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Eat & Drink » Drink


"Hop salads" to enhance your beer


  • Mike Riedel

Hops can make or break a beer. The wrong varietal, combined with a contrasting yeast or malt profile, could ruin a simple brew. Conversely, a complementary marriage of ingredients can put a beer nerd in eternal heaven. Hops play a huge role in this week's selections; let's see if they work.

Level Crossing - Pink Boots Pale Ale: The Pink Boots Society is a beer-industry group that champions women in brewing. Every year, Pink Boots representatives create a unique hop blend that is used in thousands of women-created beers. Level Crossing's ladies are the first locals to debut this year. This offering pours a rich honey golden color, with a fluffy, two-fingers of ever-so-slightly off-white head—an absolutely beautiful color. It has that dark fruit/berry aroma, with a big impression of passionfruit and over-ripe mango, with some Meyer lemon action in there as well, making it sweet, dank and tropical-fruity.

There is a fragile malt backbone, providing just a touch of creamy sweetness, but the hops are the star of the show here. The malt is just enough of a platform to securely showcase the huge dry-hopping headline. That passionfruit is much more muted on the palate, with more of a berry/starfruit/mango vibe. It is still fruity, but the scale is tipped way in favor of light resins. A very restrained bitterness comes in towards the finish, taking this fruity dankness and drying it out to chalky proportions. Mouthfeel is crisp, but medium-bodied; it has some good heft to it for 5.0 ABV. It's soft and super-juicy up front, and then the dryness comes in on the finish, drying it out very fast. Carbonation is medium and strong, and gives it a little bit of lift.

Overall: This is a fantastic pale ale. It has so much flavor, I don't think you could make this any more flavorful. The dry-hopping of the special blend is great. If you love fruity hops like I do, you need to try this one.

TF Brewing - Hopf Weisse: This is not a style that is heavily hopped. The TF brew team wanted to try something out of the box, and created a beer that many consider to be the precursor of the current New England IPA craze. This beer pours a slightly hazy, medium golden-yellow color, with three puffy fingers of meringue; it's so thick and sticky, it looks like there are egg whites in there. It smells of semi-sweet, cereal-forward wheat malt, plus banana pudding, a bit of white pepper and clove spiciness. There are some indistinct tropical fruit notes, along with earthy, leafy and grassy green hop bitters.

The taste is bready and doughy wheat malt, wet banana chips, a mixed melon-heavy fruit bowl, musty clove and faint ground pepper spice, and more leafy, grassy and herbal verdant hoppiness. The carbonation is average in its merely supportive frothiness, the body a decent middleweight and sort of smooth, as the spice and hop herbals takes more than a minor tithe here. It finishes off-dry, the malt and melon fruity character parrying the lingering spices and hops.

Overall: This is certainly an interesting hopped-up Hefe, as the varietal employed results in more bitterness and less fruitiness. Add that to the heady (if sort of sticky) base brew, and it somehow works, especially given that the 4.8 percent alcohol is not noticeable in the least.

There's plenty to go around as far as batch sizes are concerned. You will be required to make the trip to the individual breweries, though. And as gathering restrictions begin to slowly loosen, that becomes a much more appealing option. As always, cheers!