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What am I reading – #1

I can’t promise I’ll never write a review for  beer, equipment, or in this case, books, as someday I may feel the need to do so. Mainly though I’ve never been a fan of panning other’s people’s hard work even if it is bad as I’d rather mention worthwhile items and forget about the useless. Not to mention all I really want in a “review” is to hear what it’s about and who should read it. I hope to refine this format over time, but for now here’s the first in a series of “What Am I Reading?”

Which book?Hoptopia by Peter A. Kopp.

What’s it about? – The growth of hop production in the Willamette Valley. Also gets into prohibition, global hop production and the histories of farms in OR, CA and WA among other relevant beer/history points.

Why Did I Read it? – I wound up tending bar at a lecture Peter was giving to the Lane County Historical Society “History Pub” back in October. He mentioned a few things during his lecture that struck a chord with me. I work in in beer and live in the Willamette Valley so  it seemed like an easy thing to pick up and find value in.

Who Should Read This? – While I think this book would be an interesting read for most beer professionals and enthusiasts as it hits on a lot of topics relevant to what we do, even if you’re just an OR resident this makes for a pretty valuable history and engaged read.

So that’s it for this first one, short and sweet. Now I’ve got to get back to this stack of books I’ve been ignoring for too long.

Haze – The Last Descriptor

The “Haze Craze” has been totally upon us now for a few years. IPAs seeking out tropical aromas, low IBUs and a whole host of additions like oats and heavy hopping creating a turbulent appearance with many brewers taking it to the level of subcategories like “Milkshake IPA.” While my opinion on whether adding blueberries and lactose to a New England Style IPA is a good idea or not is irrelevant, the one big hangup I have is hearing people ask about “hazy IPAs” and thinking they’re missing the point. Haze should not be the most noteworthy aspect of this style of beer. I keep hearing stories about one local brewer who often has their amazingly aromatic, juicy IPA kegs rejected by bars because they’re “not hazy enough.” I cannot tell you how much that sentence makes me laugh out loud. But that’s where we’re at these days. So if not haze, what then should the “New England/Hazy IPA” Style be defined by?


Peach rings. Apricot. Straight up POG juice.  And sure, while “dankness” is often achieved alongside all this, this style of beer offers insane levels of fruitiness that go unparalleled to any IPA I’ve had previously. What do we have to thank for this? Hop varieties like Mosaic, Citra and Ekuanot that explode with tropical and citrus characteristics. Southern Hemisphere hops like Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy and Motueka that showcase winey, exotic fruits with a waxy mouthfeel that doesn’t exist in our US hops. To me, the crux of where these fruit-bombs come together is in using yeasts that actually have a flavor and aroma impact. For years west coast brewers fell into line using clean, low-ester producing yeasts letting the hops shine. But given that these new hops showcase fruit, let those formerly shunned British yeasts do their thing! The fruit-forward esters are clearly playing a part in the overall olfactory experience that intermingles wonderfully with contemporary hops. And it’s not just the ingredients that make things click in NE IPA, it’s how they go in.


There are a lot of common brewing practices out there with the goal in mind to make “clean, clear beer” and if we all started following them rigorously we sure as hell wouldn’t have things like New England IPA. We’d also not be experiencing the unique hop flavors and aromas they provide. So ignoring the “rules” turns out to be a great idea. Take dry-hopping for example – it’s common practice to dry hop once fermentation has slowed down significantly. Part of this is practical (nobody wants to launch expensive hops and with it the liquid right out of the blow-off tube), but the other part is the worry that vigorous fermentation is going to also blow away a lot of aroma you could have kept if you waited. While people have been studying biotransformation of hops for years, I’d only heard of it within the last couple or so and NE IPA is a wonderful style that takes advantage of the fact that yeast help turn certain hop compounds into other wonderfully aromatic ones. Something that would not-likely occur if you waited for fermentation to arrest. A focus on hop aroma and flavor in these beers means adding more hops late in the process which also promotes haze.  Knowing freshness is key often means less conditioning time and combined with less flocculant yeasts means more haze. Adding oatmeal to obtain body means more protein which means more haze (you see where I’m going with this). So by looking at aroma and flavor as the end product, you really have no choice to break the other common convention and that is clarity of the beer. So while haze is a by-product of a lot combined factors, what do I think is arguably the most important aspect of NE IPA?


