There is something powerful about going home. In that homecoming, there is a sense of being completed, of filling a space that is at the foundation of who we are. Even if that space goes unrecognized, even while we build upon it, and while we take our lives to distant ramparts, the space remains.
Last month I returned to a place that is home and, reconnected with my own terroir and my family. For that week, I felt a life in me burn that I forgot ever held a flame. I thought I had grown beyond “all that” and was comfortable in my adopted home, Ottawa. Indeed, I am very comfortable, happy, connected, and very much in love with my ‘new’ home (10 years now).… I was wrong about being “beyond all that.”
I know now that Kelowna will always be home … and always a part of who I am.
So it was that I also recently came “home” to one of the first IPAs I really snuggled up with … and one which is coincidentally brewed in my hometown back in BC (British Columbia): Hop Head, by Tree Brewing Company.
Out of the bottle, Hop Head has a lot of promise with a micro carbonation that produces little to no head, slightly cloudy golden brown and aromas redolent of the Interior’s terroir: ponderosa pines and a beach. (And no, before you think I’m quacked, I use the notion of a beach not smelling Tropicana and sweat, but a kind of primeval earthiness mixed with water and wind). There are hints of citrus, to be sure, like any good west-coast IPA … and then there is some coffee, I swear, as well, a result of the malts. Really, all in all, there is a lot going on in your mouth when you taste this.
But the truth is, I’m not an overly sentimental ‘homer’ when it comes to beer and while this has a great hop finish, there is a great deal of ‘wateriness’ at the beginning and even through the mid tastes … symptomatic of the ‘mere’ 5.6% alcohol in the bottle. In this, I’d say this IPA shows its age: 5.6% might have been something once, but in today’s market of hundreds of new IPAs claiming to be “strong beers,” this one is weak by comparison, and it tastes it. The unfortunate part is that my taste buds, as are those of many other avid beer drinkers, is adapting and I want strength in certain brews and my IPAs are among those. It’s unfortunate, because the flavour structure and the IBUs are there … and I’m sure that once this was a rather exceptional IPA. Today, though, it is an above average beer — still worth drinking. Like a vintage car, it’s great for its age and replete with nostalgia and a certain charm, you take it out on special occasions when you want to reminisce but it’s not the car you drive on a serious road trip. All to say, it might not be fair to say that this is not the beer it once was, I’m sorry to say, but the times definitely aren’t the same either. Perhaps some things are better left to memory.