Recently I passed through Mad Mex in Oakland, a funky little bar with a reliably impressive beer rotation, to see what was new. Everything was served chilled and on tap.
First on the menu, you can hardly resist picking up a pint with a name like Hoppus Maximus (Thirsty Dog in Independence, OH). By the name I expected another fierce entry in the American hop wars, but in fact the beer went down fairly smooth with none of the hoppy pyrotechnics you find in the Maximus IPA from Lagunitas or the bombastic, orchestral hops arrangement in Hop Devil. You could argue that those super-hopped thoroughbreds have become the show dogs of the beer world, exquisite and pure of purpose but not practical for your day-to-day drinking needs. Hoppus Maximus leaves a pleasant mix of citrus and malt on the palate, not sweet like an unfiltered trippel but without any of the bitterness that its name seems to advertise. Just about perfect for a happy hour beer that you don’t plan on nursing for two hours. BAers approve.
Back to those show dogs. The Double IPA from Stoudt’s jumps up on the table and demands attention – after the intensely hoppy nose, two things hit your palate: generous servings of malt transformed almost entirely into alcohol (10% ABV, with little to no sweetness left over), and the prodigious, bitter hopping needed to balance it. It seemed completely out of place in the middle of a happy-hour session, leaving me practically sated (boo) and thinking seriously that if I had a big (spicy) meal and just one beer to go with it this would make a great choice.
This beer is yet another example of why I am so big on the Stoudt’s brand. I can get along with brewers who make a reputation warping familiar recipes, blending traditions and striking off in directions that appear practically insane (Dogfish Head), but brewers like Stoudt’s deserve equal credit for making definitive exemplars of familiar styles. I have already made the case that the Stoudt’s trippel is one of the most faithful examples of the Belgian style on this American continent and I had similar things to say about their bock. Now the Double IPA delivers just what the title promises: a superlative entry in American microbrewing’s headlong race to make the hoppiest IPA like, evah. BAers prefer the 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head but they’re still pretty big on the Stoudt’s.
Finally the Summer Beer from the godfather of American microbrweing, Anchor in San Francisco, delivers the season-appropriate denouement to a hot afternoon. Maybe it’s unfair to judge every wheat beer against the incomparable Hoegaarten, but as much as I enjoyed the airy, slightly sweet confection with pleasant hints of citrus I missed the unfiltered chewy haze that characterizes most Belgian beers. Nonetheless one of the better summer ales that I have tried and definitely an improvement over poseurs like Blue Moon.