Breweries keep adding the word “juicy” into descriptions for certain IPAs and for good reason. The plethora of fruits produced by the hops and yeast alone would probably be accurate, but when you focus on drinkability it takes the framework of IPA to another level. Lowering IBUs in a beer that has an already more approachable hop aroma character than your classic west coast IPA is a great way to introduce new comers to the style. The addition of oatmeal is helping to round out mouthfeel and fatten up lower abv beers. Throw in chloride water adjustments and suddenly you’ve got tropical, juicy goodness coming out the ears. If you want to dive deeper here, people like Scott Janish have done a much better/more intellectual job than I ever would of explaining this, but the point is we’re talking a much different water quality than the “put some gypsum in there” adjustments of typical west coast IPA. And as a result you get a beer completely unlike anything we’ve seen in a while.

Years ago while working as a full time bartender hops like Mosaic came into use and it helped open up patrons of mine who were completely anti-IPA to a whole new aroma and flavor profile in IPA. If I had styles like NE IPA then I feel like I could have converted IPA nay sayers left and right. As a twenty-something who grew up drinking grapefruity, pine resiny, cannabis-aroma laden IPAs on the west coast, I embrace the NE IPA style and what it’s helping create in new beers to its fullest. Some of my favorite beers last year were things from Great Notion, Claim 52 and luckily Trillium thanks to a tour guest at work. And while truthfully I wish people would leave the lactose and fruit out of IPA, I understand where they’re coming from in trying to create super round, fruit-forward IPA that is appealing. So though I highly encourage folks to get out there and taste the loveliness that is NE IPA, don’t forget that haze is the by-product of the juiciest IPA you may have ever had.

Edit – After writing this I came upon a blog from Josh Hare at Hops and Grain in Austin essentially hitting on similar thoughts. Neat that other people are thinking about this. You can read his article here

Dissecting Three Favorite Hop Varieties

[This post is an archived article from that is no longer active. As an employee I wrote them for the blog, but all links have been deleted and these are being posted far after the original post]

Pine resin. Grapefruit. “Dank.” When many of us think of hop aromas in beer styles like India Pale Ale those are some of the most common descriptors. However there are a whole number of hops out there we use in the Ninkasi brew houses that that provide a range of fruit aromas and flavors, ultimately creating a pretty amazing diversity among our hop-forward products. Let’s briefly shine a light on a few of the hops in our cooler and how they contribute to some of our flagship products.

Flight of Relevant Beers

Amarillo – The Underdog – Total Domination
With primary flavor and aroma descriptors like grapefruit and pine resin noted above, Total Domination has what many of us consider the classic Northwest IPA hop profile. And while hops like Crystal and Summit provide that resinous impact, what individual hops like Amarillo often don’t get enough credit for is providing not only a spectrum of citrus aroma from mandarin orange to lemon, but also a delightfully floral note that comes out after a few sips. Here Amarillo is the balancing counterpoint to the weighty contributions of its brethren. Although for many of us the year 2000 doesn’t seem that long ago, after 17 years of its existence, Amarillo has truly become a go-to hop in US IPA brewing and it’s not difficult to see why.

Citra – The Wunderkind – Pacific Rain
There’s a reason Citra is so sought after since its creation in 2007: In many ways it’s the “fruit punch” of hops. Bred from multiple hops like Brewer’s Gold, East Kent Goldings and more, it’s little wonder how it came to showcase so many flavors. On its own we find characteristics from citrus to passionfruit and its aroma impact on Pacific Rain is evident. We combine Citra with earthy, resinous hops like Simcoe and another truly fruit-laden hop, Mosaic. With the complex hop-dosing and dry-hopping schedule it takes to make Pacific Rain, we’ve created a refreshing pale ale that pushes out bales of hop aroma and flavors sure to appeal to both lovers of the classics and the new-school.

