April 26, 2015 by Alex Hannagan
As we keep trekking into our anniversary weekend, I wanted to break out another big, bold, and beautiful beer. Since we’re mainly based in the NOVA and 757 areas, it can be hard to pull off a mass tasting of some of the RVA specialties; as you hopefully noted in the Hops of Fame, we still think quite highly of some of our brethren in Central VA. In keeping with our enshrinement of the GBS, we’ve been especially keen on Hardywood’s Reserve Series as the kind of beer that helps the Old Dominion compete on some of the biggest stages. Here’s another one to help you get through the last of the slow, brisk evenings heading into the height of Spring.
Hoplar, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Richmond, VA) – @Hardywood
Imperial India Pale Ale, ABV 8.5%, IBU 100
Presentation: Bomber pour into a pint glass.
Appearance: A dirty hybrid of burnt orange and amber, with a thick head dissipating slowly. The only lattice is residuals from the head.
Taste: Now, just what the deuce is Hoplar supposed to be? If you read the label like any good Sherlock Holmes would, you’d see a recipe calling for hops + poplar, in this case a tulip poplar. So doing our math, we’ve just taken a floral beer and added a flowering tree to it? Then what explains the powerfully piney aroma (or as Hardywood describes it, pine needles?) It turns out they used a tulip tree from the Richmond tree, toasted it, and used that to help condition the IPA. Rose petals therefore this is not, and those autumnal notes segway very nicely into a decidedly sharp yet crisp body. In other words, those post-fermentation Cascade hops are assertive but not overbearing. And boy, do they linger. At first it doesn’t feel like a Spring beer, but on a day when it was in the mid 50s with clouds and a blustery wind, oh it works alright.
ABV/IBU: These hops will get all imperial on your tastebuds, and rule for what feels like an eternity. You won’t notice the 100 IBUs while drinking, but wait a minute – then two, then five – after your last sip and suddenly you realize you can’t still can’t taste your dinner. But keep eating, because that 8.5% will catch up fast.
Overall: This is not a beer for those afraid of hops. Then again, it is sort of in the name, right? The IBUs can feel a bit cruel if you’re pairing them with food, but here’s the tip: it’s a piney IPA conditioned in toasted wood, so odds are you can pair it with something with heavy herbal essences or a grilled/smoked meat (Hardywood recommends the latter). I pulled mine off with a red wine-infused spaghetti and some chicken sauteed with garlic/basil, so this beer does have some versatility if you’re patient with it. Sip, don’t chug, as this is very much an execution beer which wants you to linger with it as long as it does with you.