Beer Geek Nirvana

Deconstructing Latitude 48 + Best of Beer Camp
By JOSH SMITH  |  May 25, 2011

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While it's been said you can't teach an old dog new tricks, two pioneers of the craft beer movement have just released new and exciting mix packs.

SAMUEL ADAMS, or Boston Beer Company, has enjoyed a meteoric rise from Jim Koch's kitchen in 1984 to the distinction of being the largest craft brewer in America. Their success is due to lots of good ideas like this one: take the LATITUDE 48 IPA and release it along with five other versions of the IPA, each using only one of the original hops throughout the brewing process. By "deconstructing" this IPA and showcasing a single hop in the aroma, flavor, and bittering, Sam Adams is providing a tutorial in hops that would make any beer geek proud.

The Latitude 48 IPA uses German, English, and American hops all grown around, you guessed it, the 48th latitude. Copper in color, the beer has a nose balanced to the point of being muted. Notes of citrus, grapefruit, and pine emerge, but hop bitterness is overpowered by sweet biscuity malts. The result is a smooth and well-balanced beer, but a slightly dulled IPA.

From this starting point, five other IPAs were born. I started with the HALLERTAU MITTELFRUEH, which uses a German Noble hop that produces a mild floral aroma amidst the healthy dose of breadiness. The bitterness is of raw pine and lemon, joined by an unmistakable note of pepper. England's EAST KENT GOLDINGS provides an unusual aroma that ranges from sweet and fruity (think apricot) to earthy and grassy. Given the malty bend, this feels a lot like an English IPA. In the end, both of these hops seem better suited to bittering than flavoring.

Fortunately, things improve once you get to the real IPA hops from the Pacific Northwest. AHTANUM starts with an odd potpourri on the nose but has a nice light, floral bitterness in the flavor. Caramel malts again rise to the top, resulting in a sweet, simple IPA. ZEUS has a powerful piney aroma and taste, so much so that the herbal bitterness bests biscuity malts. SIMCOE too has a big grapefruit nose that is a little musty at the finish. Taste is mainly of citrus zest with an earthy bitterness. As the most bitter and tasty hops, I thought Zeus and Simcoe really stole the show. And while these may not be the most polished IPAs ever, this is an exbeeriment every beer lover should try (the 12-pack costs about $16 in most stores).

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Our country’s second largest brewer, SIERRA NEVADA, is also making a splash related to its annual contest for several lucky fans to go to Beer Camp in Chico, California. Participants tour the brewhouse and fields, learn the secrets to brewing some of their favorite Sierra Nevada beers, and get to create their own boundary-busting batches (if you’d like to apply for this year’s events, go to sierrabeercamp.com). The release of the BEST OF BEER CAMP VARIETY PACK gives everyone the chance to try four of their greatest creations.

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