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Belt’s Beer Garden: East meets West

Pipeworks/Great Leap Hutong Haircut & The Hop Concept Citrus & Piney


This week I have a brew from the far east/midwest (China and Chicago) and one from the far west (San Diego).

Let’s start with the collaboration, as the East meets the (mid)West.

One of Chicago’s leading breweries, Pipeworks, has teamed up with Great Leap brewing from Beijing, China to create a unique IPA – Hutong Haircut. While Pipeworks is no stranger to BBG (this is their NINTH appearance, the most of any brewery), this marks the first time a brewery from China has been featured on here.

Hutong Haircut is brewed with Styrian Wolf hops, honey, and Sichuan peppercorns. It’s sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans that run $13, which is a tad higher than average, with each can packing a solid 6.85% ABV. From what I can find, it looks like the distribution of this brew is Chicagoland and possibly in parts of Beijing so, unfortunately, it’s not available in mass quantities.

The beer poured a very light straw color and was somewhat cloudy and translucent. Two fingers of fluffy white foam protected the liquid below and refused to leave. The sticky head slowly fizzled away in the middle but stayed around the edges, accumulating there for almost the entirety of the beer.

On the nose, Hutong Haircut had a sweet and spicy aroma to it. The honey was strong, giving off a very sweet aroma. But those peppercorns weren’t far behind at all and fought with the honey – providing a bold spiced scent.

My first taste began with a mild rush of carbonation and a creamier, thicker mouthfeel. The hops and Sichuan peppercorns started off the flavors with a peppery and spicy start…but it wasn’t too spicy or overpowering. Instead it was a just enough to get your taste buds dancing.

The hops also add a low-level bitterness that sits underneath all the flavors and hums throughout the entirety of each sip. Nothing bad or too strong, just the hops telling you they’re still there.

From there, about midway through, the honey started to smooth things out with its sugary sweet taste. Some light citrus from the hops – like lemon and grapefruit – added some light tartness and complimented the honey well as it balanced out the spicy start.

The flavors start to fizzle out rather quickly, with the honey being the first to leave. It bloomed across my tongue quickly and faded just as fast. But, in the few moments it was there, it really did balance out the beer.

Hutong Haircut then ends mostly clean. All that remains is a dash of pepper and that same bitterness that is there throughout. It’s not a bad or harsh bitter sting like some IPAs have but, rather, just a long-lasting buzz at the back of my tongue that seemed to keep the pepper’s spice going.

Overall, this was a unique IPA. The honey and Sichuan peppercorns certainly were the stars of this brew. The spicy pepper pretty much lasted throughout the entirety while the honey came in strong but only appeared for a few moments in the middle there.

If you like pepper/ginger/spiced IPAs, then you’ll enjoy this one too.

Next up, a hoppy West Coast brew from The Hop Concept.

The Hop Concept, out of San Marcos, California (a northern suburb of San Diego), is run by the same team from Port Brewing Company, and has been around since 2014. You can find them spanning the US; in California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

The nice thing about The Hop Concept is that they name their brews after how they taste so there is no surprise to what you’re getting. They offer four main varieties as well as few hop-centric brews named after the hops used. Today I have one of their four main ones, Citrus and Piney.

Citrus and Piney is an IPA brewed with orange zest and a slew of hops - Amarillo, Azacca, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Simcoe, and two experimental hops (Exp. 06277 & Exp. 05256). Each 22-ounce bomber is packed with an 8.5% ABV and costs about $9.

It poured a bright copper color with a mountain of head foaming up. Three full fingers of dense, creamy eggshell white bubbles protected the liquid below. Slowly...very slowly the massive hill receded, around the edges first, leaving a big cloud in the center of the glass.

On the nose, this beer smelled exactly like they said it would. Some bright tropical citrus fruit aromas lead the way, with mango, tangerine, grapefruit, and lemon showing up strongest. Behind the citrus though, the hops also showcased those earthy notes as well. Light pepper and pine lurked behind the fruit with a dash of bitterness.

A mild carbonated fizz started off the sip and held off the flavors for a moment. But then, the dam broke and a huge flood of hops rushed towards my taste buds. It began with the earthy aspects, a peppery spice and pine stung my tongue.

The citrus seemed subdued at first from all that pine but then, at about the midway point, the citrusy flavors began to make an appearance. Tangerine and grapefruit powered through the pine with just the slightest bit of lemon zest peeking out.

All the flavors then seemed to battle for supremacy for a brief moment but, soon after, one flavor exploded forth and took control of the back end of the sip. It was a dry, hoppy, pine flavor that began to soar and impaled me tongue with a sharp hop sting. The bitterness just kept coming, overpowering all other flavors in its path.

This IPA ended quite dryly with that strong bitterness lingering on for a long time afterwards. It was dry enough that, after a few consecutive swigs, a glass of water was needed and remained on standby for the rest of the bottle.

As with most IPAs from the San Diego area, this beer certainly showed off the hops more than the malt. And, as intended, the beer’s flavors are an exact match to the name of this brew - all citrus and pine. But it was the pine that really took to the forefront of things with the citrus fruits being no more than a brief backup to the strong spicy pine/pepper flavors.

A solid hopped up beer.