Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Review: For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus

It's a book about hops. Done. Review over. Go home. 

Just kidding. This is another great book. It is of the quality that I think you can expect from any modern brewers publications book. Stan Hieronymus compiles facts, testimonials  and personal experience into a book based on age old wisdom supported with science. The book covers hops from cultivation through fermentation explaining how decisions at every level impact what you perceive in your glass. The content of the book ping pongs from highly technical to humorously simple as Stan moves from topic to topic attempting to explain how hopping a beer is both science and art. Read on to find out what is actually in the book. What I thought of what he wrote and more.

(please read more after the break.)

The book starts out with an opening statement about the love of hops. It's always a special insight into a man when they write about their romances. You can almost see the sights and smell the aromas right along with this talented author. It's clear from the onset that hops are more than a source of bitterness, a preservative, or an ingredient but that they are the essential soul of a beer.

Then the book reveals its own limitations. That the science isn't finished yet. There is much that we don't know about the way scents happen; we can measure some of the components of scents, but not nearly all of them. The thresholds for scents are unique to the individual. You might smell tomatoes and I might smell band aides; I might smell fruit and you might smell laundry soap. Then it it outlines the information that is available on the topic. I don't want to tell you too much because you should read the book.

Then there is a history lesson about hops, and a discussion of the future and growing programs. There are chapters about growing hops, harvesting hops, and various commercial hops products. The book outlines the  properties of each in a single source that replaces the dispersed information available elsewhere. Through all of these chapters there are best practices recommended to you, interesting asides, and professional testimonies.

Hop Farming
The best part of the book for me are the practical discussions of hopping, hop usage, hop types, and hop farming. He details the way hops are added at various breweries and prevents you from feeling too bad about what you have to do at home on a small scale. Within this 50 page section there are brief sections on alpha acids, bitterness drift, and utilization that help explain why the numbers are less important than understanding how things work and having real world experience. 

Then the obligatory recipe section which has example recipes as you try to recreate aspects of beers you've tried and loved.

I liked the book. I did not get the answer I wanted but I did get an answer to my question. I wanted to know on paper how to craft a good beer. I wanted to know exactly I would get from each hop variety. It simply doesn't work like that. Some hops have different and identifiable components; knowing your ingredients can get you close, but there are a variety of factors that prevent you from simply crafting the perfect recipe on paper. Brewing a beer on my system and yours will yield different beers. Now I know, experience not analysis is the answer. It's time to gain more experience!

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