15 Apr What is Hop Burn?
What is Hop Burn?
What is hop burn, how does it happen, and why? Too-fresh, greenness, or high-acid are all things that I’ve heard, but they’re not 100% accurate.
A couple of years ago my good friend and partner in
crime design were sitting at Craft Beer Cellar Cypress discussing a web design project for a brewery in town. One Parish Ghost in the Machine and one Great Heights Fruity Pellets, please.
Remember when people (us included) thought these were gonna be another trend? Sorry. Back to the story.
Anyhow, John mentioned to me that he’d learned of the term hop burn just a few days ago. I was kinda surprised to be honest. Here’s a guy with a garage fridge full of hazy bangers, somebody I’d call a beer nerd for sure, and he’d never even heard of hop burn despite drinking hop burn literally for years.
“I wonder how many other people have never heard of this,” I thought to myself, “I gotta write about it.”
First Things First – What is Hop Burn?
Alright, let’s tackle the basics. Hop burn is that fiery sensation akin to a spicy food kick, but in your beer glass. It’s like an unexpected twist in the plot of your taste adventure, where the hops seem to pack an extra punch, dancing a tango on your tongue.
It’s a sensation that typically happens when drinking really fresh IPAs, especially those that are of the hazy variety. Some beer nerds might describe a beer with hop burn as being “green” or “too green.” “Hop bite” is another term for it, and I’ve even heard a few folks erroneously call it “alpha burn,” but more on that in a few.
It’s usually experienced at the end of the sip, or soon after. While the aftertaste kicks in, there’s a burning astringency that some have described like sucking on a dry bag of black tea. I’ve never sucked on a dry bag of black tea (also, WTF? Who does that?)
It’s like the driest of dryness, tingling in the back of your throat. Some more-sensitive folks may even gag or feel like they’re choking a little bit.
If you’ve never felt this, then you probably don’t drink hazy IPAs. If you hate hazy IPAs, but you like other IPA styles, hop burn just might be why you’re not fond of these heavily-hopped beers.
Hit up your home brewer friend or local homebrew shop for some hop pellets, and suck on one of those little green bad boys. That gross, dry, chalky, burning feeling in the back of your throat… That’s hop burn.
Cool. We’ve Answered the Question What is Hop Burn, but How Does it Happen?
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing,” then you might understand the condition of craft beer in America.
Hazy IPAs aren’t just made with more hops, they’re also hopped at different times than other, more traditional, IPAs. This is referred to as the hop schedule.
The hop schedule of the average IPA might look a little like, bittering hops in the beginning of the boil, a little more bittering hops at the end of the boil, and a handful of flavor/aroma hops towards the end once the boil is done and it’s cooling down. This isn’t a home brewing article, so there’s no sense laboring over recipes, but this is important. When hops are added early when the boil is really hot, they impart more bitterness. When they’re added late or once it’s cooled, they impart more flavor and aroma.
Hazy IPAs are just built different. Many of these types of recipes call for little to no bittering hops at all, and instead of being added in little charges throughout the boil, they’re all added in one big charge at the end once the boil is over. This results in those intense flavor/aroma hops shining. Want more? Add more hops. Want even more? Dry hop. Dry hopping is adding hop to the beer during or after fermentation when the beer is completely cool. There’s definitely a point of diminishing returns, and every brewer will tell you a different amount, but a common rule of thumb is more hops = more flavor and aroma.
Since this style is so flavorful and so aromatic, a ton of hops are often used. That can result in an imbalance of polyphenols which cause the astringent burn in your throat! According to Beer Advocate ratings from beer drinkers around the world, SpindleTap has some of the best hazy IPAs in Texas, so they’ve had some beers that were released with some hop burn. Over 10% of the highest rated beers in Texas are SpindleTap IPAs. Ingenious, Astral, Great Heights are among some of the heavy hitters.
