23 August 2017

Hoop for us all

While casually browsing the selection in an Utrecht off licence last March I was suddenly taken aback by a couple of bottles from a seemingly local brewery called Hoop. The branding, though not the beers themselves, was identical to that of Dublin's own Hope brewery, right up to the H-O anchor motif on the cap. It subsequently transpired that the two breweries are cousins and share a co-owner in common, as well as collaborating on recipe design and, obviously, branding. It's all perfectly innocent, though it was a shock to see them without warning. Anyway, I bought the two that were there and eventually got around to opening them. "Hoop" is the Dutch word for hope, and is pronounced exactly the same way, in case you were wondering and/or sniggering.

The first one I opened was 1862, a dry-hopped pilsner. To give it a proper Dutch pils head I made only a slightly vigorous pour but ended up with a glass of 80% foam. Still, waiting for that to subside gave me plenty of time to compose an introduction about how I found it. Ahem.

It's surprisingly hazy, giving it a deep orange hue. It smells mildly of peach and plum though I'd guess it's maybe not fresh enough to deliver the full benefit, even if the best before is November. After all the foam it's a little bit flat and lifeless. I don't want an overly fizzy pilsner but this one just flops dead on the tongue from the first mouthful. There is a nice crisp grain element, and a round orange juice flavour, but they're both a little too faint to be properly interesting. There's the making of a very good beer in here, but on this showing it's just a bit off in several directions and only really good for thirst-slaking.

A saison follows, called Water Wolf, at a proper low-countries strength of 5.5% ABV. This was surprisingly clear as it poured, though that was just because the sediment had settled to the bottom of the bottle. By the time I finished and left it a minute, that had spread an even golden haze through the glass. No shortage of carbonation here: there's an audible prickle as it sits waiting for the first sip. That turns up spritzy notes of cloudy lemonade and freshly chopped herbs. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out why it tasted familiar, and it's because it tastes far more like a witbier than a saison. It's sweet, not dry, and there's an almost creamy quality to the texture. I do get the earthy spices typical of saison in the aroma but there's no crispness, funk, farmyard or gunpowder in the flavour. It's enjoyable and quite jolly, if a little overcarbed, but once I got Hoegaarden into my head that's all I could think of.

As it happens our local Hope brews both a dry-hopped lager and a saison, and to be honest I think we get the better deal in Dublin.

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