Furthermore Beer is unveiling its latest brew this fall in select beer tap houses and release parties throughout Madison. The Spring Green-based brewer is going local with Hopperbollic, a hoppy India Pale Ale made with entirely Wisconsin-grown hops. Its name is a pun on the mathematical formula for a hyperbolic curve, and it might just bring a smile to hop heads looking for an over-the-top bitter beer.
What is it? Hopperbolic from Furthermore Beer of Spring Green, Wis.
Style: The India Pale Ale (IPA) emphasizes the bitterness of hops, which provide herbal and citrus character. IPAs are based upon a beer style that emerged in the 1700s, when British brewers found that using a high amount of hops would help preserve their beer, allowing it to withstand long sea voyages to India and elsewhere in the British Empire. When all, or at least the majority, of the hops used to make an IPA are varieties grown in the United States, it may carry the American IPA distinction. IPAs are medium-bodied and often golden- to copper-colored. They range from 5.5% to 7.5% ABV.
Background: Hopperbolic is made with hops harvested within 20 miles of Spring Green. Brewery co-owner Chris Staples calls the new beer a tribute to the return of hop growing in Wisconsin. In the mid-1800s, Wisconsin boasted the largest hop harvest in the nation, and nearby Sauk County led the state in production.
Furthermore Beer contracts with the Sand Creek Brewery in Black River Falls to make the beer. This fall, it is releasing only about 50 barrels of Hopperbolic, an amount based on the local hop yield. The hop varieties include a blend of Mt. Hood, Cascade and Nugget, which are processed by Gorst Valley Hops in Sauk County. Furthermore and Gorst Valley worked throughout the year with local growers to ensure that the hops met certain conditions. Once harvested, the growers were responsible for drying the hops before Gorst did the quality testing, blending, and pelletizing for their use in brewing.
Furthermore bought nearly all of Gorst Valley's commercial yield from 2010, choosing not to add hops from other regions of the U.S. -- thus the claim to an all-local hop-harvested ale. "The beer's recipe is tied to the harvest, so when Gorst Valley has more hops, we'll make more beer," says Staples.
That also means the flavor profile of Hopperbolic might change from year to year depending on the freshness, variety and quality of local hops. Gorst Valley director Jim Altwies encouraged Furthermore to do test batches because the freshness of the hops and how they are processed can dramatically influence how they are used to make different styles of beer. "When I tasted it I could detect each variety and what each brought to the beer," said a pleased Altwies.
Hopperbolic finishes at 6% ABV. Its hoppiness is estimated at 75 IBUs (International Bittering Units); by comparison the most popular American Lagers are less than 25 IBUs.
Hopperbolic is being released initially on local draft (tap) accounts. Two additional batches of Hopperbolic were slated to be brewed this week, from which the bottled products will come. Six-packs will likely turn up on local shelves by December, selling for around $10. If you're looking for it on tap, Staples says you'll want to check the local beer hangouts like the Malt House, Old Fashioned, Brasserie V, and as a guest tap at Vintage Brewing.
- Aroma:Citrus-type hoppiness.
- Appearance: Hazy vivid orange-copper, with a medium soft and tan-colored head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and course mouthfeel.
- Taste: The hops come in early in the aroma and stay around, for a solid bitterness, along with a fairly solid malty backbone and a dryness that really stands out.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A light grassy bitterness, with a lingering dryness.
Glassware: When picking up a six-pack, make sure to get it out of the bottle to appreciate its color and assertive hoppy nose. My preference is the tall and crystal-clear Willi Becher, with its inward bow in the upper third of the glass, to bring attention to the beer's brilliant orange-copper color and the citrus aroma.
Pairs well with: You know you have a good IPA when it competes with spice and seasonings. The strong hoppy bitterness of Hopperbolic, and especially its lingering dryness, stands up to pizza or even blackened entrees from the grill.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Hopperbolic is indeed bitter, but hop heads might call my earlier reference to its being "over-the-top" as a bit of hyperbole! The beer is distinctive in its hoppy character, but it's not overly aggressive. Yet there is a forceful dryness that adds to its enjoyment. Its citrus hoppy aroma drew me in, and the lingering dryness held me, making me want another. There are hints of grassy and earthy floral qualities throughout its flavor profile. That's not a fault, but evidence of the recently harvested and processed hops. It's the mark of a talented brewer with the confidence to tweak the recipe to compensate for fall fresh hops.
Hopperbolic is a great tap beer, and let's all hope that the bottle release is every bit as good. If so, it'll be in my fridge for my hoppy beer friends in time for holiday parties. This brew has solid assertive bitterness, and I give it some extra love because I'm one who appreciates locally grown and locally made products.