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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Beer & Hard Cider

TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Beer Styles

Yesterday was National Bock Beer Day, coinciding with the first day of spring. It’s a holiday declaration that makes sense: bock beer is a spring beer.

There’s a lot of media attention to eating seasonally; less so to drinking seasonally.

So today we’re starting the first in our seasonal beer recommendations. By the end of the year, you’ll have them all, including summer beer, fall beer and winter beer.

Some people drink the same beer year-round. But aficionados know to look for the “seasonals,” as they’re known in the trade. America’s craft brewers have made plenty for you to choose from.

Spring beers are brewed with brighter flavors, sharper textures to bridge the gap between the stronger cold-weather beers and the lighter summer styles. Brewers use different hops, malts, spices and brewing styles to create fresh flavors and crisp textures.

It takes 3 months to assemble the ingredients, brew the beer and let it mature before release. So these are beers that are brewed in the winter, to be released and in the spring:



Irish ale, brewed to be ready for spring.

  • Blonde Ale
  • Belgian Wit/White Beer
  • Bock Beer (including Doppelbock and Maibock)
  • Fruit Beer (framboise with raspberries, kriek with cherries, etc.)
  • Green Beer novelties for St. Patrick’s Day (typically lager with food color)
  • India Pale Ale/American Pale Ale
  • Irish Ale and Irish Stout
  • Saison, a Belgian ale
  • Wheat Beer, a.k.a. Hefeweizen, Weisse and Weizen
    Thanks to brewer Greg Smith of for his guidance.

    Now, how about a tasting party to share the different spring styles with your pals?



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Bock Beer Day


    A double bock beer from Samuel Adams, shown with a scattering of the hops used to brew it. Photo by Julia Tomases | THE NIBBLE.


    Bock is the German word for strong, referring to a strong beer brewed from barley malt. It’s a dark, heavy, rich, sweet, complex beer, similar to Münchener* beers, but stronger. A true bock-style beer has a foam collar “thick enough to steady a pencil.”

    Bock is a style that originated in Saxony (capital Dresden), on the eastern border of central Germany, adjacent to Poland and the Czech Republic.

    Originally used to celebrate the end of the brewing season† (May), bock beer (Bockbier in German) was brewed in the winter for consumption in the spring.

    It was originally brewed by top fermentation in the Hanseatic League‡ town of Einbeck (beck bier became bock bier) in Lower Saxony, where it is still brewed and known as Ur-Bock, the original bock.

    But the style has evolved. Initially brewed with top fermenting yeast (“ale yeast”), German bock beers are now brewed by bottom fermentation (with “lager yeast,” which weren’t discovered until the 15th century). and are usually dark brown.

    A modern bock can range from light copper to brown in color. There are varieties that can be very different in style:


  • Doppelbock (double bock), a stronger and maltier recipe.
  • Eisbock (ice bock), a much stronger variety made by partially freezing the beer and removing the ice, thus concentrating the flavor.
  • Maibock (pronounced MY-bock), also called helles bock or heller bock, a paler, more hopped version generally made for consumption at spring festivals (hence Mai, the German word for May).
    Pale bocks are increasing in popularity, and a distinction is sometimes made between light bock beer and dark bock beer. Because the word bock also means billy goat in German, a goat is often found on the labels of bock beer brands.

    *Munich is the capital of Bavaria, in southeast Germany; the German name is München. A Münchener is a beer from Munich; for example, Münchener Dunkel, a full-bodied, malty and sweet-style dark lager beer that is a model for other Bavarian-style beers.

    †Modern refrigeration enabled brewers to make a uniform product year round. Previously, brewers had to work with the natural temperature of caves to provide an environment cold enough for the yeast to ferment. As a result, styles evolved to work with seasonal temperatures (lighter beers in the summer, for example).

    ‡The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds in Northern Europe. Created to protect commercial interests and privileges, it existed from the 13th through 17th centuries.



    PRODUCT: Angry Orchard Hard Cider (Hop’n Mad Apple)

    Some people are beer people, others are cider people. We’re both. Our beer style of preference is the IPA: Bring on the hops; the more, the better.

