Background: I was drinking a New Belgium "Tour de Fall" last week and thinking about the hops that I was tasting in the finish. For me, hops in general were a pretty slowly acquired taste, and I didn't start truly appreciating the hoppy West Coast style until I encountered Sierra Nevada "Torpedo" and fell in love.
Now I finally find myself wanting to get to know specific varieties of hops by flavor and scent. Amarillo, Cascade, and so on - I know there are dozens and dozens of varieties, but how do I start training myself to recognize their differences (and identify the most common varieties) in the drink itself?
Should I buy some hops from a supply store, and huff 'em like a soccer mom in a fabric softener commercial? Or would that be totally different from what comes through in a beer? Would it be better to find a stool at a local brewery/brewpub and ask for a lesson in liquid form?