Are Bittering Hops Over?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by sjverla, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. sjverla

    sjverla Initiate (0) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    Several times over the last couple months I've ordered some new local beer, expecting the fashionable cloudy, fruity beverage that everyone's making now. And I got exactly what I expected.

    What I didn't expect was a complete lack of bitterness. These were malt smoothies, and frankly, kind of gross.

    I understand the concept of hop bursting, and it's a technique I've used myself, but managed to impart some bitterness that cut the malt and balanced the flavor. The fact that I've now experienced this multiple times has me wondering if people are moving away from the concept of bitterness and balance entirely.

    Is this actually what people want, or are these just poorly made beers?
  2. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,569) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    The use of bittering hops isn't over, but there is definitely a growing popularity of beers without a lot of bitterness. The trend has been growing fairly rapidly the last few years amongst brewers since that appears to be what many of their customers want/prefer.
  3. JFresh21

    JFresh21 Disciple (303) Mar 6, 2012 Illinois

    One of my local beers that is regarded as the top NE IPA in the area has literally no bitterness. So yes, many people like it. I prefer some bitterness or else the drinking experience gets boring fast. Luckily, beer is a huge market so we find all of the above.
  4. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,378) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    No. There are more styles out there than NEIPA.
  5. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,165) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    A lot of the best NEIPAs are quite bitter. And West Coast IPAs aren't going anywhere either.

    If we want to talk lack of bitterness, how's about some of these flavored imperial stouts that are so popular these days?
  6. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,452) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    The NYC variants seem to feature bitterness, so it's actually rare for me to come across the non bitter variety. Good thing for me, too, because that was totally not my thing.

    There's always other styles, too. Thank God for Pilsners!
  7. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,572) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Premium Trader

    When I first switched to beer from wine, the NEIPA probably would have been right up my alley, couldn't take the IPA bitterness, and really found blondes overly bitter. Now I find drinking the NEIPA style with super low bitterness kinda one and done. I look forward to the bite at the end that resets the palette.
    Brolo75, mudbug, SFACRKnight and 4 others like this.
  8. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,277) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    When I drink a NEIPA I don't want the bitterness because it tastes like I'm drinking pure orange peel, and I don't want that.
    thesherrybomber likes this.
  9. MNAle

    MNAle Savant (978) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Yes. :grin:
  10. MNAle

    MNAle Savant (978) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Interesting. We have a fairly long-standing thread going in the Midwest forum about MN-brewed NEIPAs, where several of the beers are criticized as not being NEIPAs due to having bittering present.
  11. MNAle

    MNAle Savant (978) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    I agree with this. Caveat: my exposure to "NEIPAs" is limited to the MN-brewed wannabes, not the "real" one from, you know, New England!...

    However, the beers here that get a lot of raves I find to be one and done, at least for the evening. It is not exactly lack of bittering, more like a citrus acidity that becomes just unpleasant well before the second beer is finished. For me, anyway. YMMV.

    Maybe that is what @Mothergoose03 was calling "pure orange peel"...
    Mothergoose03 and donspublic like this.
  12. Moradin

    Moradin Initiate (107) Jul 7, 2016 New York

    What got me into Craft was the bitter west coast IPA, and yes, I had a fling for NEIPA (who didn't?) but them I got sick of them and now i consider a16oz can impossible to finish. But sadly it became equally hard for me to find new West-coast-triple-digit-IBU beer.
    So with time I abandoned the IPA path more and more, and I'm glad I did, because I know way better all the other styles of beer that before were just a one off from my IPA/Stout diet.

    so, to answer the question, bittering hops are not completely over, they are not as cool as they were years ago, so they show up less and less in beer
  13. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (809) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    If they're not making a balanced end product, I would consider them to be poorly made.

    As you are referencing IPAs, then, yes, huge bittering/boil additions are a thing of the past and that's not necessarily a bad thing as IBUs aren't the only thing that imparts bitterness to a beer. I, personally, don't use any hops during the boil and my IPAs are plenty bitter from whirlpool and dry hop additions.
  14. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,427) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Hudson Valley Brewery is balancing all late addition hops with sour in some of their very popular beers, and it works amazingly well.

