Saturday, April 16, 2011


This is the name of a taxonomic genus that includes, among around 150 other things, black currants. This is one of the descriptors that shows up as "catty" on Dr. Morton Meilgaard's iconic flavor wheel at 0810, in the oxidative flavor division. It's also a term used sometimes by Europeans to describe certain American (US) hop varieties. The black currant reference is not to the fruits, which are quite delightful, but to the leaves of the plant, which, like tomato plants, are kinda funky. The flavor wheel also mentions the term 'catty,' which I think is a polite reference, not to the smell of an actual cat, which is nearly nonexistent, but to the smell of cat piss, which is pretty pungent. And, to the nose of this Cicerone, pretty foul. There are a couple of popular varieties of hops in circulation now that exhibit this character, and Mr. C is pretty damn sensitive to them. Were it not for the understanding, gained from many years of comparative beer tasting, that not everybody perceives the same smells and flavors and tastes at the same intensities, I would be inclined to cry: "Why don't we order an air strike on every hopyard that cultivates the ghastly Chinook?" Simcoe would be tolerated only in the hands of brewers that had passed an exam where they demonstrated the ability to use it safely. Other folks indict different hop varieties, such as Cluster, but those two are the ones I can identify (and balk at,) at an arm's length. I've been pondering this lately, and found myself wondering why a guy that is quite fond of stinky aged cheeses and cured meats is so put off by these "catty" hop varieties, and why can't he make peace with them. I'm inclined to write, 'because they're nasty!' but that would be  kind of jerky. Still and all, everybody has something they can't abide, and I don't think it's unreasonable to draw the line at cat piss....

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