An interesting thing about Deschutes Brewery‘s annual Hop Henge Imperial IPA this year–actually, that should be “Experimental IPA”, and it lives up to that name both in the sense that it “uses several new hop processes and techniques to create a truly unique and unexpected beer” and in light of this blog post.
Our first brewing of Hop Henge this year produced the following result. The very vigorous ferment, with a fermenter at capacity, blew our precious dry hops all over the floor depriving us of all the goodness therein…. So, what did we do? We made another batch, added more hops, only filled the fermenter half-full and thought we would blow the doors off the beer (and your taste buds). The original calc’s on batch #2 were the same as batch #1…. We were excited at the possibilities and fastened our seat belts for the ride… we tasted the two batches side by side today and were impressed by the huge pucker-factor in the new Henge, much greater than batch #1.
Aside from the very interesting reveal about commercial-grade IBUs (read their full post), what stands out is the fact that there were brewed two distinctive batches of Hop Henge this year. Experimental indeed!
Naturally, after drinking Batch #1 I had to seek out Batch #2 to compare.
Appearance: Glowing honey-amber with a generous head that’s the color of old bone tinted with orange.
Smell: Hops which are green and catty; pink grapefruit(?); sticky, resinous, freshly-crushed hops with a touch of cannabis.
Taste: Bitter hop punch over amber-y ale tinged with alcohol heat. Hops are fantastic here, bold, bright, sticky, with a dandelion (or milk thistle) bitterness that’s potent, herbal, and very clean. They blend very well with the sweeter malt, which is rich and satisfying.
Mouthfeel: Terrific. Chewy and almost full-bodied, finishes sweet yet hoppy and lingering.
Overall: Excellent. This stuff is as top-notch an Imperial IPA as they come.
Appearance: Nice amber color that’s orange at the edges. Yellow-tan head is dense and creamy.
Smell: Powdery hops, twiggy and resiny. Very sticky-smelling hops and sweet malts–a bit catty but not the grapefruit from Batch #1. Green and almost fresh-hoppy floral.
Taste: Cleanly bitter hops that are green and earthy. Toasty biscuit malts that are warm and rich and blends nicely into the sticky hops. Spicy and fresh–I want to say radish greens–and just big and bitter. (Bitter like dandelion greens in Batch #1 too.) Delicious.
Mouthfeel: Pleasantly (but not totally) full in body and very clean with a strong residual bitterness that leaves you feeling refreshed.
Overall: Very very good. I could drink lots and lots of it.
The verdict: The biggest difference is in the nose. Batch #1 has a strong catty/citrus nose while #2 has a powerful fresh hop aroma going for it. This plays into the flavor aspect too, to an extent, in that you don’t have the dry hopping characters (from #2) interfering nearly as much as with the bittering hops used (in #1).
A most worthwhile experiment–I definitely recommend doing this yourself if you can still find some of the original batch.
(A note about the picture: Yes, I actually took a picture of each Batch, but there’s visually no difference between the two, so it would be silly to run them both.)
(Postscript: A co-worker tells me he found Batch #3 now, too. I hadn’t heard of that one, so it looks like some more drinking is in order…)