As this is the season of the zenith in hop dominance in our fair land, Brandon and I, Franz Solo, took it upon ourselves to seek out new hops and new hopilizations. We boldly went … (cue Beastie Boys’ Sabotage while tooling along in a fire apple red Trans Am circa 1970 with T-Tops) to the edge of hops and back, and what follows is our tale — The Tale of Sir Hopsilot.
We began our quest in the fair lands of La Cumbre, where we found the juices flowing with the freshest of batches of El Jugo and the hop maidens well …
La Cumbre El Jugo
Franz Solo: Aroma of orange and citrus juice, with a hair of Simcoe. Tastes just like the name says, Jugo, juice. That makes me think about breakfast, and well, this is an excellent breakfast beer. Light mouthfeel and quite tart. Floral and refreshing. Name a common tropical or semi-tropical fruit and you could quite well make the argument for finding a little of this flavor, a little of that flavor, and so on and so forth. This isn’t quite one style nor another established style, we’ve gone out on our own, pure gonzo hops, er … maybe you could just shove me into … Madness. Well, crisp fresh as hell hop madness that is.
I dig it, not really New England not really NM, doing what it wants according to the whims of the great magnet.
These come in four packs, so I had a second chance, and third, and fourth to pontificate the luscious and well juicy …
Second go-round: Still juicy, sweet then tart as the name and label suggest. Even after a Stone Ruinten, I can still taste the layers of pithy citrus flesh hops of this magnificent fresh offering to the hop gods. Somewhere between the Elevated and the Dank and the Nelson twins (Father and Full) is where the theme of this beer lies. Fresh and filled with life like a summer morning, the color of the marigolds on my back patio, both French and African varieties transfigured from the apprehension of color into the sense of taste, with vigorous young and a lively passion. That is what this tastes like to me.
Brandon’s notes: El Good-o … er, El Jugo, is a beer that could convert my previous bias against this style. Pleasantly fragrant, citrus notes of lemon and a mild floral bouquet, not dank or pungent, but still lets you know it has hops. The palate is, as Franz said and the name implies, juicy. A fresh squeezed glass o’ goodness. Could be part of a balanced breakfast in my house. Drinks easily, light malt base makes for an easy drinking and surprisingly clean finishing beer for this variety of beer.
From the fair lands of La Cumbre we headed north to the mountains of old Santa Fe, where we found an IPA on the very peaks of old Baldy where the elk do dwell. Of the 7k, this is our summation.
Santa Fe 7k
Franz Solo: On to being so high right now … er, 7k to be precise. Sweet orange tangerine with some dank overtones, and undertones/throughtones/betweentones, and so on and so forth. A little berry and a hint of pine to finish the aroma and flavor both. Flavor is crisp and carries back with a hair of sweet orange grapefruit, mid to front, that permeates the onslaught. A bit of lemon or some sourish lemongrass punctuate this splendid new unique addition to the ranks of such venerated offerings as (in no particular order) La Cumbre’s Elevated, Tractor’s Almanac, and Marble’s IPA as year-round hop offerings readily accessible to us in the Duke City. Initial aroma is like a mango peach, second can in. There are some very nice cannabis-esque notes smack in the middle of this delight. Very bright beer that has an abundance of hop character, yet remains quite quaffable. This takes me back to the summertime in the mountains around Santa Fe, circa the early 2000s, quaffing some of those first groundbreaking IPAs after a hard day of work. Grab a sixer of this and climb up Mount Atalaya or Santa Fe Baldy and take some 7k even higher.
Brandon’s notes: Let’s get down to brass tacks — how much for all of the 7k available? Because I wish to drink it all. This has to win a special award just for its aromatics, because those slight lemongrass, pineapple, and floral notes are outstanding. The body is pure grapefruit, pineapple, and some mango punch as well. Finishes extra clean, crisp, and a subtle malt base gives a good backing. SFBC crafted an excellent IPA here.
From the mountains of old Santa Fe, our quest took us east to the haven of the Dogfish, where strange brewings are known to occur.
Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry
Franz Solo: Like 60-minute with an apricot nose, peach, and just a hint of ginger. For a sessionable East Coast variant, this ain’t half bad. At least the fruit is not cloying, but I’d like a more prominent showing from some of my favorite things. Fond memories from childhood of my maternal grandfather’s apricot trees in the summer, when we’d run around in the sprinklers, which were fed off the well he dug himself in the North Valley. The mango does blend extremely well with the apricot, I must say, and the light kick of ginger finishes with a nice bright flourish. It’s no doubt the Burqueno in me wants to take this beer and increase basically every flavor present by a factor of three or more. Overall, an interesting and tasty experience.
From the Atlantic, we headed to the Pacific to find the great Gargoyle of Stone Brewing, legendary beast of the grand mosh pit of hops, to see what offering he had in store for us.
Stone Ruinten with Orange Peel and Vanilla Bean
Franz Solo: Smells like a sweet, hoppy dreamsicle. Loads of slightly bitter orange rind gives way to the veritable mosh pit of good old bitter hops that are the signature of the behemoth, and are wrapped in sweet vanilla, which punctuates the afterburners. I do mean afterburners like the afterglow … er … a plethora of tangy citrus and pine woven in a tapestry of sweet black vanilla. As one who enjoyed first Stone IPA, then Ruination, and at last Ruinten in the early 2000s, this is somewhat of a curveball, which I’m entirely sure will be a delight to some and a dreadful letdown to others. When they added orange and vanilla they went full on Crime and Punishment status (some of my favorite spicy-as-hell ales, check the archives if you want a more detailed description of the experience of each) and, well, I definitely enjoy a dreamsicle, always have. As I delve deeper and slake my thirst on this scorcher of a day, ye olde mosh pit of hops starts to begin to resemble what I know lurks in these golden depths. The deception of this beer when cold and after a half hour or so quite amuses me, actually. We have our old friend in what at first taste is a nice, sweet vanilla-hopped ale, but what emerges is a delightful and brutal bitter twist, like showing up for a blues band and getting some full on black metal blasted in your face in hop form. I dig this spicy, almost peppery orange pine odd fellow. Now for the rub. I as a person love strange and bold variations on a theme. Now, would I take this over a straight on Ruinten? Well, depends on the day, really. Some will agree, some disagree, but hell, variety maketh life worth living, and I’m maybe a little inspired to make some damn crazy sounding and tasting beers of my own, drinking in the vein of this year’s locally available Ruinten. If you want something familiar, have a 505 staple local IPA. You want to buy the ticket, take the ride, and go on a taste adventure, then have at you!
Brandon’s notes: I’ve become acclimated to the past editions of Ruinten, so having a variant with orange peel and vanilla bean was slightly jarring. At first, the aroma is all zest, pine, and subtle grapefruit … not bad so far. But, upon the first few sips, I felt the need to punch drywall; all I got initially was heavy, bitter orange peel, some Northwestern earthy/pine notes, and a touch of lime zest as well. This has always been a beer that punches you hard with a ton of IBUs, but my initial impressions weren’t favorable. But, good things take time; as it opened up over about 10 to 15 minutes, the orange citrus and vanilla bean notes popped a lot more. At this point, you will get more of an orange soda/vanilla float with an overload of hops experience. Doesn’t sound good? It actually is. Just remember to let it open in your glass and you will have a solid triple IPA experience.
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We returned, at long last, to our homeland, where we found the following challengers to the throne of pure hops, the very Graal of hops for us, as it were.
Current local offerings are as follows:
Challenge IPA 3, Bosque
Don’t Call it a Comeback IPA, Bosque
Bear Knuckle IPA, Boxing Bear
(Forthcoming) TKO Triple IPA, Boxing Bear
Lucha Lupulin IPA, Canteen
Juiced Gondola Party, Quarter Celtic
Project El CuCuy DIPA, The 377 Brewery
Up north in Santa Fe:
Gatekeeper IPA, Blue Corn
#19 IPA, Second Street
We suggest you go out and enjoy these listed, and all the rest of the advancing IPAs from the grand duel of the IPA Challenge, for this foul year of our dark lord, 2017, and dance with the fair green hop dragon!
I entreat you all to relish in this time of the great jousting of hop-laden warhorses and explore not only our fair New Mexico, but the hops of the great beyond. May your palates be never overcome with bitterness, and your hop aromas ever divine, for this is the season of the great Graal of the Lupulin, and we the Knights of the Venerated Hops. Drink well of the hop bombs, and I’ll see you all at the finals of this year’s New Mexico IPA Challenge!
— Franz Solo