    So we were one of the happiest cider drinkers when Angry Orchard released its new Hop’n Mad Apple hard cider.

    The cider makers drew inspiration from the hops used to make beer. It wasn’t a stretch: Angry Orchard is owned by Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams. (It also suggests why, first launched in 2012, Angry Orchard is the number one selling hard cider in the U.S.)

    It’s an international affair, adding two type of imported hops to American cider apples. Strisselspalt hops from France contribute subtle citrus, herbal and floral notes to the cider; Galaxy hops from Australia impart bright, juicy tropical notes like pineapple and mango.

    The hops are added to the cider post-fermentation—a process known in the brewing world as dry hopping—to create a fresh hop aroma and a pleasant dry finish without any bitterness. The result is apply, hoppy and delicious, and is now our favorite* of the Angry Orchard cider.

    Find the retailer nearest you at



    We’re hop’n glad for Hop’n Mad hard apple cider. Photo courtesy Angry Orchard.


    *The Angry Orchard line currently includes Apple Ginger, Cider House, Cinnful Apple, Crisp Apple, Green Apple, Hop’n Mad Apple, Summer Honey and Traditional Dry.

    Here’s the history of hard cider from Angry Orchard. The history starts with the apples needed to make cider. Here’s the full history, with excerpts below.

  • 1500 B.C.E. A tablet found in Mesopotamia dating to this time documents the first recorded sale of an apple orchard. The price: three prized breeder sheep.
  • 1300 B.C.E. Egyptian pharaoh Ramses The Great orders apples to be grown in the Nile Delta.
  • 55 B.C.E. Cider was a popular drink in Roman times. Julius Caesar himself enjoyed the occasional glass (his drink of choice was wine). Caesar’s legions carry apple seeds with them. As they conquered Continental Europe, they planted apple orchards to replace the native crabapples.
  • 400 C.E. The Dark Ages were bright times for cider. Grapes didn’t grow as well in the northern regions of Europe, so gardens and orchards grew apples. Cider becomes a popular alternative to wine in the regions of Brittany and Normandy at the north of France, and throughout Britannia (Roman Britain).

    Cider apples may look like eating apples, but they have far less sugar and are not enjoyable to humans. The reverse is true with eating apples: They don’t make good cider. Photo courtesy

  • 1066 C.E. The Norman Conquest of England brings many new apple varieties from France. Cider quickly becames a most popular drink in England, second only to ale.
  • 1620 C.E. Pilgrims headed to America bring apple seeds and cider-making equipment. Three days into the voyage from Plymouth, the Mayflower hist a storm and cracks a beam. They almost turned back, but are able to find a “great screw,” believed to be part of a cider press, to hold up the beam.
  • 1650 C.E. Early American orchards produce few apples because there are no honey bees to efficiently pollinate the trees. Bees are shipped from England to Virginia and Massachusetts to help apple production take off.
  • 1789 C.E. Cider is all the rage with the founding fathers. Washington and Jefferson own apple orchards and produce their own cider. It is rumored that John Adams drinks a tankard of cider with breakfast every morning.
  • 1800 C.E. John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, establishes apple orchards throughout the Midwest. While his goal is to plant enough trees so that no one would ever go hungry, because he collects the seeds from cider mills, his plantings actually produce cider apples.

  • 1900 C.E. Waves of German and Eastern European immigrants arrive in the U.S. With their love for beer, cider’s popularity begins to wane.
  • 1910 C.E. The Temperance movement encourages many farmers to give up growing cider apples.
  • 1919 C.E. All alcohol production and consumption is declared illegal by the Volstead Act.
  • 1933 C.E. Prohibition ends. Breweries and distillers get back into production with imported ingredients, but orchards cannot easily switch back to cider apples.
  • 2010 C.E. American cider undergoes a renaissance. In five years, sales increase some 400%, with craft producers leading the way.


    TIP OF THE DAY DAY: Cook With Beer For St. Patrick’s Day

    Beer lovers know the fun of cooking with beer.

    A quick look at revealed 30 recipes with beer, including beer battered fish, bread, dip, braised ribs, cheese soup, chili, glazed steaks, green beans, fondue, mac and cheese, mustard, potato wedges, pot roast, roast chicken and beef stew. Whew!

