Discomfort Beer – What is “hoppy”?

I’m not making a new year’s resolution to write more because that’s how I’d guarantee never writing again throughout the entirety of 2017. However I am going to start of this new year with something new to me, if not everyone else – The Session!

Every month one blogger will host Beer Blogging Friday and choose a topic. This month’s host, Alec Latham, has chosen the topic of “Discomfort Beer”.

For Session 119 I’d like you to write about which/what kind of beers took you out of your comfort zones. Beers you weren’t sure whether you didn’t like, or whether you just needed to adjust to. Also, this can’t include beers that were compromised, defective, flat, off etc because this is about deliberate styles. It would be interesting to see if these experiences are similar in different countries.

I think this could be a good archive for people researching fads, the origins of styles and the dearths of others – but especially how new ones were initially perceived.

Alec spoke about black IPAs and Boak & Bailey (where I first spotted this month’s session) spoke about saisons and brett but even though I racked my brain the one “discomfort beer” that actually stood out was an IPA. More specifically BrewDog’s Punk IPA.

It feels ridiculous to type but I remember first trying that beer so clearly. When I started drinking beer it was Bombardier and Everard’s Tiger in the pub where I worked then I moved back to Wolverhampton and it was stouts from Titantic, Sadlers and Three Tuns, Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild… all red, ruby or pitch black. I’d try anything red, any stout that wasn’t Guinness. Then I tried a Green King IPA. It was weak-flavoured, watery and didn’t really taste of anything to me. I dismissed IPAs and happily went back to my stouts and porters.

Eager to learn more about beer I was chuffed when I received a pass to Birmingham Brewdog’s Beer School for my birthday. I’d drank 5am Saint before and loved it -still do, in fact- and I remember being thoroughly excited for Libertine Black. Punk hadn’t really crossed my mind.

That first sip was frankly startling. It was so bitter, so sharp and I honestly felt confused. If this was an IPA, what was Green King? These were flavours I hadn’t really come across in beer so far. I was drinking sweet, malty, roasted, rich, dark and heavy beers and I felt so baffled that there was this entire realm of flavour that had somehow passed me by. It was like getting on a ferry from Bangor and only then discovering that Ireland exists. This was what people called “hoppy” and I’m utterly sure that I then proceeded to overuse the word ad nauseam in the excitement of understanding when I eventually realised that I rather enjoyed IPAs and I’d like to try some more.

I was only just starting to put my beer geek shoes on and I was having this uncomfortable realisation that not only had I forgotten to put my socks on but I wasn’t entirely sure what socks even were. So many different flavours and it was still another year and a half until I discovered my beloved sour beers. Confusion, innocent ignorance, excitement, and yes, discomfort.

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