Last October, the Wine & Hop Shop presented Hoptoberfest, a homebrew competition in which the winner would receive the ideal prize -- an opportunity to work with a local brewer to produce their entry for the public. Homebrewer Scott Dunahee took top honors with his Imperial IPA, and so teamed up with Peter Gentry, owner and brewmaster of One Barrel Brewing. I served as one of the judges for the contest, and now three months later, you can judge Dunahee's beer too. Named Hop on Pop, it just went on tap at One Barrel.
What is it? H.O.P. Hop on Pop Imperial IPA from homebrewer Scott Dunahee and One Barrel Brewing of Madison, Wisconsin.
Style: The Imperial India Pale Ale is also called a Double IPA. It is gold to reddish amber in color, with medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel and a strong hop profile featuring resiny and citrus tones. There should be some maltiness and sweetness in the background, adding complexity to a flavor profile that can be spicy and piney. The finish will often have alcoholic warmth, as the style can be quite strong, commonly ranging from 7.5% to 10% ABV. The Imperial IPA is an American creation, evolving from hop lovers' quest for a robust and aggressive bitterness.
Background: H.O.P. Hop on Pop is based on the Hoptoberfest winning brew entered by Scott Dunahee of Madison. He made the original beer in his basement with a 12-gallon brewing system he designed himself. Dunahee drew inspiration from the aggressively hopped Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing of Santa Rosa, California, a favorite of hoppy beer fans and one of the most highly rated beers on both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.
"It's dripping with hops," said Dunahee as he and One Barrel brewmaster Peter Gentry laid out the ingredients on brew day, back on December 14. The recipe includes three different types of hops: Columbus, Centennial and Simcoe. Gentry even had to make a last-minute trip to the homebrew store for more hops while making the beer. Simcoe hops in particular, which make up a large part of the bitter flavor and hop aroma of Hop on Pop, can be difficult to find.
Gentry and Dunahee make two dry-hop additions, each a blend of all three hops, to the fermenter, which gives the beer an assertive bouquet of pine and citrus. The recipe is very close to what Dunahee used for his winning entry. They scaled up the same malts and hops for a bigger batch. Dunahee says the only exception was substituting some Belgian candi sugar in the boil for corn sugar. Candi sugar can boost the alcohol content without adding body to the beer.
Hop on Pop aged for one month, ending up at around 90 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and just over 8% ABV. As for the beer's name, which calls attention to its hoppy flavor, Dunahee says he was inspired through playing with his three kids, who like to jump on their dad. He thought of the Dr. Seuss book Hop on Pop, and so that name came out on top.
This is not the first time Dunahee has captured attention for his homebrewing. He's won awards in four out of five competitions he's entered so far. Hop on Pop represents Dunahee's 82nd batch of beer as a homebrewer, while it was Gentry's 74th batch since opening One Barrel Brewing last July. Hoptoberfest, where I served as one of the judges alongside Isthmus contributor André Darlington, ended up raising over $450 for the Dane County Humane Society.
Hop on Pop is only available in the taproom of One Barrel Brewing, where it sells for $5.50/glass.
Those hoping to try this beer should show up sooner rather than later. One Barrel Brewing made only about 31 gallons of this beer, so it won't be around for long. If it's gone when you get there, the Penguin Pale Ale is a somewhat tame but nice alternative. Gentry says he not sure he'll make this exact beer again, but adds, "This made me realize that we need to keep an IPA on tap."
Fans of big beers might want to mark their calendar for Thursday, January 24. That's when Gentry is planning a mini barley wine fest in his taproom. He intends to serve four different barley wines, including three his own creations, one of which is a big-bodied ice barley wine that comes in at 12% ABV. The fourth version, Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada, joins the taps because it's one of Gentry's personal favorites.
One Barrel Brewing has also signed on to make a house beer for Alterra Coffee when in opens its first Madison café in a few weeks, which will be located in the Tenney Plaza Building on Capitol Square. Gentry will provide a coffee stout, made with a proprietary blend of three different coffee beans. It'll be served exclusively in the café along with a rotating seasonal that will also be made by One Barrel.
- Aroma: A loud and assertive hoppy bouquet with lots of citrus and piney aroma.
- Appearance: Orange-copper color that has a slight haze (expected, since Gentry does not filter his beers). It also has a thick and soft, tan head.
- Texture: Full-bodied and bubbly. The hoppy bitterness brings out the sharpness to the mouthfeel.
- Taste: Assertive resin and pine flavors. Strong enough that hop heads should appreciate the assertive bitterness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The piney-bitterness lingers.
Glassware: With its assertive hoppy nose and brilliant color, this is a beer that stands up well in just about any glass. Yet One Barrel makes a nice call by serving it in a footed chalice-like pilsner goblet with an inward flare to the lip to bring attention to all those hoppy aromas.
Pairs well with: You really need an aggressively flavored entrée, something with some spice, to fully appreciate the pairing experience. Food choices at One Barrel include a spicy Fraboni's pepperoni pizza or Stalzy's piragi rolls filled with bacon, onion and spices. However, to really get something to compete with the hops, step next door to Tex Tubb's Taco Palace and pick up the "Hot Mama" taco platter, made with fried chicken that's been soaked in housemade buffalo sauce, and served with pico de gallo and sour cream in a corn tortilla. One Barrel encourages patrons to bring in food, so don't hesitate to pair Hop on Pop with something hot.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Hop on Pop is an assertive Double IPA that begins with a strong piney-hoppy nose and continues through a lingering resiny-bitter finish. I was one of five judges involved in selecting this as the winner at Hoptoberfest, and I think this version is even hoppier than Dunahee's original entry. What I enjoy most about H.O.P. is the aromatic qualities that explode out the glass -- an "in your face" moment to delight hopheads in their quest for bitterness. Despite a strong overall hoppiness, the underlying malts keep the resiny Simco hops from becoming too much. There's also some alcoholic warmth throughout.
I liked Dunahee's basement-brewed version when I had it at Hoptoberfest. It was a great beer then, and this one stays true to the winning recipe and character. What you'll find with this One Barrel Brewing collaboration is a level of bitterness that combines with body and malt balance to subtly improve on the original.