Sometimes you just get a good feeling about a beer before you even open it. Hopkins, brewed out of the Eastern Townships (which is Western Quebec for those not from around these parts), is a good example of just that. The label says “funky” with its retro, throwback monochromatic portrait but what really impressed me is one of the most detailed and well-designed back labels I’ve seen.
This back label has all the information that any beer aficionado would want to know and it is presented in an easy to read format, listing everything from tasting notes, style, characteristics (including exactly which west-coast hops were used: Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade), that it was dry-hopped, and bottle fermented (though nowhere on the label does it say sur lees as they opt instead for plain language). It also includes the SRM score (which is 8 – compare this to the 40’s for Imperial Stouts previously reviewed and read here for my post on SRM) and an IBU rating of 65, which is good for an IPA, but not crazy. It also importantly recommends a serving temperature of 8-10 ˚C, key in this case.
As a result, if you can decipher all these elements (which my blog followers and I have all steadily learned about over the last few months), you have a pretty good idea what this beer is going to be like before you even flip the cap.
So the beer I tasted – let me come back to the key, which is serving temperature. Most of us like a nice cold beer, especially on a hot summer (or as the case might be, spring) day like today that hit 27 ˚C. The thing about drinking something ice cold is that the flavours are compressed. Keep in mind that 90% of taste requires smell and aroma, so when something is served ice cold, the vapours, the gases, the aromas, are locked in with the liquids … but when things ‘melt’ and warm, evaporation and venting happens and so does smell/taste. There is a good reason why beers like Coors/Bud Light say to serve ice cold: they’re practically undrinkable past this point. A beer like Hopkins, however, which is structured around the aromatic hop needs temperature to sing … and sing it does.
Drank cold, the yeast and malts are more potent – which is not surprising, because sugar does well at colder temperatures – but the hops are lost until the very end. Wait 10-15 minutes (or better, make sure your beer is pulled out 15 minutes before serving) and you get a flavourful, hop-forward bomb.
It pours a dark gold, almost amber, but I’d say it is rather light for a 7% IPA – especially the top half of the bottle which has less precipitate. Speaking of which, the precipitate from the bottled fermentation is evident throughout and for a good part of your drink, you’ll think you’re drinking some kind of frog-egg jelly suspended sludge. So, no, the beer doesn’t get top marks for clarity or appearance, but it is only 5 points on my scale, so the rating survives. It’s just one of those unfortunate by-products of a bottled fermentation. The head is big … and tenacious (see picture above ↑). Lots of little and big bubbles both – and while not always the case, it’s sometimes symptomatic of over-carbonation. I’d say they didn’t account for extent of fermentation in bottle and, in my opinion, it’s overly carbonated which is where it loses a few more marks.
The flavours and aromas are your west-coast beauties – lots of citrus all the way. In particularly, I taste tangerine and tangerine peel. The bitterness is excellent and, like I say, drank at 8 ˚C you’ll love it for a long time (NB: Stanley Kubrick reference unintentional) with minimal to zero of that papery astringency that defines so many ‘rushed’ IPAs. Having said that, a bit more hop wouldn’t make me upset. As a result, I’m very curious to try the double IPA (DIPA) which is next in the fridge for sampling. All in all, though, an excellent IPA.
Stats: American IPA. 7% ABV, Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Colour: Deep, yellow with hints of orange and brown – unfiltered with heavy particulate.
Mouth Feel: medium-high carbonation with a soft cream throughout; clean, light finish.
Pairings: Blackened tilapia with sweet potato fries.