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Review: Peak Organic 'Fresh Cut' pilsner

Chances are that if you can smell the citrus and pine in an India Pale Ale before you even raise the glass to your mouth, that beer was dry-hopped. Dry-hopping is a cold infusion technique meant to impart hop aroma into a beer without adding much or any bitterness. The process is fickle, dependent on temperature, and executed with varying degrees of success depending on the ingredients and methods used by the brewer.

freshcut.jpgHistorically, brewers would dry-hop by adding a large handful of dried, whole-cone hops to a beer before placing it in a cask. (Oxford Companion to Beer, Garrett Oliver). The process is now often performed in a conditioning tank; after a beer has cooled and most of the yeast has drained, brewers add hop pellets, and sometimes still whole hops, to the brew. On occasion, various contraptions -- Sierra Nevada's proprietary "torpedo" system is one -- keep the hops submerged. The alpha acids that make hops bitter aren't isomerized (Oxford, again) at lower temperatures, though some taste testing has shown that people perceive dry-hopped beers to be more bitter than they are. If all goes well, though, you get the spicy, citrusy notes from the hops without the pucker.

Because of these added aromatic qualities, dry-hopping is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. You can dry-hop an IPA, and you probably should, but breweries around the world are dry-hopping all sorts of beers. You can dry-hop a big, sticky chocolate stout to help cut the perceived sweetness. You can dry-hop a fairly restrained beer like a pilsner to add something interesting.

Portland, Maine's Peak Organic Brewing Company is heavy-handed in it's use of hops. Peak's IPAs and seasonal beers alike are infused with crisp hop character. The brewery has embraced the dry-hopping trend in their most recent release, "Fresh Cut" pilsner. The pilsner style as born in the Czech Republic is spicy, floral, and crisp. It seems like a logical step to dry-hop a pilsner with Chinook hops grown in Maine, to add the aroma without the bitterness. "Fresh Cut" checks in at only 38 IBUs, or international bitterness units.

"Fresh Cut" pours a pale straw into a pint glass. The aroma is light grapefruit and lemongrass. It's a pleasant smell with which to wrap up the warm weather.

This is a clean, drinkable beer of 4.7 percent alcohol by volume. That's important because most IPAs carry an ABV a percentage or two higher. This beer provides the flavor profile of some of those beers with the clean, dry finish of pilsner. It's chewy and bready but never manages to feel too much so. This is a trend I can get behind.

Peak co-owner Rob Lucente says he is "really proud" of this brew. It retails for a suggested price of $8.99.

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