Hoppy has practically become as ubiquitous a word as ‘beer’ in the craft world and I can. not. stand it anymore!
“Wow, this beer is sooo hoppy.”
“Ew, I can’t stand hoppy beers.”
“What?! I LOVE hoppy beers!”
Before you get all in a huff, pointing out the zillion places I use the word hoppy in my blog posts, let me give you my reasoning.
Firstly, hoppy does very little to actually describe a beer.
Really think about it for a minute. What is hoppy? A beer that has a lot of hops in it? But aren’t all beers a certain level of hoppy?
Hops are the seasoning of beer, and range in flavor from herbal German Tettnang, spicy Saaz, floral Hersbrucker, tropical Galaxy, citrusy Citra, piney Chinook and on and on. With modern day hop breeding and harvesting, the hop flavor wheel is only growing.
Hoppy does absolutely nothing to describe these flavors, which is a problem if you love the tropical aroma and flavors of some New Zealand hops, but hate the piney-ness of West Coast American hops. Hoppy just isn’t enough.
Secondly, hoppy means very different things to different people.
One persons too hoppy is another persons easy-drinking pale ale. Maybe the beer starts out with a pleasant herbal, noble hop aroma and finishes with a crisp snappy bitterness. To some, that German Pilsner you just drank is super hoppy! To others, if it’s not an extra imperial double dry-hopped IPA, then it ain’t hoppy.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, describing a beer as ‘hoppy’ may turn off people who think they hate ‘hoppy beers’
Hoppy is frequently mis-used as a synonym for bitter, which may or may not be true. As we’ve discussed before in my post 3 Common Beer Myths Busted, there are various ways in which hops can be added to the brewing process which attribute varying levels of hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. IBU, or International Bittering Unit, is the technical calculation for measuring hop-bitterness.
It gets tricky though because a ‘hoppy’ beer may have intense hop flavor and aroma without being bitter at all. Additionally, beers with very high IBU’s (>40 or 50) may not have much perceived bitterness. A good example of this comes when comparing a Double or Imperial IPA and a Russian Imperial stout – both have high IBU’s but the strong, somewhat sweet dark malt presence in the RIS will balance out the bitterness resulting in far less apparent bitterness.
Those people who think all so-called hoppy beers are bitter are therefore less likely to try something someone describes as ‘hoppy.’ Also, a lot of people don’t realize the range of flavors that hops can have.
So! The next time you hear the ‘H’ word about to exit your mouth, consider adding some description, for example, “this beer has some great citrus and pine hop aroma.” Or better, don’t even use the word hop at all! Just describe the beer as you see it and let other people make up their mind. You might convince some ‘hoppy beer’ haters they love ’em after all!