Barley Mowat 

Too Hop To Handle

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Last Saturday saw CAMRA’s latest Fest of Ale at St Augustine’s: Top Hop to Handle. After the mild and nuanced flavours of the Spring Sessional Fest of Ale, CAMRA swung the complete other direction by challenging brewers to cram as many hops into their ales as possible, and believe me, some of them were absolutely up to the challenge.

Specifically, Big River. Not only did they brew a nice big IPA for the event, but then they went and stuck a hopinator/randall on the end to further dull the pain. I didn’t get a picture of the beast, perhaps because the resulting beer was so hoppy I lost all sensation in my upper body, so I had to steal one of Leo’s. As always, for a much-better-than-I-could-do write up of the event, head over to his post. I’m not a journalist; I’m a beer snob.


I hop they cleaned that fish tank filter out.

So, what did I think of the event overall? Overall, I thought it was well executed. The brewers brought their A-game, for the most part. Noticeable disappointments where Phillips and Spinnakers, who brought unaltered versions of their Hoperation and Lion’s Head, respectively. I don’t know what kind of beer snobs you have over on the rock, but us big smoke-types expect more effort. Don’t get me wrong, I like both beers (especially the Hoperation, which is probably the best beer Phillips makes), but this is the city, guys.

Actually, scratch that. Nothing tells me I’m more wrong about Victoria beer types than the fantastic insanity-in-a-cask concocted by Dean from Lighthouse. Hands-down my winner of the event (and I was not alone on this one), Dean’s enthusiast use of New Zealand whole-leaf hops produced a beer so interesting I had to go back and ask him if it was based off of the Deckhand recipe. Yes, it absolutely had a certain saison-ness about it, but it all came from the hops, as he deliberately used a neutral yeast. Huh, you learn something new every day.

In the end, though, the hops had their inevitable effect, and I couldn’t taste freaking anything. About 90 minutes in, my tongue stopped tingling and was attempting to retreat into my nasal cavity to escape more punishment, and we still had half the beers to go. Luckily the provided tasting sheet listed the IBUs for most of the beers, and I proceeded through them from lowest to highest, so each successive drink was even more aggressive than the last, and thus I could actually taste some aspect of the brews.

Of course, this is akin to eating hot peppers in ranked order of Scoville Heat Units. It is a march to madness. Eventually my tongue (and face) had had enough. It gave up, took the ball, and went home. Extreme measures were taken; luckily Claire from Big River not only had that 151 IBU Randalled-IPA, but also a nice bag of fresh hop leaves…


Somewhat surprisingly, this is not the single worst idea I’ve ever had.

Looking back, I guess a hop festival had to be done. For next time, though, could we please just have a normal, regular cask festival? I love crazy beers, but I am also somewhat partial to actually tasting them from time to time.

Written by chuck

July 29th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

One Response to 'Too Hop To Handle'

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  1. An IPA festival had to happen at least once. I do agree with you though. Things should go back to normal in “Oktober” Cheers.

    leo

    29 Jul 11 at 18:27

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