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Belt’s Beer Garden: Happy hops

Santa Fe’s Happy Camper and The Hop Concept Citra & Azacca

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Friday the 13th can be a scary day. But these hoppy brews should be able to ease your mind and keep you happy.

We’ll start with a BBG first: a beer from The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico).

Santa Fe Brewing Company began way back when in 1988 in the place you’d expect – Santa Fe, New Mexico. Slowly they have grown over the past 29 years, moving into a new facility in 1997 and expanding distribution.

After expanding again in 2003, they started canning in 2010, and then last year expanded again – they added an underground barrel-cave for souring and extended their reach to 10 states; mostly the South and Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri).

Happy Camper is their year-round IPA and is brewed with Simcoe, Bravo, Amarillo, Summit, and Citra hops as well as four types of malt. The beer clocks in at 6.6% ABV, 82 IBU, and comes complete with a price tag of just $8.99/six-pack.

This IPA poured a dark copper color with light airy off-white head that built upwards of two fingers high. As the foam slowly faded downward, the bubbles had already begun to cling to the edge of my glass – lacing it quite nicely.

On the nose there were a plethora of citrus flavors, with grapefruit, orange, tangerine, and mango standing out the most. There was a light dankness and some spicy notes to it as well, with very little malt impact on the aroma.

I was excited to dive in, so I did so without hesitation.

My first taste started with a lighter body and just a quick flash of a carbonation fizz. Then it was an amazing balance of hops and malts that took over my palate.

It started with a bitter sting from the hops and some nice citrus flavors – lots of orange, grapefruit, and tangerine. However, there was quickly a really sweet, bready malt flavor that slowed down the hops…mostly.

As the sip ended there was very little dryness (just a slight hint that one lick-smack got rid of) and no real bitter aftertaste, instead it was a sweeter, maltier flavor that stuck with me for just a few moments before fading away.

The head continued to lace my glass on the way down, creating cloud patterns across all sides and the 6.6% ABV was hidden throughout the beer.

Santa Fe has been around for a long time, and it shows. Happy Camper is a really well balanced IPA with great flavors and a good price tag. Hopheads and amateur beer enthusiasts alike should find this a great addition to their beer repertoire. 8.5/10

8.5

Next I return to a very good brewery from San Marcos, California: The Hop Concept.

The Hop Concept, as I just said, is from San Marcos, California and was formed in 2014 as an offshoot from Port Brewing as a place to experiment with different and new types of hops. They are slowly releasing more and more beers with differing varieties of hops.

You can find them in a few places across the US: California, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, DC, and parts of Idaho.

The newest concoction from The Hop Concept features an IPA brewed with Citra and Azacca hops and packs an 8% ABV, high IBUs (although the specific number isn’t given), and a price tag of $9.99 for the 22 ounce bomber.

Citra & Azacca IPA pours a golden amber color with loads of dense foam building upwards. I had to stop pouring because the head had gotten around four fingers high and I ran out of room in my glass.

There were a lot of great aromas with this beer. Obviously it was quite hop-centric with a strong dankness coming from the two types of hops used, but there were other nice flavors as well. Juicy mango and pineapple took scent-er stage (see what I did there J…alright, I’ll see myself out). Along with the hops there is just a tad bit of malt that backs up it all, adding some slightly sweet notes to it.

My first sip starts with a mild carbonation and a medium body that leads into the hoppy goodness that follows.

The flavors that flooded my taste buds were a little different than the smell, however. It leads with a lemon and orange rush up front before the pineapple and grapefruit subtly joins them. After that the citrus flavors slowly fade out, giving way to a bitter pine that overpowers the light malty sweetness and finishes the sip with a long, slightly dry, bitter ending.

As the beer warms, the flavors begin to shift some. A hidden trove of melon and a light mango flavors begin to surface, as does more of the caramel malt. The beer also seems to become slightly less bitter on the end…mellowing out the bold hop profile.

The airy foam is quite sticky on the beer’s trip down – lacing my glass with huge cloud formations all around the edge. And, like the flavors, the 8% ABV also seems to show up more towards the ending…warming my chest with every sip.

Overall, The Hop Concept has done well again! I have yet to find a beer I don’t like of theirs. This one has some really nice flavors but ends just a bit too dry and too bitter for me to fall in love with it…but you can’t go wrong with any beer made from Azacca and Citra hops. 8/10

8 beers