The Hop Brief: Bend Brewing’s Hop Head
Enjoyed on 1/11/2011
Brewery: Bend Brewing Co.
Location: Bend, OR
Beer: Hop Head Imperial India Pale Ale
Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped
Style: American Style Double India Pale Ale
Commercial Description: Unavailable
Beer Advocate: A- (4.17)
Rate Beer: 98 (3.92)
My mother lives in Bend, OR. Periodically, I visit. When I do, you better believe that I’m going to makes stops at Deschutes, Cascade Lakes and Bend Brewing. Ever since I learned that Hop Head won a bronze metal at the 2008 GABF, I knew I had to have it. Unfortunately, it’s a seasonal for Bend, and every time I’ve gone there, it has been the wrong season. This year BBC bottled the hoppy wonder, and they still had some left when I was there for Christmas.
This beer fills my pint glass with a very clear, light amber color. In fact, I’d say that it’s one of the lightest colored IPAs out there. Though I recently purchased this beer from the brewery, I believe that it’s a summer, or at best fall seasonal for them, so I have a slight fear that the lack of freshness could have negative effects tonight.
I did get a slight hiss when the cap was unhinged, but there wasn’t much of a head on the pour. There is, however, a respectable rising of bubbles from the depths. What head is produced on the pour quickly dwindles to a ring and faint wisps, but lacing is evident as I drink.
The nose is fairly subtle in volume but with effort, an intensely pungent odor is detected. There is an earthy, almost skunky nature to it, but that seems to come in waves, where the receding tides allow for a citrusy aroma to bloom. Tangerine and grapefruit rind stake claim, and a balancing effect is noted with a buried and exhumed malty sweetness. As the beer warms it’s as though our seemingly endless paddling has finally propelled us beyond the breakers, and a much-needed calm inundates the scene.
Here we find a melding of seas, or, as it were, scents. At this point I’d say that the grapefruit dominates and that carries enough earthiness with it to legitimize earlier notions. The malt side is not playing a major role and only really imparts a sugar-coating on top of the hop flavors. I guess, with that being said, age is more likely than not… not an issue here.
The mouthfeel is nice with this one. The carbonation is appropriate and the viscosity is within the range that I expect. It goes down easy and lingers for just the right amount of time.
Unlike the nose, the flavor is better at colder temperatures. The bitterness seems more subdued, as does the maltiness. Pine flavors were most prevalent to me, which played as a pleasant contrast to the fruity nose. At warmer temperatures the bitterness becomes overwhelming. The flavors shift more toward earthy presenting an almost wood like experience. It becomes more like chewing on grapefruit peel than simply enjoying the zest’s essence. Yes, there is a shit ton of hops in this beer, but I don’t know how successful they were blended.
The malts are present early on and accent the experience with powdered sugar dustings, but later, as the beer warms, they become uber-pronounced in their grainy, biscuity nature. I’m not surprised that there isn’t much of a caramel or candy-coated element to speak of. The color of the fluid did its part to foreshadow this. I’d much prefer to see some higher lovibond crystal malt in the grain bill. To use the word balanced would be accurate, but for my tastes, this is a bitter bomb with too much of the wrong grains.
The aftertaste is a well blended bitter and malty existence. Thankfully, it’s not completely dried out by the IBUs, but they are doing all that they can. It all lingers for quite some time, reminding you that you just sipped down a pretty bold IPA, but the 9% continues to be mostly hidden, even into near ambient temperatures.
This one has its fair share of bumps in the road, but it finishes on a high note, and in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t mind having it in my corner to represent just how the Northwest rolls when it comes to hop monsters.
Admittedly, I am giving this beer a pretty low score. One important thing that I’d like to state, no matter how obvious it may seem, is that I have a fairly unique take on what makes a stellar IPA. Apperantly, what makes my palate most happy is in stark opposition to what the BJCP says an IPA should be like. I can only assume that because of the award that was given to BBC at GABF. It is always healthy to question the authorities that be, but it’s also important to realize that the standards and rules are there for a reason. I guess my point is that I can respect this beer and the brewers deeply, but Hop Head just isn’t for me. The question then becomes, is it the one for you? Let me know at email@example.com
Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.85
Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.78
Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.95
Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.58
Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.58
Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.93