I had the pleasure of being able to attend a free Hops Class at The Foodery in Phoenixville, PA.

As we learned the history of hops from our experts in attendance at the event (from Stockertown Beverage and Free Will Brewing Company), we were given samples of various hopped beers to try the hops they were mentioning.

First, some hop history to catch you up on the lessons we learned. The noble hop plant (Humulus Lupulus) is a  (the common hop) is a flowering vine from the Cannabaceae family.

And yes, although it is distant cousins with cannabis, you should never try to smoke a hop.

Incredibly aromatic, hop flowers are known to attract butterflies. The female cone shaped seed pods in the hop plant have incredible bitter flavors and anti-bacterial properties, and thus perfectly suited for flavoring and preserving beer.

Nowadays, if you go to a brewery and ask for an ale, you’d expect to receive some type of top-fermented beer.

Traditionally though, ales were brewed with gruit, an herb mixture used for bittering and flavoring, while beers were were brewed with hops.

The hops brewed beers did not gain popularity for some time throughout Europe, but their first big break came in the form of taxes on gruit imposed by the Roman Catholic Church on Germans, eventually leading to the Reinheitsgebot or the German Purity Law.

In Great Britain, they were especially stubborn about the shift to hops, but the anti-bacterial nature would keep beers from spoling.

Eventually in 1710 Great Britain passed an law which would forbid the use of any bittering agent in beer other than hops.

The Beers

First up in the lineup was the Founders Brewing Company All Day IPA, a session IPA with amarillo and simcoe hops, America’s first session IPA.

Pours a light golden color and aromas of melons, pineapples and oranges. Lots of citrus and pine hop.

Taste is identical to the nose, with the grapefruit, orange and tangerine in front, followed by the melon, pineapple, and bitter lemon peel in the back. Smooth and light-bodied, imminently quaffable.

It was good, and I’d certainly drink it when offered again, but I’m a bit of a craft beer purist, I wish that Founders hadn’t sold as much of the business as they did.

The second beer of the night was Founders Brewing Company PC Pils, a clear straw-colored pilsner. You could definitely pick out that Chinook pine in the nose, with grapefruit and lemon citrus notes.

The citrus flavors were very up-front in the flavor, especially grapefruit, with malt riding a backseat.

Tasting more like a session pale ale than a pilsner, I’m not a huge fan. I’ll stick to my Victory Prima Pils or Saint Benjamin Brewing Pilsner Prosim.

The third beer of the night was Free Will Brewing Company’s Crisper. Pours a straw yellow, with thin white head, leaving minimal lacing. The aroma has notes of grainy and sweet malts, baked bread, light grass, and a vague fruitiness.

The flavor is not far from the nose, with a medium-light body. This is a straight-forward, by-the-books kolsch, brewed in keeping with German tradition. No complaints here, you get exactly what you expect.

The next beer in the lineup is Free Will Brewing Company’s The Kragle IPA, named in honor of The Lego Movie’s superglue bottle McGuffin.

Hopped with warrior, Citra, Simcoe, calypso, and Columbus, The Kragle is golden in color, with beautiful and fluffy white head, even with a small pour.

Aromas of juicy tropic fruits and light citrus hops. The flavor – juicy, delicious. Tropical fruits, mangos, melons, citrus – butter but wonderfully balanced with a fruit sweetness.

Light to medium-bodied with a low ABV, so this is definitely a crushable IPA. Hats off to Free Will for this one.

Last on the menu tonight was definitely my favorite this evening, with Free Will Brewing Company’s Lord Business Double IPA (they REALLY liked the Lego Movie, if you can’t tell already). With epic can art, this one definitely stands out on the shelf.

A slightly hazy light gold thick frothy head. Aromas of sweet and fruity malts with lingering hoppy notes.

The flavor is sweet citrus, grapefruits, oranges, lemons, alongside a honey malt flavor. The backend is tropical pineapple, with a lingering and growing bitterness.

Medium-bodied with light carbonation and a resinous finish, this is aggressively bitter but still well-balanced. I liked it so much, I even asked for an extra!

I’ll be putting together a bigger review – I’m looking forward to the chance to drink a bit more of this one and really get to know it.

Looking Forward to Next Time

Overall, I had a wonderful time at this event, learned a bit more about hops and why we use them, and got to try some great beers.

The beer classes at The Foodery are held typically once each season, each time with a different focus. I certainly look forward to the next one.

Andrij Harasewych
Editor at The Craft Beer Diaries. Devoted husband and father. Excessively geeky. Comic books, video games, and craft beer are my vices. Favorite beer style easily the IPA. Growing love for the DIPA, specifically.
Andrij Harasewych
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