Hop Rush Pale Ale at the Great Dane-Hilldale
Hoppy beer fans take note -- Hop Rush is back on tap at the Great Dane-Hilldale! This beer is more than just assertive bitterness in a glass -- it's one that speaks to fans of West Coast style pale ales. With almost an engineer's "I can build it" approach, brewer Don Vasa has designed a beer that allows the hops to shine without overwhelming the palate from too much malty body. His Hop Rush offers a flash of bitterness with nothing to hold back the onslaught of crisp resiny hoppiness.
What is it? Hop Rush Pale Ale from the Great Dane-Hilldale in Madison, Wisconsin.
Style: A medium-bodied beer, the pale ale is known for its firm, yet medium- to high-hop bitterness in flavor and aroma. English pale ales often have an herbal hop character, while American versions are more known for a citrus or resiny character. American pale ales often hold the maltiness more in the background with subdued to toasty or biscuity tones. These brews commonly range from 4.5% to 5.5% ABV. Hop Rush fits within the West Coast pale ale style, a further distinction of the American variant, for the use of U.S.-grown hops, a piney and resiny bitterness, and a crispness that minimizes the malty characteristics.
Background: The Great Dane has made this beer since 2009. It's also a beer that the brewers there occasionally talk about bottling. However, they haven't taken any steps to do that so far.
Hop Rush appears at the Great Dane-Hilldale about three times a year. It's a beer that Vasa says he enjoys making because it's one of his person favorites. Each batch can offer something to look forward to, because it's tweaked just a bit based on what hops are available at the time it's made. This year, Vasa used five different varieties of hops, that included Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, Ahtanum, Millennium, and a blended addition called Zythos.
To keep the body crisp and the focus of flavor on the bitterness from the hops, Vasa reduced the amount of malt that goes into the beer and instead added dextrose (the same type of sugar that homebrewers use to prime their beer when bottling). That additional fermentable sugar also adds slightly to the beer's strength. The beer takes about two-to-three weeks to make and finishes around 6.6 percent ABV.
The latest batch of Hop Rush should be around into late May. The Great Dane sells it for $5/pint and $10/growler (refill).
- Aroma: A firm, medium, yet still assertive, piney-hoppiness.
- Appearance: Hazy yellow-golden with a medium, soft and rocky head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and crisp.
- Taste: A sharp hoppy bitterness throughout.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Bitter finish with a light lingering dryness that eventually builds over an entire pint.
Glassware: The Great Dane serves Hop Rush in a wide-mouthed English pint glass which is great for appreciating the beer's color and effervescence. It's a beer with an enough of an assertive hoppy aroma to stand up well in such a glass.
Pairs well with: This pale ale has enough hoppy bite to pair with many flavorful dishes. Because it's a sharp bitterness, fried or heavily spiced seafood is especially nice with this beer. These dishes will be complemented by the hoppiness without being overwhelmed. From the Great Dane's menu, try it with cedar planked and chive buttered Sockeye salmon. It's also nice next to earthy cheeses.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: I have tried at least three prior versions of Hop Rush over the past couple of years, and this one seems to live up to its name best. There is so much hoppy flavor, yet the crispness almost makes me think I'm drinking a light beer. Just be careful of its 6.6% ABV. This pale ale is not an over-the-top bitter beer, but one to appreciate for its bubbly-sharp and medium bodied mouth feel that allows the piney tones to rush across the palate.