Friday, June 27, 2014

Hoppin' to Heaven

The Hoppin' to Heaven is described by its brewery -- Hopping Frog -- as a "classic American I.P.A."  This is a rather odd description, given there is nothing really "American" about an India Pale Ale.  The style was born in England, not New England. Brewers developed this style to weather the voyage to India, not Indiana.  So, it seems odd to use the words "classic" and "American" when one talks about an IPA.

Still, American brewers have a knack for taking a style and making their mark on it.  Take the barleywine.  English brewers have brewed barleywines for a very long time.  Those beers had high alcohol contents, but were very malty in structure, taste and aroma.  When the barleywine style made it across the Atlantic Ocean, American brewers took the beer and gave it their own twist. American barleywines were set apart from their British counterparts with the use of hops.

With all of that said, perhaps that there is something "American" about this IPA.  It is representative of the urge of American brewers to hop their beers aggressively.  That is not a bad thing.  I consider myself a hop head and I love very hoppy beers.  The reason is that, for all of their love of hops, American brewers also know how to balance the beer so that enough of the aroma and the taste of the malt shines through.  The Hoppin' to Heaven IPA is a great example of how this balance can be achieved, with an aggressive hop profile in both aroma and taste, rounded out with a smooth malt character in the background.

The Hoppin to Heaven pours a golden brown to amber in color with thick, fluffy foam that persists for a long time.  The carbonation was quite intense with this beer, and the thick foam made the IPA seemingly impossible to reach.  Yet, with patience and time, the foam receded enough to allow for taking in the aroma and the taste of the beer.

Both the aroma and taste of this beer are very good.  The aroma was fairly well developed, with the hops providing both pine and floral notes. A little work produced some notes of the malt and even a little earthiness character.  The earthiness is something a little different in an Imperial Pale Ale, but it worked with this beer.  As for the taste of the beer, there is a nice amount of pine hop flavors up front.  Some spice notes and pepper also follow the pine elements, with a sweetness around the edges of this beer.  The sweetness is no match for the bitterness of the hops, which prevail and cling around the edges of the tongue as you drink the beer.

Overall, this beer is a very good India Pale Ale and, to the extent that it is an American interpretation of an IPA (that is, a hoppy version of an already hoppy beer), it is a very good example of that.  I found this beer at a local grocery store. It sells for around $10.99 a bottle (give or take a dollar or two).


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