Sometimes experiments provide unexpected results. Taoist monks set out to create an immortality pill and wound up creating gunpowder. Scientists tried to create a drug to stop chest pain and wound up creating Viagra. Sam Adams set out to showcase how individual hops affect the flavor of beer only to demonstrate that there’s a good reason why they were mixed together in the first place.
In other words, not all of the beers in the Sam Adams Latitude 48 Deconstructed 12 Pack are good. Actually, a couple are pretty awful, but I think that’s the whole point.
For those who don’t know, the Latitude 48 12 Pack contains six different beers: Latitude 48 brewed with the full complement of five different hops, and five other beers, each brewed with a single hop from the Latitude 48 recipe. You get two bottles of each, and the who shebang adds up to 12 beers. It’s a very cool idea that allows you to explore how each different hops affect the flavor of the beer (for better or worse).
Let’s start at the beginning. The five-hop version of Latitude 48 is a serviceable if unremarkable IPA, with a malty backbone and a hoppiness that’s more piney bitter than grapefruity sweet. It’s brewed with a combination of Zeus, East Kent Golding, Simcoe, Ahtanum and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops. All of these hops grow at the 48 degrees latitude mark around the globe, hence the name Latitude 48. It’s a pretty neat idea for a beer and a great place to start a journey through the land of single hop brews.
The takeaway from that journey was a bit of a surprise for me. I was expecting to have six pleasant bottles of beer, each with a different nuanced hop finish. But what I got was one good brew, two decent ones and three hopominations.
Let’s start with the bad ones so we can finish in a happy place. The worst of the lot was the single hop beer brewed with Zeus hops, which gave the brew a meaty and awful flavor. My wife summed it up best as “putrid, like something died in the bottle.” All four people in our little tasting group quickly poured it out.
The next worse was a toss up between the meaty and bitter East Kent Golding brew and the equally awful Simcoe, which was piney resin bomb. In both cases, the samples were left unfinished on the table. These are clearly hops that are best used to round out the flavors of other hops. That, or they need a different grain bill to properly shine.
Things were better with the Antanum beer, which had a pleasant floral bitterness, but overall came off as tasting a bit acidic. The others didn’t finish theirs, but I found it interesting enough to take a few runs at it and get through my entire glass.
The best of the lot was by far the Hallertau single hop brew, which also had a floral bitterness, but it was balanced by a delicate sweetness that made it easy to finish the whole glass. Everyone gushed at how interesting and satisfying it was and we all finished our samples. Again, this might be attributable to the fact that it’s an awesome hop, or that it was the one best suited for soloing with the particular grain bill used in Latitude 48.
The five-hop variety was tasted again at the end and elicited the same lukewarm response it garnered at the beginning of the tasting. It wasn’t as good as the Hallertau brew, but clearly demonstrated why hops are usually best mixed together in a single beer.
Overall, I can’t say enough about how much I LOVED the Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed 12 Pack. Sure a few of the beers were awful, but the education we all took away from the tasting was truly awesome. I’m thrilled that Sam Adams took the risk to bring such a great teaching tool to the masses and I highly recommend picking one up if you haven’t yet. It’s a terrific way to spend an evening with friends, especially ones who like meaty-tasting beers. This way you can send them home with the bad beers and keep the goodies for yourself!