Far From India: India Pale Ales in the 21st Century. Ommegang Hopstate NY 2018. Dry Hopped Local Hopped IPA
Date: March 14, 2019
The Story— Ommegang began as a New York state -Belgian venture, but it’s wholly owned by Duvel now. It obviously didn’t miss a beat. Maybe why the brewery manages so well to blend its Belgian ownership with its New York location is that the parent company has done so much to play with hops in recent years. (Watch here in future posts to see our notes on Duvel Tripel hopped beers.)
The other story line is the legacy of New York hops. Early in the 20th century New York was one of the top hop produces in the country. My grandfather helped pay his way trough college by picking hops near the Adirondack mountains. (It’s the reason we featured his picture on our Hop Pocket Ale label.) But the powdery mildew blight wiped out the New York hop fields — and most of the rest of the East Coast produces. The blight couldn’t jump the great plains and left the US West Coast as the center of hop production and one of the world’s greatest hop growing areas.
But, ah, globalization. You and I can travel the world easily and so can powdery mildew. It snuck in on an experimental hop in the 90s and hit Oregon and Washington hard. We’re not sure those West Coast hops ever fully recovered from the blow– we had to reformulate the Hop Pocket to recover the original taste, but American ingenuity bred and sprayed a path to continuing excellent hops.
The efforts to control blight in the west really meant there was no more reason to avoid hop fields in the east. Hop growing in states that haven’t grown hops for decades have exploded. From upstate New York to down state Pennsylvania to Virginia and even North Carolina, hop growers are producing hops with familiar names, but unfamiliar tastes.
With few exceptions we’ve found these local adventures more interesting and more conducive to producing hoppy but drinkable beers that the antipodal fruit extravaganzas. East Coast brewers have seized on these treasures. Big brewers such as Matts/Saranac, Dogfish Head and Victory have brewed some of their best beers with them. Smaller brewers with access to smaller hop yards have produced beers that rival the best in the country.
Stay tuned, after our “stout Break” for more local hops.
The Beer—New York hops have a taste of their own. American 21st century flavors with fruit and grass and earth and spice. If this is how NY hops tasted before the blight, we lost a great deal of time in knowing how good a broad range hop can be. Chalky and surprisingly mild for a “farmhouse” beer. Juicy fruits emerge and grow but it’s it’s a soft walk in the country. We assume it’s a different beer than the 2015 version– with local hops it really has to be.
Value — Very good. it may be priced above what you’d want to pay for an evening, even though you might want to spend an evening with this very strong beer, But if you can find it, it can be one of your best buys of the year.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.