If you’re like me you don’t like hops much. While I can occasionally find a beer that has a large amount of hops that I enjoy I am mostly averse to the bitterness. Not only that but if its got to many hops I tend to sneeze and have a bit of a runny nose ruining my tasting experience.
Here are a few beers that you can drink to avoid that bitter hop flavor:
- Irish red
- Brown ale
- Belgian tripel
- Vienna lager
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the delicious less hoppy beers. However don’t let the name fool you. There are specific adjectives used when brewing the above styles of beer that can lead you to a world of ruin as you take your first sip of hops.
Watch Out For Hoppy Variations
It’s happened more than a few times. I’ve sat at a bar and read the list of beers and came across a delicious sounding lager. I ask the waiter if the beer is hoppy or not and the tend to say its not very hoppy. And much to me dismay I’m sitting there drinking a beer that is disgusting.
My mistake was not taking note of specific adjectives used when describing the beer. For example if a beer states it is a west coast style lager or even an American ale you might want to steer clear.
Since America is now becoming renown for its use of hops in beer we need to steer clear of those types of adjectives. Here are a for more adjectives to avoid when it comes to hoppy styles of beer.
- West Coast
- Pale Ale
Now that we have some buzz words to stay away from lets take a look at each style of beer that tends to offer a smoother drinking experience.
The Standard Ale
Ales can be tricky since it essentially encompass a large variety of styles. For example pale ale actually has the word ale in it. Those are definitely some of the beers you need to stay away from.
In order to spot the hoppy styles of ales you will need to look closely at the descriptions. If they include any of the adjectives that would be used to describe hops you need to stay away. These descriptions include:
Those are common descriptions for a hoppy beer. Don’t be deceived by the descriptions and thinking you are going to enjoy a delicious blue moon type hefeweizen.
The higher alcohol content can also be a giveaway. If you are looking for a high alcohol content but without the hops there are different types of beer below you can drink.
Lagers will most likely be your best friend in the beer world. These are probably the safest styles to drink with the exception of descriptions that clearly denote hops.
A lager tends to be a very light drink that has a clean and clear taste. Many beers achieve this flavor by using rice in the brewing process. This gets a higher alcohol content and leaves more filling hops and grain by the wayside.
A Roasty Stout
Stouts are generally safe to drink and tend to not use a great deal of hops. Even if a larger than normal amount of hops are used it tends to be overpowered power the roasted flavors of the malt used.
Stouts tend to be thicker beers and rely heavily on roasted malts. So these beers already have a high degree of bitterness. The bitterness does not come from hops so its a safe beer to drink for any hop averse drinker.
Stouts can get sweeter depending on what sweetening agents are used, for example vanilla, chocolate, or lactose can be added to the beer to sweeten it up.
One thing that can really change the overall bitterness of a stout is if its on nitro draft. This will make the beer much smoother and creamier, cutting away some of the bitterness. The same beer on regular draft may taste much more bitter.
Porter A Desert Beer?
I had always thought porters were intended to be desert beers since they were always so sweet. They tend to have less bitter flavors than stouts do, however sweetening adjuncts have begun to change that in stouts.
The overlap seems to be becoming more common but overall, porters tend to be thicker and less bitter than their stout counterparts.
A pilsner can be a dangerous beer for the hop averse. While there are many light clean and crisp pilsners you need to avoid pilsners that focus on hops. For example a noble hops brewed pilsner could land you in trouble.
Having said that there are many mass produced pilsners that are lighter on the hops side. Traditionally pilsners were created to save old beer by adding hops so if you visit a craft brewery you might want to avoid this one.
Caramel Irish Red
I love Irish Reds my favorite beer Smithwick’s is actually an Irish red. These beers brewed traditionally have a great caramel flavor. This flavor comes from the roasted malts.
The malts are not roasted as much as they would be in a stout so it lends itself to a sweeter less bitter experience. The hops are not the star in these beers its the half roasted malts.
