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Belt’s Beer Garden: The Chopping Block

Two brews from England’s First Chop Brewing Arm - Pip and Pop

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This week I crack open the final two beers from my trip to the UK…both of which happen to come from the same brewery: First Chop Brewing Arm.

First Chop is located in Manchester, England and was established in 2012. They make beer for everyone, which means they take extra care to make sure all of their brews gluten free and vegan friendly.

Today, First Chop offers 10 canned brews and is available throughout Europe and the UK.

I have a pair of their citrusy brews to share with you today – a grapefruit saison and a citrus IPA.

Let’s start with Pip, which is their grapefruit saison brewed with Motueka and Zeus hops along with cold pressed grapefruit oil. The cans were relatively well priced at just £1.50 (or ~$2.10) and each one contains a solid 6.3% ABV

Pip poured a slightly hazy, dark straw color with a strong buildup of head separating me from the liquid below. Roughly three fingers of sticky, slightly dense off-white foam billowed up. Within a minute or two it was mostly gone, with just a few clumps spread around.

On the nose it was surprisingly subtle. Of course, there were the grapefruit notes, along with the other typical saison features of wheat, clove, and spice…but it seemed to be muted more than most saisons are.

My first sip started with a sharp sting from the carbonation which lasted for quite some time. And, interestingly enough, the flavors join the party late…

The sharp carbonation had a Novocain effect on my tongue where it numbed it to the flavors until after I had already swallowed. Then, suddenly, a swell of grapefruit washed across my taste buds. Nipping at the heels of the citrus were notes of clove and a peppery spice.

A slightly tart lime zest followed suit before the sweeter, caramel malt and wheaty flavors calmed everything down.

Just a quickly as the flavors had come, they seemed to vanish leaving behind a dry finish and some more of that lingering carbonation fizzle.

To me this was an interesting beer…

The flavors were really solid…if and when they finally showed up. But, to me, each sip of Pip was just way too much carbonation and not enough flavor coming through. If there was more taste and less fizz, this would have been a great saison.

As it is…it’s not bad, just very bubbly.

Up next, I have Pop – an American-style citrus IPA brewed with Crystal and Waiti hops and cold pressed orange oils. Like Pip, it’s reasonably priced at £1.50 (~$2.10) per can, with each 12-ounce can packing a moderate 5.4% ABV.

Pop poured a lighter copper color with over two fingers of eggshell white head building up. Like Pip, the foam created a strong barrier to the beer below and had some lasting power. After a few minutes it finally dissipated enough for me to start drinking.

There was a nice, hoppy aroma from this brew. Grapefruit, orange, and lemon were the main offenders but there were also hints of grassy and earthy notes and some slightly bready malt.

My first taste began with a much more moderate carbonation fizz that only lasted a brief moment this time before the beer was able to really show off its flavors.

The hops broke through first with soft citrus notes – orange, grapefruit and lemon mostly. Behind the citrus, as the aroma had foretold, there was some slightly resinous grassy notes that mixed well with the citrus but created a slightly oily feel to the otherwise watery mouthfeel.

As the flavors continued on, the malts never came front and center but they did provide a very nice caramel sweetness that balanced out the hops for most of the sip.

Soon the sip came to a close with a very light dryness and a low resonating bitterness that stayed on my palate for a few moments after each swig.

Pop was a very subtle, very light tasting IPA with some great flavors. Neither the hops or the flavors will smack you in the face but, rather, slowly emerge from this surprisingly subdued American IPA.

Perfect for a hot day, Pop is probably one of the better gluten free brews I’ve tried. If you find yourself needing a light but flavorful IPA during the heat of summer…this beer has your back!