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adj.*bit·ter·er,*bit·ter·est 1.*Having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid, and unpleasant.
2.*Causing a sharply unpleasant, painful, or stinging sensation; harsh:*enveloped in bitter cold; a bitter wind.
3.*Difficult or distasteful to accept, admit, or bear:*the bitter truth; bitter sorrow.
4.*Proceeding from or exhibiting strong animosity:*a bitter struggle; bitter foes.
5.*Resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish, or disappointment:*cried bitter tears.
6.*Marked by resentment or cynicism.

Doesn’t sound at all pleasant, does it? Yet bitterness is the flavour – the experience – that perhaps most excites beer geeks. Whether it’s the high, Quinine-esque rasp of a good Gueuze or Berliner Weisse, or – more often than not – a tastebud devastator of an IPA, bitter is the flavour we crave. Hell, even a really, really good G&T… If our lips ain’t puckered, then it’s not bitter enough.
For me, there’s always moderation (How very you, I hear those who know me proclaim…) – but how did ‘Hop-Bombs’ become so damn popular? Is it the bitterness, or the aroma that packing a beer full of hops brings? Both? Why do we love IPA so? You could argue for the tastes of an underground; a niche, a subculture not truly represented in the wider drinking view of the UK. Then again, the effect of said ‘hop-bombs’ in the general brewing world (up to a point), is hard to deny. Difference, I guess. Difference to what was out there.
It’s easy to get desensitized to extremes of flavour; it’s easy to get desensitized to most things if you try them enough. So when something like Hilden’s Twisted Hop came along, it fair knocked me off my chair. It’s not an IPA; but smacks you square in the jaw with green, lime-sherbet bitterness. Sharp as a razor, spiky as a cactus, it lays those barbs of bitterness over a mesa of boiled-candy, sugar-sweet, orange-jelly body that disapears in the middle of the sip, only to surface again at the end, to stop too much of a dry finish. It’s a 4.7% abv Pale Ale, remember; not an IPA. That would have been too easy.
And so the beer becomes entirely memorable purely for the surprise package; the promise of a Lisburn Pale Ale and the resultant shock of such a crisp, zippy one at that; a reminder of what can be done with perhaps one of the broadest formats in Beer. I drank this on the train after a day out in Nottingham, a present brought back from Belfast by my erstwhile drinking buddy Chris, and one that recharged a jaded palate at that. I’d tasted Hilden’s wares before, a few years back now – but was mightily twisted by this Twisted Hop. More, please.
To see only a cross-section of what IPA in this country means, check out this wonderful exception to the usually predictable list blog over at BeerCast. It inspired me to finally get this recent review online. That’s what good blogging’s about, no?