While watching the second half of the NCAA men’s basketball championship game earlier this month, I enjoyed a bottle of Hop Henge Experimental IPA, brewed by the Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Ore.
According to the beer’s webpage, Hop Henge is Deschutes’ “annual exercise in IBU escalation … it’s all hop, no apologies.” Available January through April, Hop Henge is brewed with “an outrageous amount of Centennial and Cascade hops.” The beer is also heavily dry hopped, a brewing process where hops are added after fermentation, infusing the hop flavors and aromas and usually resulting in invigorating citrus or floral characteristics.
Serving type: 22-ounce bottle. The “best by” date printed on the label is June 3, 2014.
Appearance: Poured into a tulip, the color is medium amber with a light haze. Three fingers of dense, eggshell-colored foam dissipate slowly and unevenly, leaving trails of lacing along the glass.
Aroma: After pouring, I could smell the citrus an arm’s length away from the glass. Up close, scents of grapefruit and tangerine are prominent. Mango, pineapple and orange are noticeable as well, though they are not as strong. There is also a solid base of caramel and lightly toasted malts. Pine resin and a little cattiness emerge as the beer warms, as does an astringent whiff of alcohol that is reminiscent of the rubbing kind. As the glass empties, the flavors commingle to create a blend of sweet caramel and sticky citrus aromas.
Taste: It is surprisingly dull at first. The 99 IBUs carry the flavor with a lasting bitterness that lingers on the tonsils long after each sip. It is not an abrasive, hop bomb by any means, though. Flavors of tangerine, mango, pineapple, orange, lemon zest and caramel emerge slowly. The hops gradually fade, allowing the beer to sweeten. Just as they did in the aroma, pine resin, cattiness and alcohol are noticeable after a while.
Drinkability: Hop Henge is a solid double IPA. I am not a big fan of über bitter hop bombs, and this was thankfully not one of them. The citrus flavors I love, though, took a backseat, as they usually do with this style. Overall, it is a very good beer for the price ($5.99/bottle at the New Pioneer Food Co-op in Iowa City).