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I sometimes think we’re not experimenting enough, as a society, with hoppy beer. Sure, it seems like someone’s cultivated a new hop every month, sometimes bringing brand new flavors to the table, but most brewers seem largely content to let the hops stand on their own, rather than try to find interesting adjuncts to pair them with. Maybe I’m spoiled, as a stout-lover: Brewers have no compunctions about throwing all kinds of shit into a stout, from coffee to chocolate to cherries to coconut and curry. And there are prominent exceptions: Stone Brewing’s Dayman Coffee IPA and R&R Coconut IPA are just two of my favorites among their many delicious bastardizations of the IPA style. Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin reportedly outsells the original recipe, and Habanero Sculpin is my go-to when I need a chile beer fix. But the overwhelming majority of hop-forward beers are just hop-forward beers, and that’s okay, I guess, but when I see someone like Wicked Weed Brewing trying to do something a little different, I’m always going to give it a shot.
Wicked Weed is in my estimation a very good brewery, overall, and probably best known for its excellent sours. Unfortunately, last year it became a member of the Anheuser-Busch family of brands, which I know is a deal-breaker for some. I’m sympathetic to that; for me, it helps that the people behind Budweiser seem to have mostly kept their hands off their new craft brew brands, leaving them to conduct themselves much as they did before and not, say, forcing Goose Island to release Bourbon County Brand Stout Light & Clamato Chilada. As far as I can tell, that’s held true for Wicked Weed specifically; they’re still brewing some inventive recipes, including today’s beer: Wicked Weed Hop Cocoa, a hoppy porter with chocolate added.
Hop Cocoa foams up substantially when opened and poured into the glass, but most of the head dissipates in short order. The beer’s dark brown to black, as porters tend to be. The scent of the beer is pretty faint, and the chocolate in it isn’t immediately recognizable. The rich, sweet milk chocolate does come through at first sip, but man, it disappears in a hurry, buried under an avalanche of hops. The beer’s long, hoppy finish is citric, which you might think would complement the initial chocolatey sweetness in the manner of a chocolate orange, but instead it’s citric in a way that way that completely washes out that chocolate. The hops themselves are very nice, crisp and clean, but I’m wondering if Hop Cocoa might have fared better with juicier hops along the lines of Citra or Mosaic, something with a greater depth of fruit flavor to play off the chocolate without obliterating it.
I do like the beer, so I hope it’s not too harsh to say that for me, this experiment wasn’t a complete success. It’s an interesting study in sweet-bitter contrast, but I don’t get anything from this particular combination of flavors that I don’t feel I could get get in more satisfying fashion from a good black IPA. If you like that sort of beer, as I do, then this may well be up your alley. Just don’t go in hoping to be surprised.
tl;dr: I forgot to say something about the subject of the last Beer Barrel: It’s not very good, so if you absolutely must buttchug something, make it that beer, and not this one
make it snow is an alot of beer and amateur cat wrangler. He drank two cans of Hop Cocoa while writing this review; lady snow is off this week. Happy Valentine’s Week and please remember to tip your cherub.