 2nd chapter goes back to the history of hops in beer and farming, and is perhaps my favorite section of the book. Gone are the complex scientific formulas and names--this is history folks! Following this (too short) historic lesson is a chapter that focuses on the future of the hop--paying much attention to hop breeding programs in the current day. If you don't know much about the subject, this is an eye-opening intro to the complexities of hop husbandry! It is also interesting to learn how the process of selecting and breeding hops is handled. Continuing in this vein, chapters 4 and 5 pay attention to the arts of hop farming and harvesting.
Chapter 6 is useful from a technical perspective, as it discusses differences in hop products like cone, pellet, and extracts. There is also an extensive list of the currently available (some still new and rare) hops along with their acids, oils and backgrounds. A good place to start for info on newer hops, but I wish there was a bit more about their aroma and flavor profiles included.
Chapter 7 is about IBU's and using the hops in the brewhouse. Formulas, talk of kettle geometry and interviews with brewers cavort through this chapter! This is the nitty-gritty for the serious pro brewer. Following this section is one on dry-hopping, an essential discussion for modern brewing techniques. Off flavors take the center stage in chapter 9 and explains how hops can go terribly wrong.
The final chapter is really a bunch of recipes from professional brewers around the globe. These range from IPA's to Continental lagers from breweries like Firestone Walker, Fullers, Victory and many more. If you need some clone recipes to try--this is a good place to start.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book. For the serious home or professional brewer there is a lot of concise information in here. One of the big things I discovered was that not even the big brewers and scientists know all that much about hops. There is a ton of new information yet to be learned in the near future. Think of this as more of a brewing textbook than an entertaining read. While there are some good anecdotes, the main thrust of this book is hard science. Even with my background in medicine (with plenty of chemistry classes lurking behind me) there are sections that my mind wants to shake off and ignore as too difficult to pay attention to! For those just starting the hobby, read How To Brew or something a bit lighter to start. But for those mega-geek guys like me who can never seem to get enough beer information, go ahead and try this out!