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How to avoid "hoppy" beers (2nd attempt)
Old 03-28-2015, 02:22 PM   #1
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How to avoid "hoppy" beers (2nd attempt)

Question: How can I order a somewhat balanced beer (mild bitterness) I haven't tried before without having to look it up on my smartphone before ordering?

If necessary - Background, what I think I've learned: With the many styles one can get these days (a good thing), it's even harder for me to know what I will like/not like in advance. I don't like "hoppy" beers - though I now realize that's a widely misused term. There are many different hops, with different flavors, that can be added in different quantities at different points during brewing. Most people would not like a beer with no hops, it would probably be very sweet. Some hops balance malt sweetness, but some (craft) brewers have really gone to extremes with hops. If you give me an IPA, even though they're very popular these days, no way I'd finish it.

So I stumbled on IBU (International Bittering Units) and thought I had my answer. Unfortunately it's not that simple either. I have had Russian Imperial Stouts that didn't taste bitter (higher IBU), but a light ale with the same IBU wouldn't be drinkable (for me). OTOH, a low IBU may be a nicely balanced beer, but it might be too sweet too. The IBU reading that would begin to balance a beer, varies considerably with each of the many beer styles.

So to order a beer I haven't had, do I really have to research the style and IBU range for the style every time? Or just keep ordering and hating some of the beers I pay good money for? I've had a few that I left on the table. I always like to try new things, so finding a few I like and ordering them over and over isn't an acceptable answer for me.
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Old 03-28-2015, 02:31 PM   #2
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Not an uncommon question. But you should focus more on what you're trying to accomplish. Hoppy is a catchall term.

Hops are used for three distinct purposes in brewing.
  • Bitterness (hops added early in the boil)
  • Flavor (hops added later in the boil)
  • Aroma (hops added near the end of the boil, or later in the fermenter)

IBUs are the simplest way to look at bitterness, but only measures the contribution of hops during the boil. Many brews have large amounts of hops added at the end of the boil or "dry-hopped" in the fermenter. Those additions contribute massive amounts of aroma (leading to the perception of a "very hoppy" beer, but no noticeable bitterness at all.

There is also a different kind of bitterness from roasted barley (found in stouts) that is totally unrelated to hops.

In sum, it's not at all a straightforward question.
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Old 03-28-2015, 02:37 PM   #3
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Not an uncommon question. But you should focus more on what you're trying to accomplish. Hoppy is a catchall term.

In sum, it's not at all a straightforward question.
So I have to buy all these, hate some, and then try to remember which ones I didn't like (could be that's the real challenge)?
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Old 03-28-2015, 02:44 PM   #4
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Yes, the ideal solution would be to buy a case of each. Try a bottle, and send me the 23 left from those you don't like. Simple and efficient!
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Old 03-28-2015, 02:48 PM   #5
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Some places that serve a wide variety of beers publish a bitterness units for the beer on their beer menu. IBUs (International Bitterness Units). You'd probably be happiest with an IBU below 40. Maybe shoot for 25.

Porters are often low - but you never know. Avoid anything that says "India Pale Ale" and many Pale Ale styles may be too bitter.

OK - I see you already figured this part out. Well, make the bartender tell you the IBU before you order the beer?

I find many dark beers to be low in IBU - but you never know!

Just order an Alaskan Amber or a Negra Modelo, and you'll be happy (not hoppy).

Mulligan reminds me below that Scottish ales aren't usually very hoppy.

Bellhaven Scottish Ale if you can find it.
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Old 03-28-2015, 02:50 PM   #6
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Ask your knowledgeable bartender! Tell him what beers you DO like, and ask him to recommend something. My local pub will put a bit of something new in a glass for me to try it first.


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Old 03-28-2015, 02:53 PM   #7
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A large liquor store in our area carries lots of single bottles (22 oz) and will also let you choose any 6 from among a large selection of 12 oz bottles, for just a bit more money that the cost of a normal 6-pack.
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Old 03-28-2015, 03:12 PM   #8
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This is not going to be at all helpful as I don't really know anything about beer, but am reminded of a fantastic food and beer pairing that happened last year.

