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Belt's Beer Garden: Hoppy go lucky

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If you're a hop-head...you better read this.

This week I have to hoppy brews for you to try. How do I know they're hoppy? Well...because their names tell me so!

Up first, from way out west, is Alpine's Hoppy Birthday.

hoppy bday

Alpine Beer Company is located about 30 miles east of San Diego in Alpine, California and opened way back in 2002. They are currently only available year round in Cali and Oregon, so I don't know how I stumbled upon their beer (unless they very recently expanded to Chicago).

Hoppy Birthday is a session IPA that pours a slightly cloudy golden orange color and only carries a 5.25% ABV. The sweet aroma of grapefruit, tangerine, and backing of piney hops filled the glass, and my nose, as I emptied the contents of the 22 ounce bomber.

There were millions of tiny bubbles that fizzed up towards the surface but, for as many bubbles as there were, there wasn't a ton of head. In total, maybe just a finger of foam sat atop my beer...but the little bit that was there sure was thick.

Much like the smell, the taste has all three of those elements too. It starts with the pine before the grapefruit, tangerine, and caramel malts smooth out the flavors and then ends with the tiniest of hop bites. It does have 69 IBU, so the bite might be much for some.

It was almost like watching two great fighters go at it. Every sip the pine and citrus would collide with every taste being a new round. Sometime the citrus fruits would win, sometimes the pine, sometimes both were equally present. But Hoppy Birthday was smooth, tasty, and made me want to go back for more every time.

This is a pretty highly carbonated beer and has a slightly dry, yet crisp, mouthfeel to it. As I drank the beer left a bunch of foam splotches around my glass, not lacing it perfectly, just sporadically as it slid down the side after each sip.

At $7.99 for the bomber, you can afford to treat yourself to a Hoppy Birthday of your own. It's not overly expensive at all. In fact, for the quality of the beer inside...that's a steal.

This is a damn good beer. I'm not sure how I stumbled upon it here in Chicagoland unless Alpine very recently expanded again. Either way, if you find this (or any of their beers) in your area you better try it. 8.5/10

8.5

Next up, I head to the other side of the country and try Victory's Hoppy Quad.

hoppy quad

I've had quite a few Belgian triples in my day...but never a quadruple. However, that is about to change. For my first quad beer I found Victory's Hoppy Quad. This monstrous bottle (25.4 ounces) is packed with 13% alcohol and loaded with Cascade, Chinook, Citra, and Mosaic hops. This is also the first time we've spotlighted a beer from Victory.

So for those of you who don't know, Victory was founded back in 1996 by two lifelong friends in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. They have grown vastly in the follow two decades, from 1,725 barrels in '96 to over 125,000 barrels last year (nearly 100x more). Right now you can find them everywhere east of the Mississippi River (except for West Virginia and Mississippi), on the entire West Coast, and in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, and Arkansas.

When I poured it, I was quite surprised at how little head there was. Less than a finger of thin foam dusted the top of the golden straw colored beer. As most Belgian brews have lots of thick foam, this caught me off guard a little.

I will say, it's called Hoppy Quad for a reason. Immediately after emptying the contents of the bottle into my glass, I could smell the fruity, sharp aroma of hops tingling in my nose. There was more to the smell than just hops though. It was a nice blend of hops, tropical fruits (like oranges, mango and papaya), and some floral notes. It even had a slight alcohol fume as well but, for a beer with 13% ABV, I thought it'd be worse.

At first sip, this beer punches you in the mouth with hops. You get the bitterness and hop burn upfront but it fades quickly into a nice, manageable fruity flavor. On the backend, there is an alcohol burn from the high percentage but, again, it's very manageable.

It's certainly not a sessionable beer...it's a beer that you need to sip on and nurse throughout the day. But, just because I can't/shouldn't drink multiple of these beers in one night, that doesn't mean it's not good.

Maybe I just thought quads would be harder to drink than this, or have more foam, or a sharper alcohol sting...but that fact is, this is a very solid beer, albeit one you need to drink slowly. And it does need to be consumed slowly. The more you have, the harder it is to drink. It's quite a filling beer.

Overall, this exceeded many of what I thought I was going to encounter. Even the price isn't too outrageous - $9.99 for the huge 500 mL bottle. It's a solid tasting beer with a lot of booze in it. One is all you'll need (and all you'll probably be able to drink in a night). If you're a fan of triples and quad...this is a beer you'll need to try. For me, it got to be a little much at the end, but regardless...7/5/10

7.5