    Our suggestion is for a breakfast treat, Irish soda muffins and jam, both made with Irish Red ale.

    Boston beer king Samuel Adams asked two local artisan food producers, both members of their Brewing the American Dream Program, to make St. Patrick’s Day recipes with its beer. The result is yummy. We could start every day with the Irish soda muffins!

    If today is a good baking day for you, whip up a batch of muffins. Enjoy some warm out of the oven, and stick the rest in the freezer for St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.

    The muffin recipe is by Sandy Russo of LuLu’s Sweet Shoppe in Boston’s North End. They taste just like Irish soda bread, but with the denser texture of muffins.



  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons barley malt* (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup Samuel Adams Irish Red†
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Garnish: sanding sugar (substitute table sugar)


    Bites of heaven: Irish soda muffins. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.


    *Look for barley malt powder, also called diastatic malt powder or barley flour, at health food or brewing supplies shops; or buy it online. It keeps well in the freezer in a tightly sealed container, and can be used to make bagels and other bread doughs.

    †If you can’t find Irish Red, substitute Boston Lager.

    1. POSITION the rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray the top of a muffin pan with non-stick coating and line with paper liners.

    2. CREAM together in a large bowl the butter, sugar and barley malt until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.

    3. MIX in the flour, salt and baking powder with the paddle attachment on low speed, just until incorporated. Add the beer until incorporated. Next add the sour cream, caraway seeds and raisins. Scrape down the sides of bowl and beat until smooth, about 25 seconds.

    4. SCOOP into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops lightly with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when lightly tapped.



    Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a bottle of Irish Red. Photo courtesy Samuel Adams.



    This recipe is by Allen Chrisholm of Al’s Backwoods Berrie Co. in Plymouth, Massachusetts. For a festive touch, add four drops of green food coloring to create a green jam—perfect for spreading on Irish soda bread muffins on St. Patrick’s Day!

    Ingredients For 7 Eight-Ounce Jars

  • 2 bottles Samuel Adams Irish Red* or Boston Lager
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch of orange zest
  • 2/3 cup of dry, store bought pectin (2 full packages)
  • 5 cups sugar
  • Optional: 4 drops green food color

    1. PLACE the beer in a saucepan along with the honey and orange zest. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the pectin very slowly. Once the pectin is added, return the mixture to a boil for 1 minute, constantly stirring the mixture so it does not burn.

    2. ADD the sugar very slowly and bring the mixture back to a boil.

    3. BOIL the jars and the lids in a separate pan so that when you fill them, they are as hot as the jam. Fill and seal the jars and turn them upside down for 3 to 5 minutes; then return them upright. Let cool.



    Originally brewed in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1710, Irish red ales are known for their rich and smooth flavor plus balance, making them ideal for warmer days yet pleasant during the chilly ones.

    Deep russet in color, Samuel Adams Irish Red is inspired by the red ales of Ireland (just about every brewer there makes it).

    Full of hearty, roasty character and a backbone of malty sweetness, Samuel Adams Irish Red is “brewed to suit the cool rainy days,” according to the brewer.

    Irish Reds are easy to drink: well-rounded, a bit sweet, with a lightly hopped tea-like flavor and a pleasant toasted malt character. If you have a source for imports, look for Killian’s, Murphy’s, Smithwick’s and other Irish brands. Perhaps you can celebrate the day with an Irish Red tasting!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pizza & Beer Flight

    Enjoy different beers with your pizza. Photo courtesy Delancey Hollywood.


    Why don’t all pizza restaurants offer a beer tasting flight?

    Delancey Hollywood has it right: a tasting of four different beers to enjoy with your pizza.

    If you can’t make it to Hollywood, create the concept at home. How about debuting it during the Super Bowl?

    Since most people don’t want to consume four entire beers with a pizza, buy plastic tumblers for shorter pours.

    The biggest challenge is what beers to offer. You can do a tasting of four different lagers or other beer types to compare brands, or mix it up: an ale, IPA, lager and stout, for example.

    We’re so into this idea, we’re going to have it for lunch today.

