Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Hoppier Than Hopf**k

"We only had enough hops for one pint, but we managed somehow"
"Please, if you're reading this, please send help. Something... something has gone terribly wrong. We tried to make something so hoppy it was hoppier than even a pile of hops. But we made something terrible. Something that's more monster than hops. We never meant for it to end like this. Blood. Blood and hops, everywhere. May God have mercy on us all."
From The Guide To Craft Beer 
I think it all started when a local barman told me about this beer he had at another pub in town.  It was, he said, a complete "hopfuck".  So off I went to the place and asked for the requisite name I was told.  Stone Ruination IPA it was called.  I handed over my £9 and was given in return a green bottle with tiny writing and a BrewDog half-pint glass.

And yes, reader, I was well and truly fucked by hops.

Despairing of ever being able to taste anything else for the rest of the day, I ordered a Fentiman's Vicky Lemonade, usually a desperate measure when I feel myself getting too pissed to order another beer.  I could barely taste a bloody thing.

You really do have to wonder sometimes.  Is there anything but hops in the Crafty world?  Woe betide the beer that makes claims of hoppiness on it's label that fails to meet the expectation of the Crafties, such as this review for Thwaites 13 Guns at CAMRGB.  But while the bottle labels have the self-conscious "Craft" design, they're aimed at the regular Premium Bottled Ale buyer, who would consider the likes of 13 Guns bloody hoppy if he usually drank Thwaites Original or Wainwright.

Reading through CAMRGB's reviews, you will struggle to find a beer given a half decent review if it isn't (a) a high ABV American-style IPA (b) an Imperial Stout or (c) a Saison.  Reading them, you have to wonder if the reviewer isn't suffering from a major case of palate fatigue, to which only ever increasing amounts of alpha-acids and hops can respond to and overcome.  Ironically, the few "regular" beers that get decent write-ups are usually described with the phrase "I liked this, but I don't know why."

Not being able to find my flannel shirt and flat cap, or grow a moustache fast enough, I decided to take drastic measures to avoid beer hipster ennui.  And I was saved.  Yes, saved. By Marston's.

:Luckily, a local shop was reducing the 5L fastcasks of Pedigree (they have a short shelf-life due to the "live yeast" they apparently contain), and picked one up at 80% off.  "I'd even drink Pedigree at £3.59 for nine pints of it", I thought.  The first couple tasted of nothing, but slowly my senses got used to Marston's BlandCask, and was having reasonable fun by it's eventual draining time two days later.  And it worked.  By Sunday, even Kirkby Lonsdale's beers tasted hoppy again.

Hops are good.  Hops provide a lot of the flavour in the vast majority of beers.  But are they the be-all and end-all of good beer? 

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