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by Joanna Shaw Flamm

Let’s take a minute and sing the praises of hops, beer’s most misunderstood component. Hops give beer its bitterness, turning what might otherwise be a sickly sweet beverage into the refreshing thirst quencher we know and love. According to Sixpoint Craft Ales founder and president Shane Welch, hops also have antimicrobial properties, which kept early beer from spoiling and allowed the beer-making tradition to live on past the first few attempts. But mostly, hops make beers taste different from each other, and Welch, with the help of head brewer Ian McConnell, is going to prove it to you.

The “Spice of Life” series is like a controlled science experiment, but with more drinking.  Each month for the next 12 months, Red Hook-based Sixpoint will release a new beer. Each will be made with the same grain base, but will use a different kind of hops, shining a spotlight on the unique characteristics of each.

We had a quick chat with Shane about the project.

Nona: What do most beer drinkers not understand/appreciate about hops?

Shane: Just about everything.  Its staggering actually.  When we host tours, many people think the grain is actually the “hops.”  They don’t really know what hops are, what they look like, or what purpose they serve.  In short, they are totally obscure and unknown as a plant species to most people, despite being one of the most popular flavoring herbs in the world.

The release mentions that the goal of the project is to educate consumers about the different characteristics of different hops. Tell us a little bit about how you’ll achieve that?

We are providing a really wicked “infographic” to go with our Spice of Life Series.  In addition, there is going to be a ton of material on our new website, which is set to launch imminently.  This will give everyone a breakdown of what hops are, their role in the brewing process, and how different strains affect flavor.

If you were a hop, which one would you be?

Warrior.  Nuff said.

Where can we find these beers in Brooklyn?

It’s very limited in production, so Franny’s is the only place that carries it

We’ve heard rumors that you might be planning to start up brewery tours again. Any truth to that?

There is truth to that, but….I can’t provide any details at this time.  Rest assured, you will not be disappointed.

Want to try these limited-edition “Spice of Life” brews? Starting this month, you can find the “Chinook” variety at Franny’s in Prospect Heights or Barcade in Jersey City.

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