    Now, the second biggest challenge: What type of pizza to order?




    FOOD FUN: Beer Menorah

    For 18 years, the Shmaltz Brewing Company has been handcrafting HE’BREW, classic beers with culturally-relevant names (certified kosher, of course, by KSA).

    Chanukah begins tonight, so take a look!


    The brewery currently makes:

  • Barrel Aged Funky Jewbellation
  • Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.
  • Chanukah Beer
  • David’s Slingshot
  • Death Of A Contract Brewer
  • Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale
  • Hop Manna IPA
  • Jewbelation 18 (18 malts, 18 hops)
  • Messiah Nut Brown Ale
  • Origin Pomegranate Ale
  • Rejewvenator Dubbel Doppel
  • Reunion Ale 2014
  • St. Lenny’s Belgian Rye Double IPA


    Chanukah beer. Photo courtesy Schmaltz Brewing Company.


    There’s a He’Brew Gift pack of eight different styles that includes a custom glass an Chanukah candles to build your own beer menorah, and possibly enter it in the annual contest.

    This is non-denominational enjoyment: Feel free to participate no matter what your religious beliefs.

    To find a retailer in your area, contact your local distributor.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Lager Day


    Samuel Adams’ Winter Lager is available on
    tap, in bottles and cans. Photo courtesy
    Samuel Adams.


    December 10th is National Lager Day. If you’re like most, you people can’t articulate the difference between lager and ale.

    So we’ll start with five fun lager facts from our friends at Samuel Adams, and then go on to an overview of the differences between lager and ale. (Note that “beer” is the overall category that includes ale, lager, lambic, porter, stout and other styles. Check out our Beer Glossary.)


    1. The term “lager” is derived from the German verb lager, which means “to store.” Lager beer is stored (“lagered”) after fermentation. Before modern refrigeration, lager beers were stored in caves or in cellars dug into hillsides.

    2. Lager is not a single beer recipe; there are different styles of lager. Examples include Bock beers like Maibock and Helles Bocks, Dunkelweizens, Marzen and Oktoberfest beers, Pilsners, Rauchbiers and Schwarzbiers, to name a few (here are more types of lager).

    3. Lagers are relatively new to the beer scene, first appearing in Bavaria in the early 16th century. Ales, on the other hand, have been brewed for more than 7,000 years. Ales are easier to ferment.

    4. Due in part to their clean, crisp character, lagers are sometimes [incorrectly] called plain and boring by connoisseurs. That might be true with some mass-market brands, but craft lagers are flavorful and complex.

    5. Today, lager is the beer of choice.The biggest brands of countries worldwide are lagers, including America’s Budweiser, China’s Tsing Tao, Germany’s Heineken, India’s Kingfisher and Japan’s Sapporo.

    It’s all about the yeast. Lager and ale use entirely different types of yeast for fermentation. The yeasts act in different ways and generate different flavors and aromas.

    Ales tend to be fruity and estery. An ester is an organic compound formed when an acid and an alcohol combine and release water. “Estery” refers to an aroma or flavor suggestive of flowers or fruits. The compounds that generate these flavors and aromas are created naturally in the fermentation process. Familiar fruity/estery flavors and aromas include apples, bananas, strawberries and other fruits.

    Lagers do not generate fruity and estery components. Instead, they are clean-tasting and frequently described as “crisp.”

    Yes, there are other ingredients that impact the flavor and aroma of the beer, from the hops, grains and malts to the hardness of the local water. But it’s fundamentally all about the yeast.

  • Lager yeast, as opposed to ale yeast, ferments (eats sugar to produce carbonation and alcohol) at cooler temperatures (so cool that ale yeast would go dormant). When it is done fermenting, the yeast settles to the bottom of the fermentation tank, so are called bottom-fermenting yeast. Lager yeast also takes a longer time to condition the beer than ale yeast.
  • Bock, Pilsner and Oktoberfest are examples of lager.
  • Lager ages in refrigerator units (previously, in caves) for weeks or months at temperatures in the 40-degrees-Fahrenheit range. This low-and-slow fermentation provide the clean, crisp taste.
  • Ale yeast, on the other hand, ferment at warmer temperatures and are rise to the top of the tank. Brown Ale. ESB (Extra Strong Bitter), IPA (India Pale Ale) and other Pale Ales, Porter, Stout, Wheat Beer/Weissbier are all ales.


