Liquid Lessons

Single-hop beers highlight new flavors

By and large, most beer is made with a hodgepodge of hops, those flowers that add aroma, bitterness and flavor.

That's because certain hops are ideal for imparting fragrance, while other breeds are better suited for adding mouth-puckering bitterness. Matching various hops' strengths and weaknesses helps brewers create singular flavor profiles, much the way that cooks blend spices in different ratios and proportions.

Yet lately, brewers have stopped mixing hops. Instead, they're dosing beers with a single breed, allowing drinkers to discern each hop's unique characteristics.

One of the best examples of this liquid lesson plan is Boston Beer's Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed 12-pack ($14). The brewery took the five international hop varieties used in its IPA–England's East Kent Goldings, Germany's Hallertau Mittelfrueh, and Washington State's Simcoe, Zeus and Ahtanum–and gave them a solo platform.

The base beer stays the same, acting as the control that allows the distinct difference in the hops to shine through: East Kent Goldings tastes smooth and somewhat sweet, while Simcoe has plenty of pine and citrus and Ahtanum boasts a grapefruit bouquet.

Bring a pack home and prepare to choose your own sudsy adventure.