My friend and I ate at a restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach, called Original Joe's. I had a burger and fries, and a glass of Anchor Steam (a beer brewed in SF). A burger and beer doesn't sound like anything special and often, it isn't. However, on this particular occasion. the burger was made of quality ingredients and well-cooked, and the taste combination with the Anchor Steam was very, very pleasing indeed. I'd almost classify it as out of this world. It was indeed an extremely satisfying experience.

We often talk about that meal and I am reticent to go back, in case it's not as good the second time around.

OK folks, you can go back to talking about hoppiness now
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Old 03-28-2015, 03:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
make the bartender tell you the IBU before you order the beer?
It sounds as though this would be useful, but sometimes it isn't. You can have two beers in a similar style with the same number of IBUs, yet one is drinkable and the other is an affront to your senses.

As Midpack seems to understand, it's a question of balance. A big beer with tons of malt can handle a lot of IBUs just to balance it out. That's why some IPAs seem far more bitter than others. The ones that are more pleasing are made with a bigger malt "backbone" to balance the ridiculous load of hop bitterness. The aggressively bitter ones lack that level of malt.

You can judge the level of malt (approximately) by another number frequently shown on the beer list: the original gravity (OG). This may be expressed as actual specific gravity (1.065 or the like) or in degrees Plato (16.25 for example). The higher the gravity, the more malt was used in the recipe.
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How to avoid &quot;hoppy&quot; beers (2nd attempt)
Old 03-28-2015, 03:40 PM   #10
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How to avoid &quot;hoppy&quot; beers (2nd attempt)

No advice, Midpack but I feel your pain. I just assumed I liked all beer and it didn't matter until I got ahold of an IPA. "What the hell is wrong with this beer?" That was when I became educated on the term "hoppy". A couple of those have driven me straight into the loving arms of Scottish Ales, and I have never left her!


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Old 03-28-2015, 04:18 PM   #11
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No advice, Midpack but I feel your pain. I just assumed I liked all beer and it didn't matter until I got ahold of an IPA. "What the hell is wrong with this beer?" That was when I became educated on the term "hoppy". A couple of those have driven me straight into the loving arms of Scottish Ales, and I have never left her!
Just the opposite for me. I had stopped drinking beer, and when DD got married one of their gifts was a beer subscription. She didn't want it so I bought it from her,and the first shipment had an IPA from Flying Dog which was amazing. It was then I realized just how much I like bitter ale and have been enjoying them ever since.

This is like wine. I often go to the liquor store, look for one of the more experienced people on the floor and just say "what do have that tastes like .. " and then name a wine or beer I really like.
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Old 03-28-2015, 04:22 PM   #12
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Just the opposite for me. I had stopped drinking beer, and when DD got married one of their gifts was a beer subscription. She didn't want it so I bought it from her,and the first shipment had an IPA from Flying Dog which was amazing. It was then I realized just how much I like bitter ale and have been enjoying them ever since.
You're in big company, currently the most popular style, and what made craft brewing more popular. Tastes like beer with grass clippings to me, but clearly I'm out of step..

Most Popular Beer Style in America
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Old 03-28-2015, 04:24 PM   #13
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Ask for a taste before ordering. Most places will be happy (hoppy?) to accommodate.
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Old 03-28-2015, 04:38 PM   #14
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Ask for a taste before ordering. Most places will be happy (hoppy?) to accommodate.
I do - and most brewpubs I go to will, but few restaurants and no liquor stores that I know of will.
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Old 03-28-2015, 04:51 PM   #15
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I don't like excessively hoppy beers either, and they've become all-too-common in the American microbrewery world. They taste like soap and are incompatible with most food.

Avoid most IPA's and ESPECIALLY anything that says "double" or has other indicators of gonzo levels of extra hops. Also avoid any darker beer marked "Imperial" as that also means more hops. If you prefer malt in the foreground and hops playing a supporting role, choices range from classic Pilsners such as Pilaner Urquell to Scottish Ales (Old Chubb is great if you can find it, ditto Great Divide or MacAndrews), German bock and double bock beers, etc.