    Thanks to Todd Detwiler, writing in Popular Science, for the answer.

    The lager yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus first appeared in Europe in the 1500s—thousands of years after man began to brew ale with S. cerevisiae, which thrived on oak trees in Europe.

    In 2011, researchers studying yeast samples from forests all over the world isolated two cold-tolerant yeast strains from the forests of Patagonia in Argentina. They were members of an entirely new species of Saccharomyces yeast. This enabled the scientists to discover that the lager yeast, S. pastorianus, is a hybrid of S. cerevisiae and one of the wild Pagagonian yeasts, S. eubayanus.

    That Patagonian yeast provides the characteristics that manifest in the distinctive flavor and character of lager beer.

    How did the Patagonian yeast get to Europe so long ago? It could have hitched a ride on a fruit fly that in turn hitched a ride on a ship during the early years of trans-Atlantic trade. Yeasts are easily blown in the wind. S. eubayanus eventually made its way into the fermenting vats of Bavaria. There it formed a hybrid strain with the ale yeast, S. cerevisiae to create the modern lager yeast, S. pastorianus.



    Lager and burger: a great combination. Photo courtesy The Palm | NYC.

    As with ale yeast, each time S. pastorianus arrived at a new brewery, it quickly adapted to its environment, forming another of the various lager strains available today.

    Lager yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, was first isolated in 1904 at the Carlsberg brewery in Denmark.

    If you’ve read this far, you’ve learned a lot. You’re now entitled to your lager. Perhaps a Samuel Adams Winter Lager, available through the end of this month? It’d brewed with a touch of holiday spices—cinnamon, ginger and orange peel.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Beer & Pumpkin Ale

    Even George Washington was a fan of
    pumpkin beer. He brewed his own, of course.
    Photo courtesy


    Thanks to Julia Herz of for today’s tip: Pick up some pumpkin beer or ale. In fact, have a pumpkin beer tasting for Halloween (with or without costumes), and bring it instead of wine to your Thanksgiving dinner hosts.

    This seasonal brew is so well liked that in the month of October, it rivals the popularity of India Pale Ale (IPA), the top-selling craft beer style in the U.S.

    The body is richer, thanks to the addition of actual pumpkin into the vat; and brewers typically add hints of pumpkin pie spices. The flavors can vary widely depending on whether the brewer uses fresh, frozen or canned pumpkin (or a related squash).

    But pumpkin beer is no recent craft beer invention. It’s been made since the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock Colony discovered pumpkins (indigenous to the Americas) and added them to their brews.

    Why did they brew with pumpkin?

    There were plenty of them. Since good malt was not readily accessible in the early days of the colonization of America, fermentable sugars had to come from elsewhere. In those early pumpkin beers, the flesh of the pumpkin took the place of malt. (Later, with dependable supplies of malt, both were used.)

    Pumpkin beer remained a staple throughout the 18th century, but its popularity began to wane by the early 19th century as quality malts became accessible everywhere.


    Fast forward 200-plus years to the Bay Area in the 1980s. The father of American micro-brewing, Bill Owens, read in a brewing book that George Washington added pumpkin to his mash. Owens thought it was an idea in need of resurrection. The result, Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale, is an amber-style ale based on Washington’s recipe (and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week).

    Although most pumpkin ale and beer are brewed with pumpkin and flavored with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, don’t expect pumpkin pie in a bottle. With most products, there’s no obvious pumpkin taste analogous to the pronounced flavors of fruit beers.

    This season, retailers will sell some 400 pumpkin beers from craft brewers. You can put together a nice selection for a tasting party. Or, pick up a selection for your own personal enjoyment. Just a sampling of what you might find:



    Bring a six-pack or two to your Halloween or Thanksgiving host(s). Photo courtesy Buffalo Bill’s Brewery.

    • Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter | Starr Hill Brewery | Crozet, Virginia
    • Flat Jack Pumpkin Ale | Flat 12 Bierwerks | Indianapolis, Indiana
    • Gourd Shorts (pumpkin ale) | Florida Beer Co. | Cape Canaveral, Florida
    • Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale | Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company | Lexington, Kentucky
    • Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale | Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. | Half Moon Bay, California
    • Oak Jacked (imperial pumpkin ale) | Uinta Brewing Co. | Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Potosi Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale | Potosi Brewing Co. | Potosi, Wisconsin
    • Pumking | Southern Tier Brewing Co. | Lakewood, New York
    • Post Road Pumpkin Ale | Brooklyn Brewery | Brooklyn, New York
    • Pumpkin Ale | Blackstone Brewing Co. | Nashville, Tennessee
    • Pumpkin Ale | Buffalo Bill’s Brewery | Hayward, California
    • Pumpkin Ale | Rivertown Brewing Co. | Lockland, Ohio
    • Pumpkinfest | Terrapin Beer Co. | Athens, Georgia
    • Punkin Ale | Dogfish Brewery | Milton, Delaware
    • Roadsmary’s Baby (rum-aged pumpkin ale) | Two Roads Brewing Co. | Stratford, Connecticut
    • Rum Punk (Rum barrel-aged pumpkin beer) | Joseph James Brewing Co., Inc | Henderson, Nevada
    • Samhain Pumpkin Porter | DESTIHL Brewery | Bloomington, Illinois
    • Samuel Adams Fat Jack (double pumpkin ale) | Samuel Adams | Boston, Massachusetts
    • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale | Smuttynose Brewing Co. | Hampton, New Hampshire
    • Wick for Brains Pumpkin Ale | Nebraska Brewing Co. | La Vista, Nevada
    • Witch’s Hair Pumpkin Ale | Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits | East County San Diego, California


    Check out the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.



    FOOD 101: What Are Hops?

    September 28th is Drink Beer Day. Only a few ingredients are needed to make beer; typically, barley malt, unmalted grain, hops, yeast and water.

    We were explaining to a friend that our favorite beers are heavily hopped IPAs. “What exactly are hops?” he asked.

    We turned to Samuel Adams, the pioneering craft beer brewer, and to USA Hops, a nonprofit organization of growers, for an education.

    A hop is a flower that looks like a soft, green pine cone. It grows on a long vine. The flowers are almost exclusively used as a brewing spice in the production of beer.

    But what’s important to the brewer is not the whole flower or the petals, but the lupulin glands inside, which contain a golden resin. This resin is the depository of the alpha acids necessary for the hops to impart their signature bitterness and flavor to the beer. It also acts as a natural preservative.



    Hops on the vine. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

    In mass brews, hops lend bitterness and not a lot more. But craft brewers select very specific types of premium hops, for their special aromatic flavor qualities over their bittering value. Aroma hops, as they are known, have lower alpha acid levels and produce an array of complex flavors and aromas—from citrus and fruit to pine and eucalyptus.

    Like any agricultural product, the unique conditions of soil, moisture, elevation and sunlight of the particular field have a direct impact on the quality and character of the hops. Hop varieties grown in their original regions will impart different flavors when grown elsewhere. The “hop belt,” where the most flavorful hops thrive, falls along the 48th parallel.

    Each region’s hop varieties impart different flavors, from the aromatic piney notes in German hops to earthy ale hops in England and the citrus brightness of American hops.


    The oldest hop growing region in the world is located in Bavaria, a temperate region in southeast Germany, just west of the Alps (Munich is the capital). The local Noble aroma hops varieties, low in bitterness and high in aroma, are prized worldwide.

    The earliest beers weren’t made with hops. The earliest mention of hop growing dates only to 1000-1200 C.E. in Germany. Prior to hops, other bittering agents, from juniper to roots and pine, were used. None could create the layers of flavor that hops impart, and it was a lucky day when the first brewer tossed those green flowers into the brewing vat.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Cider Instead Of Beer

    Instead of beer, try hard cider. It’s a natural for quaffing or food pairing, and replaces the flavors of malt and hops with apple or pear (cider made with pears is called perry).

    First, the difference between hard cider and fresh cider.

