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Belt’s Beer Garden: Hop to it!

Third Street Hop Lift & Victory HopDevil

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Hops once again take center stage this week as I have two hop-forward IPAs for you.

Up first, a Minnesota brewery.

Third Street Brewhouse is located in Cold Springs, Minnesota, a city of about 4000 located a little ways northwest of Minneapolis.

They began brewing back in 2011 and have six year round brews to choose from. Currently you can only find them in Minnesota, North Dakota, and northern Wisconsin.

My friend recently gave me their flagship IPA – Hop Lift – which is one of their brews available all year. There was just something about that crane-game clasper holding on to that hop that made me feel like I had gotten a winner.

Each tank of Hop Lift is made with 600 pounds of hops…which is a lot (but it doesn’t tell me what variety of hops though)! But, somewhat surprisingly, it only has 60 IBU and a 6.2% ABV attached to it. You can find four 16-ounce cans and the set will only cost you a mere $9.99.

This American IPA poured a clear, coppery/amber hue with huge airy bubbles building upwards of three fingers high. That massive head lasted quite a while before I was able to add the rest of the beer to my glass.

On the nose there were loads of juicy fruits. It was mostly grapefruit, lemon, some mango, and hint passion fruit as well with a solid backing of malts that added a sugary sweetness that calmed the hoppy citrus notes.

My first sip was quite good. The massively thick, yet airy, head creates a smooth start to this beer. Immediately the juicy fruits flooded on to my tongue, giving me a wave of grapefruit and mango with some lemon building up afterwards. The light malts stay out of the hops way while adding some sweet bready and caramel flavors to the brew.

There is a slight bitterness to the aftertaste to this beer but it’s very minimal (it has a rating of 60 IBU). I was surprised at how easy to drink the beer was though. Hop Lift has a lighter to medium body to it with a just mild carbonation fizz that starts off each sip despite all the foam that initially built up.

Hop Lift’s head retention and lacing are superb. As I emptied my glass, I was shown the intervals at which I had consumed beer with solid, fluffy white lines across the entire chalice. And the 6.2% ABV is hidden entirely…which could make this a very dangerous beer if I decide to have another (and it’s certainly good enough to warrant that).

Overall, this was quite the tasty IPA. It was really well balanced; with the hops and malts both getting the opportunity to showcase their flavors without stepping on each others toes. It ends with a little bitterness but it’s still a rather sessionable beer.

Third Street’s motto is “It’s all about the beer.” And, while I don’t know a whole lot about them, I can tell you that this Hop Lift sure lived up to that saying. If you’re a fan of big, yet surprisingly easy to drink, balanced IPAs this one is for you.

Next up, Victory Brewing makes its second appearance on BBG, with their go-to IPA.

Two life long friends started Victory Brewing Company way back in 1996 in Downingtown, Pennsylvania (a suburb 40 miles west of Philadelphia). In that time they have grown to a national powerhouse. Right now you can find them everywhere east of the Mississippi River (except for West Virginia and Mississippi), across the entire West Coast, plus in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, and Arkansas. So, basically, everywhere but the Midwest.

They offer a variety of year round and seasonal brews and are most well known for their Golden Monkey (a Belgian tripel) and the beer I have for you today. I was shocked to find out I had actually never had their IPA - HopDevil…I see it all the time but never once tried it. Well that ends today.

HopDevil is in Victory’s year-round lineup and is brewed with Cascade, Centennial, Chinook hops as well as Caramel, Pilsner, and Vienna malts. Each can packs a nice punch at 6.7% ABV and can be found in six-packs for the usual price of $9.99.

It was a very dark copper, almost fully amber, color with about a full finger of tan head building up as the beer was poured. The dense bubbles stuck around for a little while before eventually leaving a ring around the edge half a finger high.

The aroma was hop forward yet, somehow, balanced. The hops give off a pungent bitter smell that consisted of earthy pine and light citrus notes. Backing the hops were sweet malts that had a bready odor and added some sugary hints of caramel as well.

As the sip began there was a sharp rush of carbonation that stunned my taste buds momentarily before the real taste of the beer emerged. The flavors kicked off with a spicy hop bite that quickly segued into a blend of citrus and pine; mostly grapefruit and lemon.

The caramel malt added that crystallized sugar taste that really washed out the bitterness from the hops and gave this middle of the beer a nice, sweet flavor.

But, as this one is called HopDevil…the hops weren’t through. The pine notes from the smell emerged as the sip was beginning to end, stinging the tip of my tongue and lingering for a little while after everything was said and done.

Based on the carbonation level and hop presence, I thought the beer would end on a dry note…but, to my surprise it finished a lot cleaner than I thought it would. Yes, there was still some dryness but it was very moderate.

Instead of dryness though, on some sips the 6.7% alcohol came out and left that familiar boozy burn lingering behind and all down my throat as I swallowed the brew.

HopDevil wasn’t as balanced in taste as it was in smell but the caramel hops do well to really cut into those massive hop levels. It’s a good IPA for those that like non-citrus and more even brews…almost like an English IPA that was hopped like an American one.

All in all it was a pretty boozy, almost balanced, solid IPA. Not a bad choice for a night of grilling out…in fact, it would be perfect with steak and potatoes. And, luckily, you can find this one almost everywhere!