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For the Love of Hops (Book Review)

For the Love of Hops coverBy far and away the sexiest brewing ingredient in the craft brewing / home brewing landscape is the not-so-humble hop. We’re in the age of the IPA and the NEIPA. And there have never been more varieties and opportunities to mix and match these flavourful bittering additions to work our artistic visions for designing the beer we desire. So, as an all grain home brewer, it was inevitable that I would fall into the pages of For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops by Stan Hieronymus.

There are a many aspects to this farm product we call hops (a close relation of cannabis) and our relationship to hops. We have the history of hops and it’s cultural impact on society through beer. We have the personalities and places that figure in that history as beer evolved and science improved and global politics pushed us into the 20th Century and through World Wars. And we have the botany and chemistry of hops with ever-evolving frontiers of knowledge about what can be achieved by using hops in a variety of ways.

Another aspect is the agricultural business of growing hops on farms with the complexity of terroir and timing (including R&D from beginning to painstaking end with commercialisation over a decade later), the storage and packaging of hops, the selection and distribution… and the varied ways successful breweries treat and incorporate hops into their products. The hop story is so much more than just a bunch of pellets added to the boil or thrown in as a dry hop addition in your IPA. And there are certainly many brewers out there who see hops as a magical fairy dust full of romance and even nostalgia (depending on the hops, of course).

Because fundamentally this is the fabric of what beer has always been – an agricultural product dependent on variation and seasonal expression. Malted barley and hops grow in dirt under the hot sun and endure storms and rain and wind. Their leaves are solar powered. Their roots derive nutrients from the chemistry found in the ground. Drinkers of beer may not fully appreciate this relationship between the product in their glass and the history/culture/science behind that product, but it’s well worth understanding. Which is why you might want to pick this particular book up in your travels.

Stan Hieronymus, one of the old men of the American home brewing scene, wrote this book a decade ago. And, sure, there has been a lot of movement around the hop science and varietal development over that mad period. There are certainly other books on hops you could pick up and read. But I’d start with this one. This book is a great foundation for understanding the hop industry as well as their contribution to making great beer. And, let’s face it, for a growing number of consumers (as well as brewers) hops are the rock stars of brewing. Worthy of parades and requested by name with fan bases rising and falling with the taste of the times.

I’ve previously read and reviewed two books from this series – Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff and Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski. Both are also are highly recommended reading.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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