  • Hard cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from the unfiltered juice of apples. The alcohol content varies from a low 1.2% ABV* to 8.5% or higher—some imported ciders can be up to 12% ABV, an average level for table wines.
  • Fresh apple cider is raw apple juice, typically unfiltered. Thus, it is cloudy from the remnants of apple pulp. It is also typically more flavorful than apple juice—although of course, the particular blend of apples used in either has a big impact on the taste.
  • Apple juice has been filtered to remove pulp solids, then pasteurized for longer shelf life.
    *ABV is alcohol by volume. It is doubled to get the proof. For example, a 40% ABV spirit is 80 proof.



    Classic Crispin. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider Company.

    While it may not seem so today, America has a history of hard cider. The English who originally settled the country brought their love of cider, and America was a hard cider country until the 19th century.

    Then, waves of German immigration brought the lager makers, and soon enough more Americans were lifting steins of beer instead.

    Prohibition dealt hard cider a final blow from which it is just now making a comeback, with impressive annual growth figures. Aiding the effort is Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams beer and the Angry Orchard cider brand.

    Since Prohibition, “cider” in the U.S. has referred to the unfermented, unpasteurized apple juice; with “hard cider” used to indicate the alcoholic beverage. In the U.K. it is the opposite, with “cider” indicating the alcoholic drink for which special cider apples are used.


    Cider is a gluten-free option; beer is made from gluten-rich grains. However, beer is sugar-free, while cider can be quite high in sugar.

  • Crispin, one of our favorite brands, has 15 grams (three teaspoons) of sugar per serving. Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple jumps to 23 grams (7 teaspoons of sugar).
  • Dryer ciders contain less sugar and carbs, and a higher alcohol content because the yeast have been allowed to consume the majority of the natural sugars and convert them to alcohol.
    Comparatively, the calories in beer versus hard are similar higher; but cider is higher in carbohydrates due to the higher levels of sugar.



    Angry Orchard’s Cinnful Apple has a touch of
    cinnamon. Photo courtesy Boston Brewing



    Cider can be made from any variety of apple, but the better ciders are typically blends of culinary apples—the kinds we eat—and cider apples, which are not palatable to humans. Cider makers balance the flavors of different apples and different proportions to produce their blends.

  • Culinary apples are fruits with a juicy, luscious apple character. The varieties used contribute sweetness as well as a bright acidity, which provides part of the crisp, refreshing backbone. Examples include Braeburn, Elstar, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold and Red Delicious.
  • Bittersweet apples are grown solely for making cider. These apples provide more complexity and wine-like characteristics to a cider, like grapes do to a wine, imparting aroma and contributing to the color. They also provide acidity, tannins that impact mouth feel, astringency, and real fruity cider notes. Bittersweet apples in the blend are often unfamiliar to us. For example, Angry Orchard uses French varieties called Amere de Berthecourt, Beden, Binet Rouge, Brairtot Fuji, Medaille d’or and Michelin.


    In the days before refrigeration, fresh juice would spoil quickly. The only option to preserve it was to ferment it into cider; the alcohol acts as a preservative.

    Man has fermented fruit into alcohol since prehistory. But apple cider was raised to an art in France and the U.K. Apple trees were plentiful in both areas. The Romans, arriving in force in Britain in 43 C.E., introduced apple cultivation.

    But it was another group of invaders, the Normans, who improved cider making, following their conquest of England in 1066. Apple juice had been fermented into an alcoholic drink earlier in English history, under the Anglo-Saxons. The Normans (from Normandy, France), improved the drink by using cider-specific apples.

    The beverage grew in popularity, new varieties of apples were introduced, and cider began to replace wine (the English climate favors apples over grapes). Every farm grew cider apple trees as well as culinary apples, and in the 18th century it became customary to pay part of a farm laborer’s wage in cider.

    How did cider get its name? The English word “cider” comes from the Old French sidre, which in turn was adapted from medieval Latin sicera, based on the Greek sikera, from the Hebrew shekar, meaning “strong drink.” What we call fresh cider (not fermented) was known as ciderkin or water-cider.

    It’s time to have a glass!



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