Box of Mosaic Hops

Mosaic – The Chameleon – Dawn of the Red
Developed in 2012, Mosaic is the youngest hop we’re focusing on here, but despite its youth it has quickly become a go-to hop for us. Bred from resinous Simcoe and the earthy, herbal Nugget, Mosaic certainly fits in among the more familiar hop aromas but takes its real abilities steps further. Its name not only comes from its ability to play well with others, but also the plethora of flavor descriptors it can provide: tropical fruit, mint, bubble gum, black pepper. While you may not pick up all those notes in a single beer, what you are certain to find in Dawn of the Red is a medley of papaya, peach, and pineapple. With the addition of Ahtanum and El Dorado and a sizeable dry-hop charge, this Red IPA winds up being one of our most aromatically approachable offerings.

With those three we’ve barely just scratched the surface when it comes to the hops we use and how they work. What are your favorite hops and why? Down the road we’ll also continue to dive into the ingredients we use and other unique brew house processes we use here at Ninkasi. Feel free to post suggestions or questions in the comments section below!

Demystifying Hops and bitterness

[This post is an archived article from that is no longer active. As an employee I wrote them for the blog, but all links have been deleted and these are being posted far after the original post]

I used to be a bartender in a suburban area new to “craft brewing” and many of our patrons were just realizing that there was more flavor to beer than the barley pops from our parents’ fridge. Some of the most frequently uttered phrases upon ordering were, “oh I don’t like hoppy beer” or “give me whatever IPA has the most IBUs.” Depending on the customer, sometimes I’d just pick one of the eight beers we had on draft I thought best fit their needs, or if lucky we’d have a nice conversation about what they were really looking for. Nobody really wants the bitterest beer they can get and those who say they don’t like hoppy beer often times think hoppy has to mean bitter. 

So what do we really mean when we say “hoppy?” Let’s crack open a metaphorical (or actual) IPA and dig in! 

To oversimplify, we can say that “hoppier” means “more hops” which while true doesn’t help us understand how that impacts taste. 

Hops provide bitterness, flavor and aroma. In our brew houses we accomplish this balancing act in a handful of ways. 

  1. Hops added early in the boil become bitter and balance the malty sweetness. 
  2. Hops added later in the boil hops contribute more flavor than bitterness
  3. Once the boil stops we whirlpool and add more hops to obtain flavor and aroma. 
  4. “Dry hopping” is our final step in the quest for hop potential; we add a hefty charge of hops straight into our fermenter resulting in heaps of aroma, but a minimal impact on bitterness. 

So clearly “more hops” can mean a lot of different things. How do we help you figure out what this means in a bottle of Ninkasi? By putting it in plain view on our labels! 

Check your beer label! 

All of our product labels contain info that guides you to what you were craving and in our hop-forward products we take it a step further. Beers like our Pacific Rain Northwest Pale call out specific hop varieties on the front of the label, so you can find your favorite hop flavor profile (as noted in a recent post: Dissecting Three Favorite Hop Varieties). Looking for the most hop aroma you can get? Look for our “dry-hopped” icons on the side of bottles, six pack carriers and cases and you can ensure you’re in for a kick in the olfactory. So now that we’ve got a better idea of how hoppy happens, how can we be sure the beer we choose isn’t too bitter? IBUs! (Kind of.)

What does IBU mean? 

IBU is short for “International Bitterness Units” which typically runs a scale of 0-100. Lower numbers indicate less present bitterness and 90-100 is about as high as our tongues can detect. Because the brewing industry has taken to using this as a reference, we eventually associate that beers like our Red IPA Dawn of the Red at 66 IBU have more bitterness than our lager, Helles Belles, at 28 IBU. However chasing the number of IBU to determine hoppiness is like reading nutritional information to determine the flavor of food. Until we adopt something like Bitterness Unit to Gravity Unit Ratio (and unfortunately there’s a few ways to interpret that too!) we’ll use IBU as the best barometer we can. It’s also why, as noted above, we go through the process of putting more info than just IBU on our labels. 

So the next time we stroll into our favorite beer bar, you’ll now be armed with better info to help order a beer that is just what you’re looking for. And when looking at that 22 ounce bottle of Tricerahops in the grocery store you can rest assured seeing 84 IBU and “dry-hopped” on the label you’re getting the hoppy beer experience you were seeking! Got questions about how we measure IBU or other hop-related questions? Let us know in the comments! 


So I accidentally b0rked my site here in 2021 Turns out if your hosting company says they’re going to stop supporting you, everything goes poof. I’ll start reposting the old content soon as well as some new stuff.