It seems to me that I have some re-evaluating to do when it comes to my old nemesis hops. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of drinking several heavily hopped drinks that were quite delicious; an experience that I am, quite frankly, not used to when drinking new brews.
The one thing that all of these drinks had in common was that the hops were there in support of the drink, instead of being the sole reason for it. Often I find that beers that go heavily on the hops, just because they can, are a waste of my time. I’m of the belief that if you’re going to use the bitter flower, you’re going to have to understand what role it’s about to play in whatever drink you’re brewing.
I bring this up because I’ve had the recent experience of having Rockridge Orchards Hopped Honey Apple Cider. I knew going into this experience that this may be a bit of a novelty, but with my new perspective on hops in tow, I thought it would be interesting to see how it played in a non-grained based alcoholic beverage.
Aroma: A very sweet yellow apple flavor with a bitter hint behind it all. In all honesty, this was the worst aspect of the drink.
Taste: It’s a cider all right, with apple sweetness right up front and coating the palate. But then something interesting happens – there’s a hit of bitterness that comes from the hops, but it’s a subdued bitterness that goes away rather slowly and purposefully. The finish is a bit tastes a bit like apple pie, with crust and all. It’s quite an interesting drink.
It’s also a bit watery on the end, which makes it a good cider, but not one of those oh-so-rare you’d-kill-your-best-friend-for-one kind of drinks.
But the one thing this cider did more than anything was cement my belief on the power of hops. Too many hops can ruin a drink. If one chooses to use them, they should be used with specific intent. Depending upon the type of drink one is brewing/making, restraint can be called for, or, if a large amount is needed for the beer, some complexity needs to be called for as well.
This isn’t my definitive take on hops. Let’s consider this my philosophy in progress. Rockridge Orchards decided to make a cider with a restrained use of hops. And you know what? It’s not bad at all.