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Belt’s Beer Garden: Wanna Get Away?

Does this election have you wanting to flee the country? I’ve got some international brews to help you pick your new home


Not happy with this week’s election results? It’s a safe bet you’re not. And if you’re like me, you were probably terrified for this matter which way it went. Neither candidate was a good choice and many people thought about leaving the country.

Well, for those that really want to get away, I have a few international beer choices for you that might help sway which country you now call home: Hop Zombie from New Zealand and Mr. Orange from Denmark.

Ironically enough, both beers fit with a candidate quite well:

Hillary Clinton is like a zombie; trying to resurrect her time in the White House even though she might be dead inside already.

And Mr. Orange isn’t just Donald Trump’s’s also the name To Øl gave to their ESB I found this week.

Anyway, as always it’s ladies first; so we’ll start way down under in Auckland, New Zealand with Epic Brewing Company’s Hop Zombie.

Epic, which has no connection to Utah’s Epic Brewing, has released over 40 beers so far…with the VAST majority being hoppy IPAs and DIPAs.

They are a pretty rare find here in Chicago, so when I stumbled upon one of their world-renowned brews, Hop Zombie, I had to buy it.

Hop Zombie packs a punch with an 8.5% ABV and has a classified amount of hops and hop varieties inside. The 11.2 ounce bottle doesn’t come cheap though. I found mine for $5.99.

When poured, Hop Zombie was a hazy golden copper color with just about a finger of white airy foam topping the beer. The head dissipated quickly into just a sprinkle of foam here and there and a small ring around the edge of the glass rather quickly.

This beer, as expected, has a nice bold hop profile to the smell. There is a hint of dankness to it but, surprisingly, there is a heavy dose of citrus fruits and nice earthy/piney backing to it. Some light toasted malt can be found hiding behind all those hops…but this is certainly not for those that are afraid of hops.

My first sip started with some mild carbonation before the hops punched me in my tongue. There was that hoppy, bitter sting that accompanies heavily hopped beers and, from that, like the zombies it’s named after, the flavors rose up from my dead palate.

There was a West Coast citrus rush – grapefruit, light mango, guava, ect – and a blast of pinecones before the sweet, caramel malt cut into the otherwise highly bitter brew.

I was surprised at how smooth this beer ended up being. That malty flavor really cut down on the hops/90 IBU this brew has and, at the end of the day, it was much needed. For all the hops in here, I was expecting a much bitterer brew, something that would numb my taste buds for a week. But what I got was a heavily hopped, surprisingly balanced beer.

By the end of the 300 mL (11.2 ounce) bottle, my tongue might have gone dead from the hop-bomb I just ingested. Tasting food was quite difficult but worth it since I could eat healthier (I could finally eat a salad without complaining!)…at least for the duration of the beer.

But this was one of the best overly-hopped beers I think I’ve ever had. The flavors made it quite palatable and easy to drink, while the high ABV made it worth the higher cost. Epic made a near-perfect West Coast DIPA.

This beer seems to be a rarer find in the US…so if you can find it, splurge a little and get it – even if you’re not a fan of hops. 8.5/10


Next up, I head the other Europe and To Øl.

To Øl is a gypsy brewery (they use other facilities to brew their beers without having a set place of their own) out of Copenhagen, Denmark. They are hard to find in the US but huge in Europe.

I found Mr. Orange, which was brewed at De Proef Brouwerij in Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium (which is a bitch to spell).

This ESB (Extra Strong/Special Bitter) was dryhopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops and infused with a plethora of orange fruits. The bottle isn’t cheap, at $5.99 for a 300 mL (11.2 ounce) bottle.

It poured a hazy golden orange color with about a finger and a half of wispy white foam. The head faded down to a dusting rather quickly, leaving streaks of bubbles as it left.

On the nose, as expected, there were huge orange citrus elements – mandarin oranges, grapefruit, clementine, and tangerine. But there was also a yeasty, farmhouse quality to it and a sour bite that really intrigued me. This ESB was unique in that it had a hybrid aroma of a sour, a farmhouse, and a West Coast IPA.

When I tried my first sip, an audible “whoa” escaped my mouth.

The beer begins with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel and just the tiniest hint of carbonation. Then the oranges subtly grabbed a hold of my taste buds and brought a sweet, sugary taste with it. There was a tartness that came with the citrus, although the beer was nowhere near as sour as the smell made it seem to be.

As the flavors fade, there was a light bitterness that pinched my palate late before fading away quickly. On the backend, another rush of carbonation hit my tongue before giving way to a citrus aftertaste that lingered for a few minutes after the liquid had gone.

Mr. Orange had some bready malt flavors that were hiding behind the hops, just showing themselves enough to cut out any strong bitterness (despite this being an Extra Strong Bitter it only has 49 IBU). And that yeasty aroma carried through into the taste…again almost drinking more like a farmhouse.

The bubbles continued to cling to my glass nicely as the liquid was excavated, leaving some nice, long spider web like clouds.

At 7% ABV this beer is higher in alcohol than most ESB…but the booze it packs isn’t noticeable at all it the flavor.

Overall, this was a pretty tasty ESB. The mandarin hops and addition of grapefruits and other fruits create a tart, but very easy to drink, beer. If you’re afraid of ESBs this is a good one to start with. It’s sweet, flavorful, and isn’t quite as bitter as you might think.

To Øl has done another really solid job with this beer. If you can find it, consider yourself lucky. 8/10

8 beers