Recently, I’ve had the fortune to come across and trade for a handful of world class IPAs and double IPAs. Most of these were acquired through trading on beer website forums (specifically Beer Advocate). For the last decade, hops were showcased prevalently on the West Cost, with breweries like Stone (Ruination IPA), Russian River (Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Blind Pig) and Alpine (Bad Boy, Nelson, Exponential Hoppiness) producing huge hop bombs that do far more than showcase the bittering properties of our favorite vine, the hop. While we’ve been blessed to enjoy world class IPAs from Three Floyds, most areas of the Midwest and East Coast were void of world class pours of this delicious style – until recently. The curious thing about the IPAs I’ve had the privilege to enjoy recently, is that they come from a very unsuspecting place: Vermont.
Two of the brews I’ve gotten to enjoy come from my absolute favorite brewery, Hill Farmstead. Located literally in the middle of Nowhere, Vermont (well, Greensboro actually – but you do need to drive down a lengthy dirt road to get there), owner and master brewer Shaun Hill has been brewing up quite a buzz in the craft beer scene for the last year. After only one year of operations, Hill Farmstead was voted the 5th best brewery in the world according to ratebeer.com. Most beer enthusiasts who have had his beer agree, myself being counted in that number. Mr. Hill’s IPAs are never bottled, only served on draft or in growlers, in order to ensure they are consumed when they are at their freshest and most delicious. The two double IPAs I’ve had recently from Hill Farmstead are Ephraim (DIPA, 9.8%) and Society & Solitude #5 (DIPA, 7.8%). Ephraim is one of Shaun Hill’s most famous creations, an absolutely gargantuan double IPA packed with flavors of grapefruit, tangerine, mango, and a light pine, all supported by a hefty caramel backbone. The other double IPA, Society & Solitude #5, will only be brewed once as part of an ongoing experimental IPA series. Society #5 is brewed to showcase the magnificent citrus qualities of New Zealand hope varieties. Utterly drinkable given the ABV, Society #5 bursts with grapefruit and oranges, while bolstered with a light sweetness (the malt backbone was practically inexistent). I can unequivocally say this was the best beer I’ve ever had, and I couldn’t decided after the last sip if I was happy I had the opportunity to try it, or sad knowing I would never have it again. Either way, it will be the benchmark by which I judge all other double IPAs in the future.
Another Vermont brewery making serious waves is The Alchemist, located about an hour Southwest of Hill Farmstead in Waterbury, VT. The Alchemist is most well known for its flagship double IPA, Heady Topper. Only distributed in cans, Heady Topper has garnered enough accolades to become the third highest rated beer in the world on Beer Advocate. A well deserved spot, as Andy noted after he tried his first one last week:
One of the interesting things about Heady Topper is that the brewers encourage you to drink it out of the can (it even says so ON the can!) in order to maximize its flavor. I’d have to agree, I poured a Heady into a glass once and it was just not as good. I typically have a steady stream of Heady Topper coming in every month, so if any readers ever wish to try this masterpiece, shoot me an email!
While Vermont is churning out some second-to-none beer right now, we can’t forget about the IPA king in our own backyard, Three Floyds. This month, Three Floyds monthly release is its wet-hopped IPA, Broo Doo (IPA, 7%, brewed with freshly picked whole cone hops). Delicious and bursting with citrus and hop aromas, Broo Doo is another great installment in Three Floyds repertoire of fantastic hoppy beers. Though I have never had it, Andy has me very excited for Founders own wet-hopped IPA, Harvest Ale (IPA, 6.5%). Both Harvest Ale and Broo Doo will be available in our area within the next two weeks!
So that’s my segment honoring the juicy hop. Thanks for reading my short novel, and I encourage you to seek some of those beers out. And as I said before, if any readers ever wish to try some of them, I might just have a few if you ask! Cheers.