UNLESS YOU’RE a dedicated Samuel Adams aficionado, you may not know that Boston Beer Company’s facility in Jamaica Plain is an experimental station. Sam’s brewmasters constantly try new things there just to see what happens.
Sam’s Latitude 48 IPA is one familiar to many beer drinkers, brewed with a blend of five hops from regions falling on the 48th latitude known as the “Hops Belt.” So, you may well have had a blend of all five. But what would they taste like one by one?
That was the question they asked in Jamaica Plain, and the result is the Latitude 48 pack. Each of the beers we are about to look at contains only one of the five hops varieties.
In a sense, this follows a modern wine tradition of single varietals. For example, the grapes traditionally used to make a great Bordeaux wine can now be found as single varietal wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec.
The 48th parallel, if you don’t happen to have a globe handy, runs just below the U.S./Canadian border in the west, across southern Ontario and the eastern Canadian provinces, passing through southern Ireland and England, and through central Europe, including Bavaria, on to Asia and back around to Washington again.
The one thing all these places have in common is that they’re a bit too far north to be able to grow grape vines, which is a big part of the reason beermaking developed and was perfected in those climes. So, let’s take a look at these “single varietals” and see how they hold up:
--Latitude 48 Mosaic IPA. Mosaic hops from the Yakima Valley of Washington state are reputed to contribute fruit notes of pineapple and mandarin orange. Amber-colored beer under a white head. On the nose, bitterness comes through, and just the beginning of pineapple hints. The bitterness carries on through the palate, which is dry, with medium acidity and balanced alcohol at 6 percent. The flavors are hints of spice, with the pineapple that comes through, not so much the orange.
-Latitude 48 E. Kent Goldings IPA. Hops from East Kent (south of London) in the United Kingdom are a centuries-old ingredient in British beer and known for adding a mellow kind of bitterness with earthy and floral notes. A lighter shade of amber under an off-white large, lasting head, the nose is hoppy. The bitterness carries right through to the finish here as well. It’s 6 percent alcohol as the previous one, with good carbonation, medium body and medium texture, with flavors of an earthiness that includes peat, in a rich presentation.
-Latitude 48 Hallertau Mittelfreuh IPA. Hops from Bavaria, Germany — one of the oldest known hops varieties from one of the oldest beer making regions on the planet — are known for their citrus and resinous pine notes. Also weighing in at 6 percent ABV, this is a lighter amber with both gold and orange notes. Hops bitterness and some strong floral scents come through on the nose, with a palate that brings a rich sense of citrus and some resin in the background. Medium body, medium texture, medium-plus flavor intensity with a long finish.
-Latitude 48 Simcoe IPA. Back to Yakima Valley, Wash., for the hop called Simcoe, noted for notes of pine and grapefruit. The lightest shade of amber so far, under an off-white head. The pine notes make themselves known immediately on the nose. On the palate, this one has a very rich pine resin flavor with good bitterness, medium texture and body and a long finish that holds the bitterness right to the end.
-Letter to 48 Zeus IPA. Lastly, and also from the Yakima Valley, a hops variety known for its pine and resin notes. Amber gold with a very bitter nose. The pine resin notes follow you along the full length of the palate, with intense bitterness toward the end, medium body, medium texture as well, in a very long finish. The hops linger quite a while.
And, lastly, plain old Latitude 48 IPA, at 6% ABV, which contains a blend of all five hops from Germany, England and the American Northwest. The same light amber/gold beer under a slightly off-white head. Having tried them one by one, you can now pick out the different flavors easily, with pine, resin, hints of orange, this the tiniest bit of pineapple way, way in the back.
All in all, the flavor tends more toward the resin end of the spectrum. Some people tend to be more malt lovers, some hops lovers; this pack is for the latter among us.
The Sam Adams Latitude 48 Deconstructed 12 pack is available for a limited time nationwide with suggested retail price from $15.99 to $18.99.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com.