I had occasion (let’s call it almost daily) to visit my local LCBO boutique to purchase some imbibables. Being Saturday, they had the sample cart out. Normally, I would pass it by as they proffer some new syrupy girl-drink guaranteed to give me a hangover before dinner. This time, they caught my attention – with hops.
It is becoming quite popular for craft brewers in Ontario (and elsewhere I presume) to add this magical ingredient called “hops” to their lagers. For anyone who knows anything about beer (and no, consuming a case of Bud does not count), hops are one of the few ingredients allowed by the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law) and an essential ingredient in what we call beer, which would otherwise me malty-alcy water.
Apparently, Alexander Keith’s, a Canadian brewery much loved (even though owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) and celebrated throughout our nation (Canada, for the Americans) has decided to take the plunge and introduce MORE hops into their golden nectar.
I rarely buy Keith’s for the simple fact that it is a “plain vanilla” lager, though certainly much better than Budwieser. My personal tastes tend to gravitate towards the sharp hoppy bitterness of Bavarian Pilsners as a result. It takes a damn good brew to keep me from the import aisle…
The setting was perfect. On the table were two new varieties of Alexander Keith’s IPA with added hops, two DIFFERENT kinds of hops no less. Also present were two jars of the actual hop plants in question to compare aromas and illustrate the difference. I applaud Keith’s for actually assuming I’m not a senseless alcoholic (though certainly will not deny being one).
I was informed by the presenter that these were dry-hopped. For those not up on brew-speak, this means the hops were added after the boil and during fermentation, providing maximum aroma (read: flavour) though not contributing to the bitterness of the brew. So, with those who can’t stand the over-hopped micro-brews that leave a wincing bitter finish, this is an ideal brew to capture that hops aroma without the burnt-tongue and “blech” reflex.
The two varieties of hopped lagers on offer are “Cascade” and “Hallertaller” with printed information on the can as to how they should taste. After sampling each in turn between sniffs of the dried plant samples, I can say I was sold and purchased a number of each.
After a hearty dinner and consuming a few cans of each, I have to say I enjoy this innovation in Keiths recipe and certainly hope they will make it widely available for my perpetual consumption. Though I feel it is a bit of a cop-out to add the flavour in afterwards, I found the result smooth and flavourful. So much so that I purchased a few more cans the next day.
To those who haven’t tried it – give it a go. If nothing else, it can be written up as an educational experience as to how the mighty hop makes beer BEER. To me, it is hope that we can transcend the oceans of plain lager to something the general public can choose between, according to their mood and personal preferences. Plain vanilla lager watch out! Your days are numbered.