Zen and the bitterness of beer brewing
We shun bitter flavours in food, yet embrace them in beer. Why? Brewer and author Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø explains
How can an unpleasant taste lie at the heart of one of the world's most-popular and best-loved beverages? Here's Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, the self-described 'gypsy brewer' and co-author of our new book Food & Beer, to explain.
“We spend most of our lives fleeing bitter: bitter experiences, bitter truths, bitter flavours. But beer embraces bitterness,” Writes Jeppe co-founder of the high-end Brooklyn beer bar Tørst and the accompanying Michelin-starred restaurant, Luksus, in our new book. “There couldn’t be beer without it, and without it, sweetness would have no meaning. Welcome to the Zen of Brewing.”
“In beer, there are notes—caramel, floral, cocoa. But bitterness is the musical staff on which those notes hang. It is perhaps the most important, existential flavour in beer. Bitter flavours in beer are the result of a necessary structural element of its brewing: hops. You can’t have beer without hops; hence, you can’t have beer without some degree of bitterness.”
“No beer better embodies the possibilities of hops more so than India Pale Ale. IPAs are one of the most hop-forward styles there are. The story of how IPAs came to be is bound in colonial history. In the nineteenth century, the British functionaries who ruled India were thirsty. The local moonshine, arrak was - and still is - often toxic. And much of the pale beer English brewers sent on the six-month journey from England to India went bad before it arrived. Brewers eventually realized hops not only provided a pleasing kick but also helped to ensure the beer’s survival.
“As the British Empire flourished, so too did the beer brewed to slake the thirst of its colonial rulers. In the intervening years, much has changed. The British rule in India is gone, but sadly, for years, IPAs were maligned. Happily in the past twenty years, as craft brewing has grown, bitterness in general, and IPAs in particular, are seeing a resurgence."
So, as hops became hip again, so a greater bitterness found its way back into our beers. For more enlightenment on the creation of great food and beer buy Food & Beer, here.