Its a little bit of a letdown when I see breweries decide to throw massive amounts of hops into this style of beer. Be careful if any Irish Red you are about to order says it is using a specific style of hops.
Breweries will generally outline the use of hops if they are trying to make it more of an IPA style of beer. Don’t fall for it, focus on beers that push malt styles to the forefront.
European Brown Ale
When it comes to brown ales you really need to focus on the European styles. Breweries will showcase that they are European in style in order to denote the use of less hops.
This beer is much like an Irish Red because of the color of the beer. The beer color comes from lightly roasting malts. Do not under any circumstances drink an American Brown unless you want a face full of hops.
Probably my favorite overall style of beer. Belgian Witbier has exploded in popularity because of the use of flavoring agents. What I mean is wheat style beers have a very light flavor that makes it perfect to add fruit flavors.
The original fruit flavors of banana and clove actually come from the yeast and grains that are used in the brewing process. This interesting flavor profile got many brewers thinking about adding various fruits like blueberry, raspberry, and orange.
Overall Witbiers tend to have more grist since many are unfiltered, so they are not as clean tasting, they also tend to be more filling. But the one thing they are not is hoppy. So don’t be afraid to enjoy a wide variety of these without fear of hoppy bitterness.
Belgian Tripel High Alcohol, Low Hops
This style of beer is perfect for achieving a fruity taste without the use of actual fruit. These are also high in alcohol and can have a nice alcohol burn to them.
The high level of alcohol is actually achieved by throwing in sugar during the boil. This gives the yeast more sugar to eat and turn into a fruity flavor. Hops are used primarily to balance the sweetness rather than to overpower the beer.
You are safe when you drink this style of beer since hops are not the point of making this beer. It’s all about a light beer with lots of ABV.
This style of beer again showcases the malt rather than hops. The hops are primarily used to cut the sweetness of the malt. Balancing the flavors.
Mexico actually has some great Vienna style lagers that are mass produced. Negra Modelo is sort of an example of one of these. It’s much sweeter and lighter than many of the hoppier beers out there.
Lambic beers are an interesting class of beer. These you might almost think are not beers at all. In fact, lambic actually does have hops in it.
These beers tend to be known as sour beers. They tend to have fruity flavors and are very tart. The sour flavor comes from wild yeast. This is yeast that is not purchased from white labs or some other yeast company.
Rather the yeast used is often the very same yeast that is floating in the air around us. All you typically have to do to make a beer sour is open the fermenter and let the wild yeast colonize it.
Lambic beers typically use aged hops and much of the bitterness has faded away. Sour beers are not for everyone but, if you are looking for something that is not hoppy try it out.
If You Absolutely Hate Hops
Sometimes you just can’t handle any sort of hops and you want something candy sweet. There are a few styles of brew out there that are enjoyable and are not wine or liquor.
Some of the Styles above are really more like wine than beer, but they are kind of a go between for beer drinkers and wine drinkers alike.
Crisp Apple Cider
Most ciders are brewed with apple as the primary ingredient. This can essentially taste like apple juice with alcohol. Its great to drink while you are out somewhere that serves mostly beer. Everyone should have some kind of cider.
Mead is technically wine, However it is more characteristic of beer when it comes to flavor profiles and alcohol content.
I love brewing mead because its so easy. The problem is it takes a lot of time to age. You can age mead much faster, if you use faster yeast strains.
Bitterness and Hoppiness are Not the Same
Typically you want to balance sweet and bitter, that’s the entire reason hops are added to beer. The problem is we have gone crazy on hops and have added tons of hops to the beer to make it seem sweet.
I’ve often heard the characterization that a good hoppy beer is so bitter its sweet. I’ve never truly experienced this because there is a pretty big hurdle to jump before you get to that point.
By adding hops early in your boil you will achieve a much more bitter beer. If you are using bitter grain ingredients you are doubling up on the bitterness and not getting any of that sweetness.
While some prefer to overload that hoppy flavor to get the most sweet flavors they can along with the bitter taste, I prefer to balance the hops with the sweetness of other ingredients.