Style Rant - Hoppy ESB

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david_42

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I try to evaluate experimental ales with a view of: "Does this work?". Widmer's PNW Red last year was good, not really a Red but good none the less. Today, for the third time in my beer swilling career, I told a bartender to dump a pint I'd paid for. I was at one of my favorite places, whose brewmaster has won multiple international awards for his brews. All deserved, but ...

WTF is with a cask-conditioned ESB that smells like pine needles and scraps across the tongue like chalk on a blackboard? An ESB is not about HOPS, it isn't, it isn't, it isn't! There might have been a good beer underneath , but it was a dumper.

The seasonal Red I had previously was extremely well done and the Dark Ale I ordered to restore my mindscape was up to its reputation.

I feel better.
 

Beerrific

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It seems to me that a lot of people these days think that a beer with a lot of hops means it is a special, fancy beer...a lot of hops is what separates good beer from BMC. Around me the most popular beers from the local microbrewery are very hoppy beers that are otherwise unremarkable yet every on drinks them on "special occasions." Oh well...
 
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Beerrific said:
It seems to me that a lot of people these days think that a beer with a lot of hops means it is a special, fancy beer...a lot of hops is what separates good beer from BMC. Around me the most popular beers from the local microbrewery are very hoppy beers that are otherwise unremarkable yet every on drinks them on "special occasions." Oh well...
Who are we to blame them for that perception? Sam Adams Lager is about the only other beer widely available on tap, and it is unremarkable except for a distinct hop bite. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Fat Tire are more widely available "micros" that, while not bad, accentuate hop flavor over malt. For a lot of people, I'm sure "good beer" equates to hoppy microbrew. In my little town, I have to buy single 22 oz bombers of anything by Stone, Rogue, Samuel Smith, Chimay (750 mL), and a few other micros. That packaging makes them look like a 40 of malt liquor to the layman, and few people bother to give them a try (the dust on the bottles says volumes about their popularity here). In bigger cities, you can get six-packs of phenomenal beer at better stores, but I think that's the exception rather than the rule. I bet that 9 out of 10 people who claim to "like beer" would expect ESB to be a dark IPA-style beer.

Now, from a brew "master" who has achieved international acclaim, I would expect more. Shame on him for perpetuating beer ignorance.
 

Beerrific

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Yuri_Rage said:
Who are we to blame them for that perception? Sam Adams Lager is about the only other beer widely available on tap, and it is unremarkable except for a distinct hop bite. ...
I was going to mention this, but didn't. In one of Sam Adams commercials they even point out how much hops they use..."almost a reckless amount." That has always made me laugh. I think I have seen pictures here of people using more hops when dry hopping than the pile they show on the commercial.
 

homebrewer_99

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I'm with you on this one Dave. I am not a hop head, but when I taste something that just is not what my tongue wants...DUMP IT!!!

Overall, I think the NW guys go really overboard with the hops. I hear of 30-50 IBUs and I just cringe. I know I can't drink that and enjoy it. I just can't. It's like eating something you know you don't like and will definitely make you toss it back up.

I ordered a SNPA 2 weeks ago and it was like drinking razor blades...it cut the whole way down. Man was I pissed.

I enjoy/make HWs a lot. I read recipes with 12-15 IBUs and the same. Make mine as low as possible and I'm happy (not hoppy :D ).
 

the_bird

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You boys don't know what you're missing! It's all about the hops, baby! Give me first wort hops, late hop additions, dryhops, sockhops, bebop, arubop, hops, Hops, HOPS!


(actually, I like malt too, it all depends on my mood...)

My personal pet peeve about a lot of micros is the need to "Imperialize" everything. I'm waiting for Orfy to chime in about the wrongness of Imperial IPAs, but that's a separate issue. What *I* hate is when a beer like a pilsner - whose most important attribute, IMHO, is its lightness, dryness, and drinkability - is made into a cloying, thick, chewy, alcohol-burning mess by making it into an "Imperial Pilsner". I swear I saw an Imperial Hefe at some point; I just don't get it.

Basically, beers do not have to be big to be good. You could make that same argument for Big Hops and for Big Malt. Restaint is hard, sometimes, and can also seem *boring,* but great beer doesn't have to be undrinkably large.
 

TheJadedDog

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ESBs are not even supposed to be that bitter, they are just a traditional pub ale with higher ABV than an ordinary bitter.

I have found that US brewers are currently obsessed with putting cascade and chinook in everything (I think this may have to do with the overall popularity of IPAs, the first micro style to really hit it big) and love complex hop schedules with lots of additions or a continuous addition. While this can work for some beers, it shouldn't be used for all of them.

Also, many people don't understand that the lack of hops is not the only problem with BMC, there is also a lack of malt character in those beers, hence they taste watered down.

Sorry about your bad beer experience David, sometimes I think the micros push the envelope a little too far and forget that 9 times out of 10, simpler is better.
 

Brewsmith

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I love me some hops, but I'll agree with you guys that the hops and "Imperialness" of some beers is a bit much. You're right on David, dump it. If I'm in the mood for hops, I'll get something hoppy, but an ESB is not what I would have in mind. B4B said it right, ESB should be bitter, not hoppy. With that said, I can't wait to brew Brewpastor's 777 IPA. :D
 
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david_42

david_42

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b4b - When there is nothing but hops, it's not an ESB. There is a 6 lane highway between "medium to strong" and completely "pine needles up your nose" dominating. This was hoppier than their IPA!
 
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