How Hoppy Beer is Like Spicy Food

Nate Springfield, October 29, 2013

In my first contribution to BeerGraphs, I am going to try not to beat a dead horse while sharing the awesomeness of Half-Acre’s Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. Living in downstate Illinois -- yes there is more than Chicago in Illinois, and yes, it is mostly corn and soy bean fields -- I try to spend as much time as possible in Chicago over the summer months, enjoying the great city and watching mediocre-at-best baseball inside of Wrigley Field.

It was a trip in the summer of 2011 that college buddy M.H.W. Stone and I took in a Friday matinee, enjoyed some obligatory Old Style, and tried to figure out what we were going to do for the rest of the evening. At the conclusion of the game, we made the mandatory stop at Goose Island on Clark, and then hit the Red Line to get back to the loop where he lived.

We settled in at a great place called The Emerald Loop. The time of day was perfect to talk beer with the bar maid and have a chance to try some new to me brews. It was at this time that Stone suggested I try the Daisy Cutter. I asked the bar maid what it was like, because I have learned to not always believe my buddy when it comes to certain things, and she described it as a better version of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Now, in 2011, I was not a fan of hoppy beer, preferring mostly the wheat and Kolsch varieties. A majority of the IPAs and other “hop forward” varieties I had tried just did not settle well with my palette. Fortunately, Daisy Cutter was just what I needed to get past the idea that I did not like hoppy beer. It was my gateway beer to all of the great hoppy brews I have had since then.

After realizing that hoppy beer can be good, even to people that don’t like hoppy beer, I tried to force my revelation onto others – but most were not buying in. Finally someone asked why. Why is this beer any different than the other IPA or Pale Ale’s I have tried in the past? This question made me think, and here is the answer I came up with.

I equate hoppy beer to spicy food.

There are many different kinds of spicy foods. Different kinds of spicy foods have different sources of their hotness. Most of the time, that source is some sort of pepper. Not all peppers have the same spiciness, and not all of them have the same flavor either.

Just as in spicy food, there are many different kinds of hoppy beer. Like peppers, not all hops are the same, and the different kinds of hops add different kinds of flavors to a beer. Just because you had one IPA doesn’t mean they are all going to taste the same.

I love a spicy dry rub or buffalo sauce, but absolutely hate spicy Thai food. In my opinion, a good rub or buffalo sauce first has delicious flavor accompanied by heat. Spicy Thai food has no unique taste to my palette, and then the hotness just smacks you in the mouth. I do not enjoy sensation of sweating as I eat something that tastes almost as good as the Ramen Noodles I devoured in college.

A good hoppy beer has awesome flavor first. The idea of “bitterness” is a complete after thought if the beer is balanced and crafted with taste in mind, instead of a destined IBU rating. Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter did just that. The beer itself tasted wonderful with the hops, not because of the hops.

After presenting this “argument” to fellow beer drinkers that “don’t like IPAs” but do like spicy food, it sometimes allows them to approach the next taste with a more open mind. I encourage them to try the same beer I did that got me over that hoppy hump, but since no distributor south of Interstate 80 currently carries Half Acre selections, I try to smuggle as much back with me every time I visit to support my theory.

Half Acre Daisy Cutter

Appearance: 4.0, A nice clean pour topped off with a commercial quality head. Looks a lot lighter and cleaner than you’d expect for the flavor you are about to get.

Aroma: 4.0, Hoppy, but not overwhelming.

Mouthfeel: 3.8, A little more carbonation than most other within its style, but does not take away from what it is.

Taste: 4.9, Almost perfect in my opinion, but I am a little biased for what this beer did to me – didn’t you read the article?

Overall: 4.3, There are very few beers I would reach for before a Daisy Cutter if it was one of my options.