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Science, Art, Color Theory and Hops

Science and Art are often viewed as separate entities that have little to do with one another. The reality however is that they are deeply intertwined. The beauty we find in nature, art, music, or even beer, is often rooted in some natural phenomenon which can often be described in mathematical terms.


The number 1.61803… known as the golden ratio is one such example. It is derived from the Fibonacci series of numbers, where each successive number is the sum of the two preceding it:


1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…


This series of numbers exists throughout the natural world. The number of petals on a flower, the shape of seashell, and spiral galaxies are all rooted in the golden ratio.


Just as mathematical formulas can be found in many beautiful natural phenomena they can also be found in art. The Parthenon’s dimensions are based on the golden ratio and are artistic concepts like the rule of thirds and color theory.


For example, one common rule of thumb when painting a room (or anything for that matter) is that 60% of the room should be a dominant color, 30% should be the secondary color, and the last 10% should be an accent. Not surprisingly, these percentages are closely tied to the golden ratio.


While there is certainly a fair amount of science involved in the brewing process the best recipes are those marry science and art. For example, the same 60/30/10 rule that applies to color can just as easily be applied to hops. Pick any hop you like as the base and make it 60% of the recipe (Citra for example), then add 30% of a hop that you think is similar in character to the first (Maybe Centennial) and finally add a touch of hop variety that is distinctly different (Simcoe) which will add depth and complexity. This is similar to the way artists will often add a touch of red or blue to a black sky to create a richer character with more depth.


There are a number of other color schemes which you could use as a basis for designing a hop bill.


While not completely analogous, the hop flavor and aroma spider graph and color wheel can be thought of in the same way and help inform a thoughtful approach or scheme when selecting hops. Sparkletoes DIPA is an example of a beer that uses the triadic approach, while TuNotorious West Coast IPA uses analogous hops.




Obviously, there are other variables to consider, such as bitterness and variations in the intensity and flavor, but this is a good framework to build interesting and delicious beers.

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