The bitterness of hops is an acquired taste according to a Port Moody brewmaster.
Hundreds gathered for the fourth annual Great Okanagan Beer Festival at Waterfront Park which started Friday and ends Sunday. The festival features more than 70 breweries including Moody Ales from Port Moody.
Brewmaster Roxanne Cartwright said hops are especially important to beer as it provides the drink with flavour and aroma, not just bitterness that’s typically associated with it.
“I believe it is an acquired taste because it is truly something that is unnatural to the human pallet, it’s the hop plant’s way of saying ‘don’t eat me, I’m bitter,’ but it grows on you.”
It’s possible to have a hoppy beer without the bitterness too, she said.
“You can have a hoppy beer, but have all the hops as just aroma. Or you can have a hoppy beer that’s just flavour… hops are in beer to help balance the sugars. You have malts and you have hops and when a beer is balanced you don’t even notice one of the elements being too strong.”
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In times where refrigerators didn’t exist, hops were used to preserve the beer and the ingredient evolved into a staple for the drink today.
But for the beer newbie, who is wary of bitterness, she recommends sampling different things and using the rating on the International Bitterness Unit scale to determine your level of hop.
“Once you really start to appreciate the flavour, you can’t get enough of it,” she said.
True beer connoisseurs “just crave that hop flavour and there are so many different types of hops, you have citrus, you have spice.”
She recommends a dry hop sour, for beginners who enjoy the citrus flavour. An ISA is another good starting point.
“Don’t start with a double IPA, that’s a bit of a shock to the pallet,” Cartwright laughed.
Festival goers Lewis Morris and Ryan Scorgie started with ciders Saturday and worked their way to an IPA.
Scorgie said he enjoys the Four Winds IPA, and they both enjoy the taste of hops.