7

Hoppy beers appear to be fad at the moment.

It seems that some brewers are aiming to produce beer with the sole aim to be as hoppy as possible, without consideration to other flavors or characteristics.

Is it fair to say that some beers are simply 'too hoppy' by some objective measure? I would say the New Zealand's Boundry Road Mumbo Jumbo IPA fits this category.

  • 1
    one man's meat is another man's poison. – mdma Jun 13 '14 at 0:38
6

International bittering units (IBU) measure the bitterness of different beer styles. IPAs have a wide range, and they're typically higher on the scale. If you can find the IBU of a beer you want to try (on Untappd, on the bottle, or some bars make this information available), you can compare it to other beers that you like to determine if it might be too bitter for your tastes.

I've tasted some beers that are way off the IBU scale that I linked to, but it's still subjective to say that these beers are "too hoppy." It's a matter of taste that I'd compare to saying that some foods are "too spicy." Some people might just like to try these novelty beers once, and other people might really develop a taste for them.

4

I feel like this is a pretty opinion based question, especially with IPAs being so "in" right now. Ignoring the taste of hoppiness, which is different from bitterness (dear Bob that myth needs to die), there's a limit to how much bitterness we humans can actually perceive. Past about 100 IBUs the tongue straight up can't tell that there are any more. Now we perceive the quality of bitterness differently.

So bitterness in beer is provided primarily by adding hops and boiling them for a long time. The length of time and pH of the wort affects a chemical reaction called "Isomerization", which is the process by which Alpha Acids in hop oils become Iso-Alpha Acids which stay stably in solution and make beer taste bitter.

Similarly, there are also Beta Acids. Generally these are in 1:1 ratio with the Alpha acids but sometimes there are more or less depending on the hop types.

Beta Acids are chemically Lupulones and Alpha Acids are Humulones. We've identified 3 types of each as well: No prefix, Co-, and Ad-. Most homebrewing hop packets list total alpha acid %, then % of those acids that are Cohumulone. But straight IBUs don't take which acids were used to get to that number.

Humulone is thought to give the best, smoothest, most pleasing bitterness. Cohumulone can be pretty abrasive, and the bitterness may seem rougher or more astringent...or just more bitter, even at the same IBUs. Beta acids are also thought of as a "rough" bitterness, but they primarily produce bitterness via oxidation and can help long term shelf-stability.

I don't know what all this really helps to answer, but I guess the main points are that you can't taste past 100 IBUs, but there are qualities to bitterness that can make some beers more abusive than others. Also my final point is that hop flavor and aroma don't make a beer bitter. If the hops have been boiled enough to actually make a beer that bitter...you do not taste those hops. You can have hoppy beers that are smooth and not bitter at all by hop selection, yeast selection, dry hopping, and not boiling them hops very much. You can also make beer more bitter by yeast selection and certain grains. You can also make Ruination or Palate Wrecker, but the point is that hoppiness and bitterness are not the same thing.

2

As the old saying goes, "There's no accounting for taste." So, objectively, no, there is no such thing as too hoppy as long as some enjoy them. There certainly are beers that are so bitter that they have very limited appeal and that can completely drown out other flavors rending not only the beer itself a one-note show, but eliminates the taste from anything else you eat or drink in close proximity. Stone's Ruination is an example of this.

So, while many aren't drawn to the "hop-bombs" that seem to get bigger and bigger all the time, the fact that there's a market to support them would indicate that they are not, in fact, "too hoppy."

2

In terms of bitterness vs hoppiness, with the 3 stages in the process where hops are generally added, only the final stage gives distinct hoppiness (as opposed to bitterness) as the hops aren't in the mix long enough for heat to break down the oils and flavour.

The reason why there are so many types of hops used, in varying concentrations, at various stages throughout beer making is because people are different.

  • I love a hoppy beer. Hoppier the better (at least in the summer months)
  • My wife hates them.

So really, the answer to your question is No - some beers aren't too hoppy; they are just too hoppy for you.

1

In my opinion, there is no such thing as too hoppy. Beers like Heady Topper have an incredible amount of hops, yet are highly drinkable.

However, some beers have a poor malt/hops balance, and as as result have an overbearing hope profile. These beers smell and taste like grass, and are not very drinkable.

1

As more and more companies/breweries enter the craft beer market I think this is one of the most obvious ways they see to differentiate themselves, therefore I believe the beers you see that are solely for the purpose of being very hoppy and/or bitter are for marketing purposes. It would be akin to different hot sauce companies attempting to gain fame by making the hottest sauce, not necessarily the one that best complements food. In either case the consumer will have a memorable experience and will remember the name and possibly tell a friend.

1

The answer is no, there is not an objective measurement of "too hoppy". It is entirely preferential. You could however state that a beer is too hoppy to match a given style, for example a Berliner Weisse with a bitterness of 70 IBUs would be considered imbalanced for the style and would occupy it's own experimental category.

  • By the same token, would you say that there is not objective measurement of a 'good beer'? – dwjohnston Jun 5 '14 at 0:34
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    No, "good/bad" are definitely subjective unless you define those criteria. – HourOfTheBeast Jun 5 '14 at 16:58
0

The answer is subjective. A lot of people are referring to IBUs in their answers. IBUs are a weak approximation, they only give you an idea.

Try the beer yourself! I for one love bitterness and believe brewers should always push the limit of any flavor in pursuit of exciting, tasty beer. Yet as with anything it is a matter of balance. Some flavors compliment each other, some do not. Learn what you like, share.

Answered by: The GastroGraph Team

-1

I've had beers that were sub 100 IPU's that were too hoppy and 100+ IPU's that were very good. Question of taste to the drinker.

  • Down vote without a comment? – Wayne In Yak May 2 '14 at 1:49

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