Beer: Cherry Buzz Brewery: SunUp Brewing Co. Style: American Pale Ale ABV: 5 percent
We begin today with an apology. I've been derelict in my bloggerly duties and neglected, when it occurred May 1, to wish the women of Arizona Girls Pint Out a happy third anniversary. Since 2010, this organization has been introducing women throughout our fair state to craft beer, educating them on its many varieties and flavors, and providing a testosterone-free environment in which to drink and enjoy it. This an important task - women, I'm told, make up half the population of the planet, and craft beer needs their love. So, ladies, a belated congratulations to you. I believe the traditional gift after three years is leather, so I'll be sending AZGPO members some tasteful skintight leather outerwear. You're welcome.
Much good has come from AZGPO, but some of their good works are more ingestible than others. In celebration of their anniversary, the group tapped Uwe Boer, head brewer at SunUp Brewing Co., to craft a special commemorative brew. The recipe -- a pale ale made with honey, the juice from tart Wisconsin cherries, and American-grown hops -- was Boer's, but the girls got to name it. A few possibilities were tossed around, including Three Cheers Cherry, Hail Mary Cherry, and Cross My Tart and Hope to Buzz, but after much deliberation, they landed on Cherry Buzz.
The beer's crafted with an interesting and experimental brewing procedure. If you'll allow me to put on my geek glasses for a moment:
It's generally accepted knowledge that, due to the way their acids and oils break down when exposed to heat, hops need to be added at separate times throughout the brewing process if their full flavoring power is to be utilized. These additions usually happen during the boil -- hops thrown in early in the process are stripped of alpha and beta acids as well as essential oils. The acids, if exposed to heat long enough, isomerize -- or are chemically and molecularly rearranged -- and impart bitterness to the beer. But while all that heat is turning acids to IBUs, it's driving away the more delicate oils that contribute flavor and aroma. Thus, the brewer drops in more hops halfway through the boil for flavor, and does the same just before turning off the heat to capture some hop aroma. This is the way beer has been made for centuries; it's why Miller's "triple hops brewed" tagline is so ridiculous -- nearly every commercially produced beer is given the triple hops treatment.
Cherry Buzz isn't. The lone hop addition in this beer occurs during what's called the whirlpool, a stage in commercial brewing in which the liquid wort that's just been boiled is set a-spinnin', creating a whirlpool that funnels large leftover particles to the center of the tank, allowing the brewer to siphon off clean, flotsam-free beer. What's cool is that a single dosage of hops at this stage can contribute almost as much flavor, aroma and bitterness as is gotten through standard operating procedure.
All this comes through in Cherry Buzz. The aroma is bright and loaded with floral hops -- honeysuckle and orange peel are apparent, as are, to a lesser extent notes of red apple, caramel and tart cherries.
Bitterness, however, is the more surprising characteristic here, as there's still a moderate hop bite despite the unusual timing of the hop addition. As the crisp, highly effervescent brew moves about the mouth, you also get plenty of clean flavor: roses, honey, wheat bread. A green, leafy hop flash appears at the swallow, while the cherries are less noticeable as a flavor and more of a feeling, a tartness that grips the sides of the tongue between sips.
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So, why does a single whirlpool addition work? It could be a factor of temperature and time. In a commercial brewery usually takes an hour or so to complete, and the liquid hovers at a temperature close to 100 degrees throughout the process -- enough temperature to isomerize some of those alpha acids. Papago Brewing Co. owner Ron Kloth says it may also have to do with the pH of the wort during whirlpool -- a high wort pH increases the solubility and isomerization of hop acids. Kloth would also like to make it clear that Boer got the idea to hop Cherry Buzz this way from him -- he's been toying with the procedure while preparing to brew new batches of his popular Hopago IPA.
You can find Cherry Buzz on tap at SunUp's brewpub near downtown Phoenix, garnished with a maraschino cherry. Get it before the girls of Arizona Girls Pint Out, bedecked in their new leather suits, drink it all up.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.