    I like all IPA variations, though, and no problem finding all the variations one's heart desires, bitter to not bitter, around here.
  15. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,452) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    I don't think that's a deal breaker; they seem to be all about the mouthfeel and substantial dry hopping more than anything else.
    They are one and done for me, too, but it's more the total absence of complexity. I think of them as a half-pint joy ride, and that's about it.
  16. utopiajane

    utopiajane Poo-Bah (2,532) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    I hope not. I happen to like the taste of at least two bittering hops . Chinook and willamette off the top of my head.
    VABA, Brolo75, Lone_Freighter and 5 others like this.
  17. PatrickCT

    PatrickCT Poo-Bah (1,664) Feb 18, 2015 Connecticut

    Yes. To both.
  18. sjverla

    sjverla Initiate (0) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    Those are two of my favorite "flavoring" hops!

    Chinook is, to me, the perfect bridge between the older-style bitterness and new-craze fruitiness. It's been a couple years since my last brew day, but it was a Chinook-heavy Imperial Red, and those hops brought a TON of pine and mango. It was more pine though, which I prefer.

    Responses so far have alleviated some of my concern about the future of brewing in the US. I've often been one to decry the increasing ubiquity of fruit-forward IPAs, and I've been off the forums for a while, but it seems like things might be moderating; not that demand for Hawaiian Punch is decreasing, but demand for variety is increasing.

    And I'm not all that interested in returning to the IBU arms race of the early 2000s, but it sucks watching the pendulum swing so far in one direction. Getting older is hard.
    ESHBG, TongoRad, bluejacket74 and 6 others like this.
  19. Leebo

    Leebo Initiate (0) Feb 7, 2013 Massachusetts

    I need more bitterness in my life. Really. Not a fan of the really soft, oj, ipas. At all. I drink a fair amount of Sierra Nevada.
  20. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (809) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    I don't think the demand for variety went anywhere. Educated beer consumers have always wanted variety. It's the new breed of obsessed beer geek that only wants hazy IPAs and pastry stouts.
  21. medb

    medb Initiate (52) Aug 27, 2013 California

    I started home brewing recently and to be honest I surprised myself with the results, especially with hoppy beers (an ounce of hops in a gallon batch). It made me think about the trend of lots of late hop additions.
    I know this is very simplistic, but to people who really like the non bitter character of hops isn't it almost impossible to make a bad beer (providing you don't really mess up and infect it).
    bubseymour likes this.
  22. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (809) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    You'd be surprised at how easy it is to make bad beer.
  23. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (2,524) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Premium Trader

    I'm more disappointed in the reduction of standard imperial stouts for sugary, barrel aged stouts than I am about the NEIPA takeover.

    To stay relevant to this thread, I don't think the use of bittering hops is obsolete. They're still around, although less so than before. I believe they will make some sort of come back in the future as well.
    ogman, pro100, ManBearPat and 4 others like this.
  24. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (809) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Give me Old Rasputin and Pliny the Elder and I'll be a happy guy.
  25. TriggerFingers

    TriggerFingers Disciple (321) Apr 29, 2012 California

    While “bittering hops” (or early additions) aren’t the rage right now, they’ll be back.

    The pendulum is always swinging. I have seen some brewers returning to a more “bitter” profile for their IPA’s like we saw 10-15 years ago.

    Pretty soon, someone is going to take a shot at brewing something akin to the original Ruination. I, for one, can’t wait. Lastly, I will say I don’t care how many late hopping techniques (whirlpool, flameout, hash, etc.) you employ, one cant get the same level of bitterness and bite without a solid early charge (be it extract or whole hops).
  26. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,637) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have varied experiences here. For example the Trillium beers that I have consumed have had noticeable (moderate) bitterness. In contrast the Tree House beers that I have tasted were less bitter.

    I suppose you get to choose what you prefer here.

