It’s the season for hop picking around Montana, where those floral cones mature and prepare to add flavor to your favorite beer. Montana is a pretty good place to grow those pungent buds, and from what I saw in my parents’ neighbor’s yard the turnout appears to be decent this year, as opposed to 2011.
If you’re in Missoula and have some extra hops that you won’t be using in a beer of your own, join the party at the Northside Kettlehouse on Monday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. There’s free beer to be had at the 4th annual Hop Pickin’ Party, and those donated hops will, hopefully, go toward a killer Garden City Pale Ale.
Interested in growing hops of your own? It’s too late this year, but hear’s a guide to get you going in 2013.
- Matt Pritchard
Big Sky Brewing Co. has a far out take on one of their staples.
Cleverly called Space Goat, the beer is a variation of Scape Goat brewed with galaxy hops. That may sound familiar from another excellent beer that Flathead Lake Brewing Co. put out over the summer, Galaxy Pale Ale. Galaxy hops are an Australian variety that bring heavy doses of citrus flavors to beer. The difference can really be tasted in Space Goat, imparting pineapple and grapefruit and a burst of hops into Big Sky’s traditional pale ale.
Space Goat can only be had at the taproom in Missoula and there are no plans, at least for now, of bottling the beer. It’s in limited supply (around four to five kegs left) and it’s been pretty popular, so don’t wait. Plus, it’s free to taste.
- Matt Pritchard
There was a time when I could drink a specialty brew by Rogue Ales that had chunks of hop floating in it as if it were a light session beer. I would joke about taking a whiskey glass and pouring the hop chunky beer over ice cubes and sipping it like liquor. Such was my love for overly hopped beers.
Instead of reading beer labels for the ABV level, as so many do, I read labels looking for IBUs, the higher the better. Living in Oregon gave me an advantage. Every IPA was a Northwest-style IPA oozing with hop oily goodness. I wanted the hops to leave a mark on me, like when you take a sip of coffee that’s too hot and it scalds you for the rest of the day. There was no IBU too high for me.
But then along came Montana and a different style of brewing. Something this beer writer hadn’t had a lot of time for before – balanced beers. Oh, I’d had my share of Belgian beauties and German lagers, but I preferred the hop to the malt. After three years of tasting the balanced beers of Montana and only rarely delving back into the palate destroying hop lords out there, I’ve found my palate actually craves balance. A hint of malt with the tangy, citrusy notes dancing along a biscuity backbone are so satisfying in comparison to the searing mouth saw of a highly hopped beer.
All right, I’ve exposed myself, bring on the criticism.
Last night some friends and I got together for an informal tasting and sauna night in the Rattlesnake. Two of the beers we tried were from Moylan’s Pub and Brewery in Novato, California. The first, a Moylan’s Moylander Double IPA, was advertised as “fat and resiny,” and it was. You could almost feel the hop oils eating into your taste buds like acid. And even though the beer claims to be double hopped and double malt, I found almost no malt backbone at all. If there was malt in that beer, it was weak and unable to hold up the shear weight of the hops.
The second beer was a Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial Ale, which sports a combination of the killer Tomahawk, Cascade and Centennial hops. This beer had more of a malt backbone to sustain the hops, which tempered the three-headed beast of a hop profile. I wish I would have had this one first. I felt like the first beer drilled holes in my palate, and I had almost nothing left to give this one.
I still love big, hoppy beers, don’t get me wrong. I just think my palate has adjusted to the more balanced brewing style of Montana beer makers. I’ll have to revisit the big hop monsters of the Pacific Northwest more often to keep my palate whipped into shape it seems.
Want to experiment with some big-hop beers yourself? You can find Moylan’s beers at Worden’s Market.
I’ve said this every year since I started saying things about beer. Beer is a far better choice for your Thanksgiving meal than wine. There are myriad reasons why, but I won’t go over them here. Suffice it to say that your craft-beer selection for T-Day is bigger than ever, and the possibilities for amazing beer-food pairings is almost endless. So, to make you aware of some of the best stuff out there right now, I’m going to highlight several great Thanksgiving beers to try over the next few days as you finish your shopping for the big day.
Today we’ll start with your breakfast beer. Yes, I said breakfast beer. For most people, Thanksgiving is a day off, which is the perfect time to enjoy a breakfast beer. I’m not talking any PBR or Coors Light breakfast for champions either.
In my family, Thanksgiving starts at the crack of dawn. Breakfast is a chance to get together and sit around while mom lays out the fixings for the big meal. This is when I’ll open a bottle of barley wine or two.
Barley wine is a great breakfast beer, especially many of the bourbon-barrel aged varieties out there today. The vanilla and caramel flavors go well with many breakfast foods, while the big body and hop structure give you a solid beer to sip on throughout the morning. The key to enjoying beer on Thanksgiving is sipping a few big beers or sticking with session beers throughout the day. The second option won’t give you very many taste choices though.
Here are some great options for your Thanksgiving breakfast beer:
Big Sky Brewing Co.: Olde Blue Hair Barley Wine
Great Divide Brewing Co.: Old Ruffian Barley Wine
Stone Brewing Co.: Stone Old Guardian
Any barley wine will work for your Thanksgiving breakfast beer, so find one from your area or one from the list and crack one open for mom as she slaves away over turkey, stuffing and green beans. It’ll make her day better.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss beer to watch Thanksgiving Day football with.