For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops (Anglais) Broché – 17 décembre 2012
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A few reasons why I couldn't pour over in the review: My main complaint is that I also found the material to be lacking in practical brewing information (compared to the yeast book which has all kinds of hands-on yeast lab set-up and technique, yeast handling and storage on a nano and macro level, temperature and oxygenation test results and graphs, etc...). The HOPS book is very well researched, but except for the clone recipes near the end of the book and the hop reference guide in the middle section, I just didn't find it useful in my day to day brewing.
The first half of the book is basically the history of hops, who grew them, and the genetic lineage of the different strains of hop plants (Cascade, Chinook, etc). Personally, I thought that while the writing is conversational, it jumps around a lot. It's hard to specify without referencing multiple paragraphs and pages, but after a while I felt like all I was reading was "Japan...1952...Germany....USDA.....1910......Illinois...... Oregon State... ...1988.....1985.....Chinook.....1966....Sierra Nevada. ....2004.......1955.....1970).
You should already know that everyone tastes and smells and likes different beers/ hops for whatever reasons (environmental, genetic, conditioning, seasonal). I feel like this book really just re-emphasises that nobody can really put their finger on (or at least come to a consensus on) what exactly certain hops smell like, how exactly to get any particular flavor into your beer, or why exactly it happens. I feel like I kept reading (which I already know), that you just have to experiment with bases, hops, yeasts, timing of hop additions, and amounts to find the flavors you like. I'm paraphrasing of course, and I'm well aware that this is what makes brewing such an wonderful and exciting art form.
I just expected a little more practical information from this book that I could immediately apply. It's my fault that the history of the hops was less interesting to me. Still, I'm glad I read it.
Ray Daniels writes an excellent book in which a very systematic and scientific approach is taken to determine the ingredients of a recipe. However, he tends to hurry over the hops section, merely suggesting a "family" of hops to choose from and a final bitterness to aim for. And so I turned to this book with the intention of filling in the blanks.
The truth is, anyone can brew a bitter beer. Toss in a ridiculous amount of relatively expensive brewing hops, and pretty much anyone can appease a non-educated, untrained individual who fancies himself a "hop head."
Find someone however who understands the intricate nuances in a beer such as Heady Topper, or Pliny the Younger, and suddenly a "butt load of hops" doesn't work anymore.
The biggest challenge really lies beyond the ":30" timer. A lot of what the brewer does in relation to hops rests not only in the last 30 minutes of the boil, but in the precious days and potentially months between the time the heat is shut off, and the cap is popped off.
I turned to "For the Love of Hops", hoping for critical information on the nitty gritty details of flavoring with hops - should one use more for less time, or less for more time? How much dry-hopping is necessary? What are rules of thumb for duration and quantity? And how about some better information on the hop varities besides "citrusy and piney"?
Unfortunately, FTLOH did little to aid me in this quest. Some of the poorly-received 3-star reviews on Amazon actually hit the nail on the head quite well. Sad to see "fanboyism" take place with a brewing book.
Hieronymus's writing is quite difficult to follow, and knowledge useful for a brewer is sporatic at best. Most disappointing in my opinion was the chapter on dry-hopping. Arguable one of the most signifcant steps to adding hop character to a beer, we're given 19 pages of text containing a myriad of stories from various brewers on the topic, none of which relate even the slightest to the modern homebrewer. There is extremely little guidance on the practice, and even fewer suggestions on how one should perform the method, especially on a smaller, at-home scale. The most useful piece of knowledge I absorbed from the entire chapter was on page 216: "New Belgium found that ceiling [for volume of added dry hops] at 35 kilograms in 100 hectoliters (comparable to about nine-tenths of a pound per barrel." There you have it. I may have just saved you $15 bucks...
Even his chapter on hop varities, titled "The Hop Store" provides little more knowledge of use than is available on nearly any brewing-focused website or application. Each hop variety is given a one-sentence historical reference - honestly useless to the homebrewer - and SOMETIMES a few words describing it's flavor and/or aroma. Sometimes we get little more than "Relatively neutral, but English, character." It then gives a range of acid ranges, which can be found on the label of any packaged hop product at a brewing supply store. On two pages of the book I found a gorgeous "spider chart" that shows a variety of hop as well as a dodecagon with flavor perceptions ranging from "sweet fruits" to "citrus." It turns out that these charts are the entire content of a publication called "The Hop Aroma Compendium" - a 2-volume series which I suspect presents far more value than "For the Love of Hops" and can be yours today for the at-a-bargain price of $237 dollars US... (You won't find it on Amazon - I already looked...)
In closing, "For the Love of Hops" is written by a hop-lover who wanted to share his stories and experiences in the world of brewing, and that's great if you're looking for a trip through history and would like to hear some stories from big-name breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and Samuel Adams. If however you're looking to improve your own brewing abilities by learning more about the potential and power of the almighty Humulus Lupulus, I'm afraid you'll have to continue your search elsewhere.
My biggest issue with the book is that I thought it would be more practical. Compared to "Yeast," also in the Brewing Elements series, this book has very little authoritative advice about how to actually USE hops in brewing. Don't get me wrong; the author does interview people who tell you (something) about different techniques they use for things like dry hopping. But at the end of the day, the author doesn't say "and here's the best way to do it, for the following reason." In that regard, I did not find it very useful in everyday brewing.
Don't get me wrong--I found this book somewhat enjoyable to read. But that doesn't mean it would be a great book except for my misunderstanding of what it was going to be. It's not the most exciting thing in the world, even for brewers. It reads like decent journalism, since it's based overwhelmingly on interviews. Some of the interviewees have a lot of experience and insight, but some do not. I personally was less interested in abstract history--I like knowing the history, but I like it best as it relates to practice for today.
So certainly one problem is with the Brewing Elements series, which needs better overall editorial focus: Is it practical, or is it not? That's probably the biggest problem. I would recommend it for real hop lovers who also want to know a lot about history and hops as they are grown and as a commodity today. But I don't think it is such a useful guide for brewing.
Take the chapter "Dry Hopping" as an example. In this chapter, the author talks about tons of machines that various breweries use to dry hop their beers. Being a lowly home brewer, I was hoping for a simple one or two pages about dry hopping in a carboy, maybe with different tips, tricks, or techniques.
You could also make the same argument for the chapter called "Growing Hops." Tons of interviews of hop growers telling anecdotal stories. Information for a home cultivator (which I am) in this chapter is non existent. I got more information from the Hop Farm I bought the rhizomes at.
Bottom Line: This is not a Practical Guide for anything. If you love everything hops, this is probably a good read for you. If you are expecting tons of cool stuff to help you brew better beer, take a pass.