“It’s generally believed this [hop burn] is a result of overloading on polyphenols found in the vegetative matter of hops,” says Chad Kennedy, hop specialist at Brewers Supply Group (BSG), a national supplier based in Shakopee, Minn.
While there have yet to be studies published in relation to hop burn specifically, previous research has tied hop polyphenols to astringency. Because this vegetative matter does not contain alpha acids or essential oils, there’s a rule of thumb brewers can reference when assessing the risk of hop burn from a specific hop varietal: The higher the alpha-acid content of the hop variety, the lower the polyphenol levels of that variety. “Likewise, the lower the alpha-acid content, the higher the polyphenol content,” says Janish.
The longer the hops stay in the beer, the more polyphenols can be extracted. This gives a more astringent and rough sip. More hops. More time with hops in the beer. More burn. More. More. You see the trend yet?
Does Hop Burn Go Away?
The burning question on every beer lover’s mind: does hop burn eventually bid adieu? Well, the good news is that hop burn is typically a fleeting guest. Over time, as your palate adjusts and your taste buds acclimate, that intense sensation tends to mellow out, leaving you free to savor the unique flavors of your brew.
Where Does Hop Burn Come From?
Hop burn isn’t just a mischievous prank pulled by your favorite brew. It’s actually a result of an excess of certain compounds found in hops. Humulones, the bittering agents in hops, are responsible for this spicy surprise. When these compounds encounter your taste buds, they create a unique sensation that we’ve come to know as hop burn.
What Does Hop Creep Taste Like?
Now, let’s talk hop creep. It’s like hop burn’s sneaky cousin, slipping in when you least expect it. Hop creep brings a slightly sweet, yet also a slightly rough bitterness to the party. It’s as if your taste buds are embarking on a rollercoaster ride, hitting different flavor heights with each twist and turn.
Which Hops Cause Hop Creep?
Certain hop varieties are more notorious for causing hop creep. Those high in essential oils and resins, like Citra, Mosaic, and Amarillo, tend to be the main culprits. While they bring a symphony of flavors to your brew, they can also initiate the hop creep phenomenon.
Why Do Hops Taste So Good?
Ah, the charm of hops! They’re the rockstars of the beer world, delivering those captivating aromas and captivating flavors. Hops are like the painters of the beer canvas, adding vibrant strokes to the final masterpiece. They lend a floral, citrusy, piney, or even tropical melody that can transform a bland brew into a sensory symphony.
What Do Hops Do to Your Body?
Beyond tantalizing your taste buds, hops have some intriguing effects on your body. They’ve been known for their potential health benefits, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While the jury’s still out on their definitive impacts, hops have definitely earned their place as more than just flavor enhancers.
How Do Hops Make You Feel?
Ever wondered why a hoppy beer can trigger a sense of euphoria? Hops contain compounds that might interact with your brain in delightful ways. They can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, contributing to that pleasant feeling of relaxation and contentment after a sip.
Do Hops Give You a Buzz?
While hops add a unique flair to your brew, they’re not the primary agents responsible for that intoxicating buzz. That honor belongs to the alcohol content in your beer. Hops might create a sensory dance on your palate, but it’s the alcohol that takes center stage in the realm of intoxication.
What Do Hops Do to the Brain?
Prepare for a quick dive into the science zone. Hops contain compounds called bitter acids, which might impact certain receptors in your brain. These receptors are involved in various processes, from mood regulation to appetite. While research is ongoing, it’s fascinating to ponder the intricate interplay between hops and our brain cells.
So, to recap… What is hop burn?
Hop burn is a scratchy feeling in the back of your throat that’s caused by too many hops in the batch, or more specifically, too many polyphenols. Some people actually mark it as a sign of freshness or high-quality, but those things are subjective in this case.
There’s a lot more to the subject of hops, IPAs, the differences between different IPAs, etc. Hopefully we’ll get to all of those topics one day, but for now, these are the basics on hop burn.
Beers to you, Houston.