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Beer with Bruce: The Beloved Hop

Let’s hop to it! It’s impossible to discuss craft beer without paying homage to the hop. Although that was not the case just a short time ago when our only choices were those light or even lighter lagers (you know the ones) made by multi-national, mega-brewers (you know the ones). By and large, those beers dismiss the potential of the hop. The craft beer revolution has rectified that.

No one celebrates the virtues of the hop more than American craft brewers and no style of beer celebrates the hop more than IPAs. So let the celebrations commence!

Hops are a four-for-one ingredient. They bitter the malt sweetness of beer, aiding in balance and drinkability; season the beer with hop flavor, contributing to complexity; add aromas to tantalize, entice, and ensnare the drinker to that first sip; and aid in preserving the beer. All this from the seed cones, commonly referred to as the flowers of the female hop plant.

Classified as a climbing vine of the nettle family, the hop plant is related to the Cannabis genus. Hops have a mild sedative, but not mind-altering, effect. Initially, the hop was used for its antiseptic powers, as they possess antibacterial compounds to help preserve beer. This is the dynamic from which IPAs were born.

The British are credited with discovering the preservation abilities of hops back in the heyday of the empire when they shipped beer to their troops in India. The long sea voyage of nearly 6 months proved too much for the standard ale, resulting in spoiled beer. The addition of more hops combined with a higher alcoholic beer did the trick.

Since that time, the hop ante has been substantially raised. Spurred on by aggressive American craft brewers, the rise of hops has led to the emergence and popularity of west coast IPAs, characterized by higher alcoholic strength and hop bitterness.

This caused a major shift in American beer markets, so much so that an arms race ensued with the mission of loading in more bitterness and alcohol. Some of these beers are quite good, even revolutionary, but others are “Shock and Awe” beers – meaning that in an effort to claim ever higher hop and alcohol levels, the balance was lost and, so too, was the drinkability.

It’s that balance, or shall we say, some counter measure in the formulation of a great IPA that prompts you to the second pint. Though you can still find those “Shock and Awe” IPAs out there, some middle ground has been found between the original English IPA and the Imperial (west coast) American IPA.

No matter where your individual hop threshold lies, there is an IPA for you. In fact, close to one-third of all craft beer consumed is some version of IPA, so the hop is here to stay! This fact isn’t lost on us at Shipyard. We make a variety of IPAs in several styles for you to enjoy.
We have the traditional English IPA  – Fuggles IPA; an American IPA – Monkey Fist IPA; an Imperial IPA – XXXX IPA; a Rye IPA – Little Horror of Hops; and are now launching a Red IPA.

If you can’t make up your mind, we invite you to explore our IPA variety 12-pack. Explore, discover…share a Shipyard with someone interesting.