Belgian beers and ales are a world unto themselves and a bit of exploration will quickly show why they produce more complex and balanced beers than the rest of the world put together. Most are as expensive, per ounce,, as good wine, however. Still you might try Leffe Blonde, a widely-available middle-of-the road example that isn't expensive, just to try something light in color but not in flavor, marvelously food-friendly and with hops and malt in perfect balance.
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Old 03-28-2015, 04:53 PM   #16
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As you know, and have had supported - IBU is just a number, and won't tell you what you need to know. Here's what you need:

A good bartender (preferably a Cicerone, but good luck with that), a knowledgeable beer sales guy at the local liquor store, or a knowledgeable friend.

Create a short list of beers you like (styles, brewer and name), and short list of the types you consider 'too hoppy'. With that list, someone with some background should be able to give you a pretty good idea of whether a particular beer might work for you.

But even within those guides, you might get a few misses. DW says she doesn't like 'hoppy beers', but then once in a while I'll offer her a taste of mine, I tell her she won't like it (too hoppy for her), and she does like it. But I'll get it most times.

I generally like hoppy beers, but I've been leaning away from those with a lingering 'back end' bitterness. Lagunitas IPA is like that for me. But I LOVE Revolution's Anti-Hero - lotsa hops, but they are flavor/aroma, not so bitter.

The beer sales guy at our local store is a member of our beer club, the guy really, really knows beer. A lot of stores have someone like that, you'll need to seek them out.


Why not try listing your likes/dislikes here? - I but we can provide feedback on that.

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Old 03-28-2015, 04:59 PM   #17
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I don't like excessively hoppy beers either, and they've become all-too-common in the American microbrewery world. They taste like soap and are incompatible with most food.

Avoid most IPA's and ESPECIALLY anything that says "double" or has other indicators of gonzo levels of extra hops. Also avoid any darker beer marked "Imperial" as that also means more hops. If you prefer malt in the foreground and hops playing a supporting role, choices range from classic Pilsners such as Pilaner Urquell to Scottish Ales (Old Chubb is great if you can find it, ditto Great Divide or MacAndrews), German bock and double bock beers, etc.

Belgian beers and ales are a world unto themselves and a bit of exploration will quickly show why they produce more complex and balanced beers than the rest of the world put together. Most are as expensive, per ounce,, as good wine, however. Still you might try Leffe Blonde, a widely-available middle-of-the road example that isn't expensive, just to try something light in color but not in flavor, marvelously food-friendly and with hops and malt in perfect balance.
Sorry, can't agree with much of that.

"Double", ans in Doppelbock (German for Double-bock), will have more hops to counter the sweetness, but most people would not describe it as 'hoppy'. Same with "Imperial" (unless it's an Imperial IPA)

Compatibility with food is subjective, I love a hoppy beer with some foods.

It's complicated - malt and hops interact, when the hops are added in the brew process, individual tastes. You just need to learn what you do/don;t like - but some background will help.

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Old 03-28-2015, 04:59 PM   #18
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Just give up and order a diet Coke instead?



This all sounds so complicated to me! Good luck and I think you are finding some better answers than mine.
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Old 03-28-2015, 05:37 PM   #19
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Have not read whole thread........

But not a beer guy generally....but last year just learned to like IPA's....stronger the better.........

Sorry, back to regularly scheduled programming...............
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Old 03-28-2015, 06:22 PM   #20
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Quote:
Why not try listing your likes/dislikes here? - I but we can provide feedback on that.
OK, but I am not looking for a list of brands, more which styles are bitter/hoppy by design aside from IPA - so I can avoid them. Most of the places I go have local brews on tap, not the national brands - those aren't of interest to me.

I've had many Porters and Stouts I like (Guiness, though light for a stout) they tend to have higher IBU readings but are not overtly bitter. I've even had a high ABV Russian Imperial Stout that I liked. I usually like Reds (Smithwick's) and Ales, and of course lagers/pilsners are fine but I like more flavorful beers - they're too safe. I have never had an IPA I liked (Lagunitas Sumpin' Sumpin' was the worst recently) and it was a struggle to finish a craft brewed barleywine recently. My favorite local microbrewer has a Doppelbock coming up, I expect to like that. I like Wells Banana Bread & Goose Island Sofie, but they're both borderline sweet to me - not always in the mood. I like wheats and saisons.

Just some examples that come to mind.
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