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For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops (Brewing Elements) Paperback – December 16, 2012
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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While yeast is an actual living organism, and can be manipulated quite a bit, the variability with hops is primarily accomplished through horticulture. This book does a nice job providing a background on where hops come from, lineage of various varieties, and overall just smartens the reader on what hops are. The practical knowledge gained from this reading is through familiarity. If you used a certain hop, and aware of its characteristics, you can glean information about other hops by seeing how they are related. I agree with other reviewers that YEAST has a lot more hands-on advice, though.
Ray Daniels writes an excellent book in which a very systematic and scientific approach is taken to determine the ingredients of a recipe. However, he tends to hurry over the hops section, merely suggesting a "family" of hops to choose from and a final bitterness to aim for. And so I turned to this book with the intention of filling in the blanks.
The truth is, anyone can brew a bitter beer. Toss in a ridiculous amount of relatively expensive brewing hops, and pretty much anyone can appease a non-educated, untrained individual who fancies himself a "hop head."
Find someone however who understands the intricate nuances in a beer such as Heady Topper, or Pliny the Younger, and suddenly a "butt load of hops" doesn't work anymore.
The biggest challenge really lies beyond the ":30" timer. A lot of what the brewer does in relation to hops rests not only in the last 30 minutes of the boil, but in the precious days and potentially months between the time the heat is shut off, and the cap is popped off.
I turned to "For the Love of Hops", hoping for critical information on the nitty gritty details of flavoring with hops - should one use more for less time, or less for more time? How much dry-hopping is necessary? What are rules of thumb for duration and quantity? And how about some better information on the hop varities besides "citrusy and piney"?
Unfortunately, FTLOH did little to aid me in this quest. Some of the poorly-received 3-star reviews on Amazon actually hit the nail on the head quite well. Sad to see "fanboyism" take place with a brewing book.
Hieronymus's writing is quite difficult to follow, and knowledge useful for a brewer is sporatic at best. Most disappointing in my opinion was the chapter on dry-hopping. Arguable one of the most signifcant steps to adding hop character to a beer, we're given 19 pages of text containing a myriad of stories from various brewers on the topic, none of which relate even the slightest to the modern homebrewer. There is extremely little guidance on the practice, and even fewer suggestions on how one should perform the method, especially on a smaller, at-home scale. The most useful piece of knowledge I absorbed from the entire chapter was on page 216: "New Belgium found that ceiling [for volume of added dry hops] at 35 kilograms in 100 hectoliters (comparable to about nine-tenths of a pound per barrel." There you have it. I may have just saved you $15 bucks...
Even his chapter on hop varities, titled "The Hop Store" provides little more knowledge of use than is available on nearly any brewing-focused website or application. Each hop variety is given a one-sentence historical reference - honestly useless to the homebrewer - and SOMETIMES a few words describing it's flavor and/or aroma. Sometimes we get little more than "Relatively neutral, but English, character." It then gives a range of acid ranges, which can be found on the label of any packaged hop product at a brewing supply store. On two pages of the book I found a gorgeous "spider chart" that shows a variety of hop as well as a dodecagon with flavor perceptions ranging from "sweet fruits" to "citrus." It turns out that these charts are the entire content of a publication called "The Hop Aroma Compendium" - a 2-volume series which I suspect presents far more value than "For the Love of Hops" and can be yours today for the at-a-bargain price of $237 dollars US... (You won't find it on Amazon - I already looked...)
In closing, "For the Love of Hops" is written by a hop-lover who wanted to share his stories and experiences in the world of brewing, and that's great if you're looking for a trip through history and would like to hear some stories from big-name breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and Samuel Adams. If however you're looking to improve your own brewing abilities by learning more about the potential and power of the almighty Humulus Lupulus, I'm afraid you'll have to continue your search elsewhere.
2/3 of the book will keep you entertained without you realizing that you are actually learning scientific information.
The hop comparison table is a must have and worth the price of the book itself.
Even goes into great detail why people taste differently and the scientific research behind the reasoning. This information applies to more then hops or beer brewing.
You will love this book and annoy all your non-brewing friends because all the cool factoids that must be shared with everyone. :)
i home brew. they offer a great research reference.
much of the content is above a home brewer level, it does improve your understanding of the science of brewing.