    GuyFawkes, ColdOne and Bitterbill like this.
  27. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,277) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I think the flavor and aroma hops can mask a mild off-flavor that is due to a brewing error, but I don't think they can mask a weak malt base because the beer will have a very unbalanced taste to it. That's an error that is not frequently seen (at least not for me) but it is easily noticed once it smacks you in the face. It essentially causes a beer to taste like hop tea.
    Bitterbill likes this.
  28. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Devotee (471) May 3, 2016 Illinois

    Problem solved- every NEIPA should be served with a lemon wedge on the lip of the glass- you want more bitterness, squeeze it...:wink:
  29. marquis

    marquis Crusader (745) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Beats the alternative :wink:
  30. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,118) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Trader

    That SN Hazy is low in bitterness to me but a "comfortable" low in bitterness, if you catch my drift.
  31. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,118) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Trader

    You said it, my good fellow!
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  32. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,452) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    Yeah, it's a separate demographic from folks like us. There was a post by Bill Manley not too long ago that confirmed that that's how they were looking at the overall market.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  33. threeviews

    threeviews Zealot (555) Apr 18, 2011 Florida

    I recently visited a "highly hyped" brewery that has made their name producing NEIPA's. Not only did their brands lack in character (within 1 or 2 degrees of separation, they really all tasted VERY similar), the only bitterness I got was in the form of yeast bite and residual hop particulate.

    Personally, I don't understand this trend. While I have had a couple in the style that I have enjoyed, I don't have patience for rushing beer...If you recognize my avatar, Duvel (and especially Duvel Tripel Hop Citra) is my benchmark for well crafted (i.e. consistent), pleasantly hoppy, beautiful looking and food friendly ale that is hard deny.
  34. Shroud0fdoom

    Shroud0fdoom Poo-Bah (1,584) Oct 31, 2013 Maryland

    While I do love trying all different styles and techniques of the IPA category, the Citra/Mosaic Double Dry Hopped and Hop Bursting is getting stagnant to me. I’m sitting here sipping Sierra Nevada’s Hop Bullet with Magnum.. I grabbed it because it was a Magnum Hopped DIPA. Minty, Spicy and Resinous...the flavors I’ve been missing for a while now. So no. Bittering hops are not just have to fish them out in the sea of Hop Smoothies out there.
  35. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (217) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I think the bitter IPA trend has died down quite a bit but I think it will come back eventually as the pendulum swings the other way again. To me these trends are tiring because they seem to dominate everything and then they start to squeeze out some of the other styles that aren't like them or those styles become versions of them (IPLs, anyone?) but such is is a business after all.
  36. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,227) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    Melvin, Comrade, and La Cumbre are all making great beers that are firmly bitter but also bring huge aroma and flavor to the table. I crave these beers, and while neipa are pretty ok, I will always crave some bitterness.
  37. KindaFondaGoozah

    KindaFondaGoozah Aspirant (233) Jan 1, 2013 Wisconsin

    Rome fell, the Pax Brittanica has passed, America will inevitably lose its influence, no matter the time span, and New England milkshakes will be replaced as well. I enjoy the new generation of IPAs, but all things must pass. Five years from now I could be chasing sour browns with botanical additions. Or I could eschew beer entirely for single malts. Who knows. Drink what makes you happy :grinning:.
    Leebo, GuyFawkes and thesherrybomber like this.
  38. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Meyvn (1,440) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    Chinook is great. Columbus and Magnum, too. :wink:
    utopiajane likes this.
  39. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Meyvn (1,440) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    Yes and no. Overall? No. For IPAs? No, but they're less important. I don't know if any of you have had Liquid Truth Serum from Dogfish Head, but that's an IPA that uses no hops during the boil, and yet there is still a discernible bitterness to it. It's quite a pleasant beer, actually. I like it quite a bit. On the other hand, I have had some NEIPAs with absolutely no bitterness to them. I really liked them, but because they finished dry. I do love some bitterness in my IPAs, but dryness is the more important aspect, in my opinion, because it's the possibility of being cloying that is the bigger threat when it comes to lack of bitterness.
    doktorhops, utopiajane and hopsputin like this.
  40. surfcaster

    surfcaster Crusader (734) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Premium Trader

    Well obviously we need a new style! :rolling_eyes::grimacing:
    MNAle likes this.