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Belt’s Beer Garden: Hop on In!

Good People’s Hitchhiker & Pipeworks’ Hop Charisma


This week two hopped up brews, one from the north and one from way down south.

Up first, an Alabama brewery making their first appearance on BBG.

Alabama has not been kind to craft breweries in the past but a lot has been changing there due to the Free the Hops Movement. With the success of that movement, the number and quality of the brews down there has been growing exponentially, but it still has room to grow.

At the end of 2017 Alabama only had 34 breweries operating in the state (which ranked them 37th in the US). For comparison, the city of Chicago alone has about 5x that…at 167. Even states with similar populations to Bama, like that of and Kentucky, South Carolina, and Oregon have many more breweries, at 52, 61, and 266 respectively.

But one of those 34 breweries, Good People Brewing, has been a Birmingham staple for just over a decade now, opening up on July 4th, 2008.

Good People offers eight year-round offerings and four seasonal brews. You can find them across Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Today I have one of their seasonal offerings – Hitchhiker – which is an IPA brewed with Cascade, Columbus, and Simcoe hops. It’s solid in six-packs that run the usual $10 and each can has a very solid 7.8% ABV and 100 IBU.

This West Coast IPA poured a dark copper, mostly translucent color with a ton of head building up. Three fingers of brownish head appeared and, over the course of a minute or so, dissipated down to a light accumulation around the edge of the glass.

On the nose, there’s actually a nice balance between hops and malt. Up front there’s some citrus and grassy hop aromas with some piney notes as well. Behind the hops lie a bready malt backing that adds some caramel-like sweetness and a sticky sugary scent to it as well.

It begins slowly and subtly before a delayed pop of carbonation fizzles across my tongue. From there, the hops begin their assault with a dose of grapefruit, a big burst lemon zest, and a bitter sting.

The bitterness isn’t too bad though, as the malts quickly kick in with a caramel sweetness and that sugary feeling that clings to the taste buds. It certainly doesn’t taste like it has 100 IBU in it.

Midway through it all, there is a rush of grapefruit rind that is joined by some resinous grassy notes and a bit of hoppy pine.

As the flavors begin to fade away, Hitchhiker finishes with a moderate dry feeling and a lingering citrus rind bitterness that lingers on for a few minutes after everything else. The beer coated my tongue in what felt like a huge layer of resinous grassy/citrus-rind flavors that would leave. A quick sip of water certainly helped and, after a few sips, became a necessity.

Overall this was a very good West Coast IPA. You get the heavy dose of hops, a very nice balance from the sweet malts, and the higher ABV certainly gets the job done without announcing that it’s there in the taste.

The sticky/dry aftertaste isn’t the best but it certainly a small price to pay for an otherwise very good brew.

Next up a brewery that’s no stranger to BBG.

Chicago’s Pipeworks Brewing Co. seems like a staple on Belt’s Beer Garden. This is the brewery’s TENTH appearance…the most of any brewery. But they just keep pushing out delicious beer that I have to try.

This time I have one of their newer IPAs – Hop Charisma. This brew is made with Cryo-Citra, Ekuanot, and Idaho 7 hops. It’s solid in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for a steep price of $16. Each can has a very impressive 7.8% ABV.

Hop Charisma poured a hazy, muddled straw color with two fingers of sticky, dense off-white head building up. As the foam slowly faded away, it already started to lace the glass with those sticky bubbles.

This brew was packed with huge sweet tropical fruit notes in the aroma. Pineapple led the way but there was also notes of orange and mango. Behind the fruits were some sweet bready malt and an oat/grain backing.

My first sip started with moderate carbonation that seemed last a while, fizzling underneath for the vast majority of the sip.

When the flavors finally kicked up, it began with a bite of pineapple that, along with the hoppy bitterness, stung my tongue some. Orange and grapefruit added some nice tropical notes and there was just the tiniest hint of mango as well…but this brew was certainly dominated by pineapple early on.

Midway through there was an oily resinous feeling that coated my tongue and was accompanied by a somewhat grassy flavoring that finally pushed the pineapple out of the spotlight.

The hop assault continued on the backend as some pine and spicy pepper popped up and mingled with the grassy and citrus flavors, subduing the tropical fruit that started off the sip.

This beer ends surprisingly cleanly, with just some of that resinous feeling and a hint of bitterness lingering afterwards.

As I continued to drink Hop Charisma, it was interesting to keep getting all three of the main hop flavors packed into each sip. Citrus up front, grassy/floral in the middle, and then a peppery and piney bitterness to close it out.

And yet, it was a very tasty combination…and rather easy to drink. The bitterness can get to be a bit much towards to the end of the can and as the beer starts to warm up. But the 7.8% was hidden entirely, although I could feel my chest starting to warm up from the booze towards the end of the can.

I love the hops they used, part of the reason I wanted to try this brew, and it didn’t disappoint.

There’s a few things I would’ve liked to change - getting more citrus/tropical fruit and a less resinous feeling that didn’t last as long as it did…but, all-in-all, Hop Charisma was another well-crafted beer from Pipeworks.