During my early years in New York City, when I was young, drunk and prone to staying up 'til sunrise, I often found myself at a Greek diner with a phonebook-long menu — well, a phonebook circa 1982.
At that ungodly hour of the morning, focusing my eyes was impossible. All my reptilian brain craved was greasy, meaty grub to insulate my stomach and sop up the excesses of the night. But flipping through the thick, picture-filled menu, I was struck with indecision: Pancakes? Eggs? A gyro? Fried calamari? Endless choices were endlessly overwhelming. “Gimme a burger,” I’d mumble, retreating into my comfort zone.
These days, many beer drinkers feel the same way at supermarkets and liquor stores. There are more, and better, suds than at any time in America’s drunken history. But which brew should you choose? Why does one IPA taste like pine, but the other recalls white wine? Luckily, Food Republic is here to help clear up the bitter confusion. In our “Get to Know” series, we’ll rundown some of the hops, grains and yeasts giving beers their appealingly offbeat, unique flavors and aromas.
Today’s lesson centers on the Simcoe hop. Released in 2000 by Washington State’s Select Botanicals Group, the proprietary hop variety (yup, hops can be trademarked) is used to impart both bitterness and aroma into beer. It’s identified by a piney, woodsy profile blended with a bit of citrus. Since Simcoe isn’t as pungently piney as Northern Brewer or Chinook hops (more on those later, don’t you worry), it’s often used to add a clean, singular profile to pale ales and India pale ales. Try these five on for size:
- Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
The Delaware brewery’s generously hopped India pale ale is its flagship beer, and for good reason: It’s baby-smooth, with a lightly citrusy, piney nose and a flavor that recalls honey, earth and grapefruit.
- Kuhnhenn Simcoe Silly Ale
For this release, the inventive Michigan brewery dosed the potent, Belgian-style strong ale (10 percent ABV!) with coriander, orange peel and plenty of Simcoe hops. The amber-gold result boasts notes of banana and bubble gum matched by a present, pleasing bitterness.
- Peak Organic Simcoe Spring Ale
To celebrate the season, the Portland, Maine, outfit releases this ale with a reserved malt backbone and plenty of Simcoe’s trademark citrus and pine. It drinks clean and crisp.
- New Belgium Ranger IPA
The Colorado brewery's first year-round India pale ale boasts a mélange of hops, counting floral-citrusy Cascade, herbal and earthy Chinook and scads of Simcoe. Ranger’s nose is sweet, citrusy and positively pungent, but it goes down easy and balanced with a great bite of grapefruit and pine.
- Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA
The Pennsylvania brewery’s 9-percent doozy exclusively utilizes heaps of Simcoe hops — no problem, since the variety imparts little harshness. Double Simcoe drinks creamy and resinous, with loads of pine and tropical fruit on the nose.
Previously: Get to know your hops: Citra