Letter: A history of hops | AspenTimes.com

Letter: A history of hops

A history of hops

I have been a home brewer for only a handful of batches, but an avid beer connoisseur for years. I’ve had my share of Coors and Budweisers, keg stands and solo-cup escapades, but it wasn’t until I had that first sip of amber gold did I realize that beer was the life for me. It was Golden Monkey by Victory Brewing out of New Brunswick that grabbed my attention to craft beer; however, after drinking some of the best craft brews in the whole world, from Lefthand Brewery to east coast Smuttynose, back to Lagunitas and even the infamous Westvleteren XII, I have truly tried them all; it still has never been enough.

I started home brewing in New York in my small 300-square-foot apartment as an experiment. It was a simple brown ale made from all extract, if you’re wondering, and it came out terrible. I was determined after that point to pursue a life of a home brewer and continued on to my next batch which I distinctly remember blowing up every one of my bottles into oblivion. I worked on recipes, read books, visited countless breweries and, of course, moved to Colorado to find that perfect beer.

I find it amazing in the Roaring Fork Valley that we have more than four breweries alone in such as small area. To these people, I commend you for creating a liquid that so much of us crave. I continue to brew, currently drinking a Kolsch and examining my Saison in the fermenter wondering if it’s time to rack it into the secondary carboy. To brew one’s own beer, as bad as mine may be, is an experience, and a hobby nonetheless, that will always be something that every human can cherish. To create such an ancient beverage and consume it for pleasure among friends and families has been something that we as a civilization have been doing since we first consumed the fermented grains and spices.

According to “Beer has a History” by Frank A. King, he explains that beer has been a tradition that dates back to the first civilizations of nomadic tribes in Egypt where people made cakes from various wild grasses and spices. They filled small carafes with water and the cakes to rehydrate them and left them to ferment on their long trips through the desert. Beer then was not what we think of it today, if anyone has had the opportunity to try Dogfish Head’s “Ta Henket”, a beer made from the findings of an old pot from the Egyptian times, with ingredients like wheat loaves, palm fruit, middle eastern spices, and no hops, it may give you a sense of what beer could have tasted like. However, beer had a much more meaningful life then, and then it does now. It was not just a source of beverage that intoxicates people, it was a source of calories and energy. These brews were not high alcohol like your big-style IPA’s, like Alchemist Brewing, or your staggering 9.3 percent alcohol on Old Ruffian by Great Divide; these ancient beers were most likely one percent and no more than three percent alcohol, for one of two reasons; first, these beers didn’t have enough convertible sugars that the yeast needs for healthy nutrition which will in turn create alcohol, and because these early civilizations needed nourishment and they needed it fast. They did not live an easy lifestyle that we take for granted today. They worked hard to survive, and one thing they needed was water, or a beverage that made their water safe to drink due to the little alcohol that was in it.

So how did beer become what it is today? How has the craft-beer industry begin to chip away at the massive conglomerates of Coors and Anheuser-Busch? The craft industry now holds five percent of the total beer market, which is a steady increase since the 1990s. With people like the ones in this valley who support their local breweries, they slowly make a difference in what we now consume. After talking with countless brewmasters about their philosophy of brewing beer, it always comes down to the consumers and what they enjoy. It’s the people drinking the beer that are making the difference in the delicious beers being brewed in the valley. So I will continue to brew, most likely bad beer, but I will still cherish the tradition, as do many others who drive the craft-beer industry.

Jeremiah Harvey


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