Hello StyleChile readers – I’m excited to provide my first post for the “Ferment” category below, and I look forward to fielding your questions, insights and feedback as we explore the universe of intoxicant elixirs together and sample the many diverse products of Grapes, Hops and Stills…
It struck me only recently that the heart of autumn had descended upon us, with winter following closely on its heels. Reflecting on this realization with friends on a front stoop in the gorgeous and dynamic Shaw neighborhood of Washington DC, we shared the thought, “what better way to observe the last burst of color from the changing foliage than with a visit to our National Arboretum?”
Although this trip was initially planned as an opportunity to appreciate the many trees that populate the USDA’s 446 acre DC facility, upon arriving I found myself making a rather rapid beeline directly for the National Herb Garden. This spectacularly landscaped and curated area boasts the largest designed herb garden in the United States, and much to my glee it was there that I stumbled upon my first real living hops plants!
The leafy floral buds from the family Cannabacea that bring soul to beer, were nestled among conspicuously grape-like vines and leaves, in the process of transitioning from a honeysuckle yellow to a ruddy light brown. I guiltily plucked one leaf from the outer layer of one of the low-hanging fruits, crumbled it between my thumb and forefinger and then held it to my face and inhaled its sweet pine and grapefruit perfumed bitterness it exuded, reminding me once again why hops are so miraculous.
These tiny greenish flowers are packed with flavor, antioxidants, and natural preservative properties that have long made them a staple addition to fermented beverages that have helped to sustain human civilization. Although hops come in many different variations, in all forms they represent a hallmark taste contribution. Their distinctive taste on the palate represents both the intense bitter mouth puckering essence of an IPA that some consumers detest (usually due to high alpha acids), and the complex perfumed flavors that many beer aficionados long for (thanks to their intense beta acids).
One varietal among them, Saaz Hops, was featured recently in an innovative approach to cooking by friend and culinary icon, Aliya LeeKong, that was chronicled on this site. Saaz Hops are synonymous with Bohemia, spice, refreshingly clean flavors, flawless pilsners & lagers, controlled subtle bitters, Czechoslovakia & the United States of America, summer days & subtle aromatics.
Article and photos by Alicia. Additional photos of Saaz hops by Andrew Jones. Last photo is a still of Stella Artois’s The Butcher, The Baker, The Belgian Beer Maker.
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