Visit The Beer Nut site

Some big IPAs from Hopfully today, beginning with ThreeLeaves, their new St Patrick's Day special. This is a cold IPA of 6.3% ABV and brewed in collaboration with Milan's Birrificio WAR. It's a near-perfect clear golden colour and smells sharp and spicy, of pine resin and raw red onion. I'm happy to say that, for once with a cold IPA, the onion does not come through to the flavour. Instead it's all very west-coast, offering lemon zest, grapefruit rind, and then a harder pine resin in the finish. The clean, presumably lagered, base gives the hops a wonderfully clear platform to work their magic from: Chinook, Mosaic, Nectaron and Hallertau Mittelfrüh, for a fun mix of American and Germanic characteristics. There's no heat from the alcohol, but the gravity gives it a lovely smooth texture, making it delightfully quaffable, despite the welly. Maybe the next one will slow me down a bit.

This is Watchdog, a double New England-style IPA. It's 7.5% ABV and very hazy -- densely yellow with a fine foam on top. The hops are a simple fruity combination of Azacca and Amarillo, and that gives it an aroma of orange-flavoured chew sweets. The flavour isn't anything so sweet, and it's almost a little... funky. Maybe the bitterness of the previous beer was still hanging around, but I didn't get any of the anticipated candy from the flavour. Instead, it's a rather hard and waxy taste, with a savoury note of fried cabbage and roasted meat. There's a stern resinous side, and a dry, plasterboard rasp. Only at the very end is there any kind of sweetness: a concentrated orange cordial effect. There's not enough character here overall, and what's there isn't especially enjoyable. Hopfully is usually much better at this sort of thing.

A chance to turn things around is Moodlift, double IPA again, with the strength boosted to 8% ABV. It's explicitly in the west coast style, and while it's the right shade of amber, is a bit hazy as well, which spoils the effect a little. Again, I think they've low-balled the hops, because there's neither zest nor zing in the aroma and flavour. Talus, Chinook and Centennial should have more of a presence than is in evidence here. It smells only slightly of orange oil and tastes of pith and coconut, a little like there's Sorachi Ace in here, but nothing so strong or distinct. Although the body is heavy and chewy, it doesn't host a big malt or hop taste, and is sadly quite plain, all told.

I like a pisco sour cocktail, and I like a sour IPA, so Hopfully looked to be catering very much to my tastes with a sour IPA called Pisco Sour. They've got the visuals spot on: an opaque yellow/orange topped with a very fine white foam. You have to supply your own Angostura bitters, however. The aroma is surprisingly savoury: smoky, like charred embers or lapsang souchong tea. On tasting, that transforms into a very mild tartness; a bite of black lime rind or the aforementioned bitters. Behind it, there's a softer fruit side, more typical of hazy IPA, suggesting peaches and apricot. According to the can it's all done fairly simply, with a mix of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops plus lime juice. That made me realise that the smoky thing is a more concentrated version of the diesel or kerosene I often get from Nelson, and it's unusual to find Citra taking any kind of a back seat. I would have liked more of its particular brand of lime sharpness, and indeed more sourness. Instead, this is a big softy, with all the fluffy texture which comes with 7.8% ABV but absolutely none of the heat. While fun and different, for sure, I question whether it should be badged as an IPA at all.

A late add at a more modest strength is Patience, a hazy IPA of 5.5% ABV. This is hopped with Chinook, Azacca, Comet and Citra so definitely shouldn't be lacking in hop character. Unfortunately, it is. The aroma is again quite bland with vanilla custard and little more than a distant squeeze of citrus. The flavour, too, is reticent, offering up minimal amounts of zest on an unforgivably thin base. The lack of hop taste leaves room for an unpleasant gritty and savoury side from the haze to creep in and muddy things up. If it were 4% ABV or less it might be understandable, even forgivable, but I know it's possible to give a beer of this strength a much more assertive and enjoyable hop side.

What happened here? The top one was glorious and then it all fell apart after that. I'll allow Hopfully an off day or two, but I hope they won't be making a habit of this.