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Belt's Beer Garden: Georgia (and Maine) on my mind...

Two beers from the East Coast this week! You gotta try 'em!

No April Fool's jokes here...just good beer! For this week's installment, I bring you a special review of a rare brew I was able to find and a not-so-rare beer that you should be trying.

First up, a beer you can find almost anywhere East of the Mississippi; SweetWater's Hop Hash.

hop hash

SweetWater calls Atlanta, Georgia home and has been making West Coast beers on the East Coast since 1997. They can be found in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Texas, and Louisiana (the last two being the lone exceptions on the other side of the Mighty Mississippi).

This imperial IPA is infused with all the hash that SweetWater could scrape out of the Yakima hops they used when making this brew. They say it's the dankest ale they could make and even have the slogan "Pour Pour Pass" on the I can only assume it will be quite potent and sticky.

When I poured it into my glass, the copper colored beer was topped by around a finger of thick, off-white head. The dense foam stuck around for a while, creating a nice barrier between me and the beer hidden below.

On the nose, there was an abundance of pine and citrus with some resin and a hint of alcohol as well. You could also pick up a bready malt backing to all those hops. Honestly, I though there would be a much more dank aroma to it. However, despite the lack of hash in the aroma, this brew did smell quite nice.

The first thing you taste is a great blend of grapefruit and other tropical fruits and a big hoppy boldness to it. The citrus is followed by those piney, resin-y flavors from all the hash they added. The backend of the sip is where you can tell it's a double IPA. At 100 IBU it leaves a rather bitter aftertaste lingering on your tongue - so it's not for the weak or for those that don't enjoy their hops.

Despite the boldness, it's a pretty damn smooth Imperial IPA. The body is light-to-medium and contains a bit of carbonation that fizzes on your palate but not too much. It is a pretty dry beer, which might make the bitterness seem pop a little bit more.

The 7.8% alcohol that you can slightly pick up in the aroma is actually hidden really, really well in the taste. The small layer of head laces the glass really well - making some distinct lines but mostly just covering the whole glass on its way down.

This year-round offering from SweetWater is pretty reasonably priced, at $12.99 for a six-pack of bottles. And, for an Imperial, it's incredibly smooth and easy to drink...a good starter for those who want to branch out into more hoppy brews I would say.

Overall, Hop Hash has a really nice flavor to it. All those citrus fruits really help mask the bitterness of the hops for most of the sip. The only issue I have is the lingering does last for quite some time. Otherwise, this is a very good DIPA and worth your time. 8.5/10


Secondly, I found Maine Beer Co's Beer III recently. It was a huge day for me. As some may know, Maine Beer Co is, in fact, my favorite brewery. If you look through those lists you'll see I have MBC in there quite a few times. And for good reason.

beer iii

MBC sticks to their motto of "Do What's Right". They donate 1% of their sales to local non-profit organizations. They purchase e-certified wind credits. They give their spend grains and waste to local farmers for compost, fertilizer, and feed. They use solar panels to cut down on as much electricity as possible. They truly are doing what's right. You can find them in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont.

Last year they started their "Hop Program" in which they experiment with new hops and incorporate them into different styles. So far they have created four beers. Naturally, the three creations are called Beer I, Beer II, Beer III, and Beer IV. It's pretty rare to find these Hop Program beers way out here in Illinois, so when I stumbled upon Beer III at my local liquor store, I snatched it up immediately.

The 16.9 ounce bottle comes with a modest 5.5% ABV but it didn't come cheap. The beer set me back $19.99 (and was the most expensive beer I have ever purchased so far). Despite the steep price, I was more than happy to find it. However, from what I've seen online the beer is a lot cheaper the farther East you the price might not be so bad by you. I saw some prices as low as $8.99.

Beer III is a black IPA made with Citra, Lemondrop, Cascade, and Falconer's Flight hops. And, as the style implies, Beer III pours a completely opaque black and even blots out the light from a flashlight held up to it. Sitting atop the beer is just under two fingers of fluffy tan head that dissipates rather quickly into a small scattering of bubbles around the glass.

On the nose, there are big notes of coffee and chocolate malts with some citrus and piney hops lingering in the background.

When I first tried Beer III, it was exactly what my nose had detected. There were a lot of nice citrus and piney hop flavors up front but those slowly faded into the chocolate and roasted coffee notes that were so predominant in the aroma. The sip ends with that coffee taste lingering on your tongue between sips with a slight hop bitterness too.

The balance between the coffee and the fruit made this a incredibly smooth and tasty black IPA. It has a medium-light body, with a slightly watery feel to it. Beer III also has some mild carbonation and ends slightly on dry side of things.

As I continued to drink, I saw that there was some lacing but nothing spectacular. The head that remained left large splotches of bubbles that slowly slid down the side of my glass.

Overall, I was thrilled to have found one of MBC's Hop Program brews. Beer III was smooth, delicious, and had a plethora of different flavors that all blended into one fantastic beer. If you're lucky enough to find it, you probably should buy it...if only to give it to me so I can have it again. 9/10

9 beers