Breweries often like to try out some of their special creations in local tap houses before they ramp up production. So it's always great to see the demand for a beer grow to a point where the brewer feels comfortable enough to go beyond small batches.
O'so Brewing has been building a following for its India Pale Ale named Hop Whoopin', which has been showing up in select Madison bars and taverns for a little over a year. Up until the last few weeks, it was only sporadically available on draught, so enjoying it at home wasn't an option. Now the Plover-based brewery has given hopheads something to squeeze into their home refrigerator.
What is it? Hop Whoopin' from O'so Brewing of Plover, Wisconsin.
Style: This beer is what brewers call a SMASH -- a beer made with a single malt and single hop variety. With Hop Whoopin', the Summit hops dominate its two-row brewer's malt background. The beer falls into the India Pale Ale (IPA) style, which can be an intensely bitter brew, often with herbal, citrus and piney character to both aroma and flavor. IPAs are medium-bodied and often golden- to copper-colored. They range from 5.5% to 7.5% ABV. When all or at least the majority of the hops used to make an IPA are varieties grown in the United States, as with Hop Whoopin', it's given the American IPA distinction.
Background: O'so owner and brewmaster Marc Buttera says he wanted to make a beer that has layers of hops in the aroma and flavor. Summit hops, with their citrus-type bitterness, are well-suited to achieve that profile. Buttera adds about three pounds of hops for each barrel of beer. Hop Whoopin' finishes at about 7.5% ABV and about 95 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). It sells for $11/four-pack.
The beer was named by Buttera's 20-year-old son Dylan while joking around in the brewery. "We were all thinking of names like Hop Tonic and Hopadellic when he says, 'This thing is a 'Hop Whoopin,' kind of like a whoopin' you give, Dad,'" Buttera recalls.
- Aroma: Assertive tones of citrus and grapefruit from the Summit hops.
- Appearance: Bright golden, slight chill haze and a medium soft white head.
- Texture: Medium, bubbly, some sharpness from the hoppy dominance.
- Taste: The hops come on first in the aroma, and then fall back to the malt tones before coming back in the latent flavor and finishing with a dry grapefruity-bitterness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The dry bitterness is accented by some alcoholic warmth.
Glassware: The assertive hop character of Hop Whoopin' will stand up in most any beer glass. My preference with an IPA is an English pint glass, which offers a nod to the British roots of the style. This type of glass doesn't do much to enhance the flavor (of this beer or any other style), but it really shows off the brilliant golden color, and the outward bulge near the top allows better gripping for sipping.
Pairs well with: Try this beer with an entrée that has some spicy heat. It'll go very nicely with Thai food, with its curry and tones of lemongrass and lime.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Hop Whoopin' has assertive hoppiness and a citrus-hoppy nose that separates it from other boldly bitter beers. Get it while it is fresh to enjoy those hop aromas. Buttera has achieved the layering effect of the bitterness he was looking for; however, there's a separation between the initial burst of hoppy aroma and the arrival of the bitter flavor, leaving one with an impression that it's more of a strong Pale Ale than an IPA with the assertive hoppiness sought by fans of that style. In the end, it's a minor point, because this is a beer to appreciate for its aromatics, hoppy bite and dry finish.