Hop Henge (2011)

Deschutes Brewery Hop Henge Experimental IPA, 2011I opened up the bottle of Hop Henge (Experimental IPA) tonight that Deschutes Brewery sent me, and it did not disappoint—this is, in my opinion, one of the best Imperial IPAs being brewed today. I think it gets better each year, and that I suspect is largely due to the experimental aspect of it: last year Deschutes infused hops into this beer throughout the brewing process, from the milling of the grain (no kidding) through dry hopping in the conditioning tank. I don’t know what experimental processes Deschutes applied to Hop Henge this year, but the website says it “uses several new hop processes and techniques” and I do know (from the press release) that there are four hops in it: Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, and Citra. (The “Four C’s”.)

This year’s edition is 9% ABV (previous years were 8.75%) though you won’t know it from tasting it—Hop Henge is incredibly smooth, mellow, and drinkable with no hint of the strength lurking anywhere. You can see in my picture it pours a clear, bright amber-orange color with a generous two to three fingers of dense foam; I swear the foam took on an orange hue as well.

On the nose it really pops, bright and resiny and green, with a sweet malty base that’s more brown sugar than caramel/toffee. The hops aromas seem to ooze out of it, and this translates to the palate as well—there’s a solid and seamless infusion of powerful yet clean (almost creamy) hop bitterness overlaying a coppery biscuit malt presence. There’s a ton of hop flavor as well, not just bitterness (an area Deschutes has really been focusing on). The malt is sweet—thinking back on this now, it’s almost sweet enough (and certainly strong enough) to be considered a Barleywine.

It’s full enough in the body and mouthfeel to have an almost sticky presence, but Hop Henge finishes very clean with a nice hoppy aftertaste. Incredibly drinkable. If you see this on the shelf of your local bottleshop or store, snap it up, it’s well worth it.

On BeerAdvocate, it scores an overall grade of A-. On RateBeer, it scores 3.85 out of 5 and is in their 99th percentile.

One comment

  1. I agree that this year’s is even better than previous years. Despite the slightly higher strength, it actually seemed lighter (your word “brighter” is apt). The hops are everywhere, as usual, but they were buoyant. Last year’s was a tour de force, but it was also just a bit oppressive. I wouldn’t remotely call it “sessionable.” This year’s sort of was. Dangerously drinkable.

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