Fans of hoppy beer might want to take note that the Stevens Point Brewery is going "Whole Hog," introducing a new line of beers that includes a Six-Hop IPA. The brewery opened in 1857, which makes it one of Wisconsin's oldest beer producers, and is well known for Point Special Lager and its iconic royal-blue cans.
But the brewery is now venturing into the specialty extreme beer market with its Whole Hog series label, beginning with two beers being sold in four-packs. First in the series is an Imperial Pilsner, the other an India Pale Ale. They both appeared in the Madison area in the past couple of weeks.
What is it? Six-Hop IPA by the Stevens Point Brewery.
Style: Six-Hop IPA is an American version of the India Pale Ale (IPA), which showcases hops that are typically American varieties. Its bitter hoppy flavor commonly emphasizes herbal and citric character. The IPA often has pale golden to deep reddish amber color. The beer is based upon a style dating back to the 1700s, when British brewers found that using lots of hops, which act as a preservative in beer, would help their beer withstand long sea voyages.
Background: For some time, Stevens Point Brewing brewmaster John Zappa and director of brewing Ken Carlson have been wanting to make a beer with a complex hoppiness. Their sights were set on meeting the popularity and current trend of big hoppy beers, so they began formulating an India Pale Ale. Their initial brew featured five different hop varieties: Cascade, Cluster, Perle, Sterling and Willamette.
The brewery isn't large enough to do complicated blind product taste testing like the big breweries, though. Their approach is to make a batch of beer and try it on the brewery staff. "We were all in the office drinking this beer, and it was like something was missing," says brewery spokesperson Julie Birrenkott. The solution? Add more hops.
A problem arose because the packaging was already on order, and it stated "Five-Hop" IPA. Owner Joe Martino told staff he didn't care if they had to go out into the brewery and cross out the "five" and write in "six" with a Sharpie marker because the beer needed more hops. While the packaging was eventually changed, the concept stuck -- and that's why the neck labels feature what looks like a last-minute hand-penned change that strikes out a "5" and inserts a six. The sixth hop added by Zappa and Carlson was Tettnanger, which gives this beer its light spicy nose.
Whole Hog Six-Hop IPA is rather hearty at 8.5% ABV. The first 100 cases began arriving in Madison just before Memorial Day weekend. The four-packs sell for about $7.
- Aroma: Firmly spicy, almost a faint herbal nose.
- Appearance: Clear copper with a thick, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Full-bodied, round.
- Taste: Firm, yet mild crisp hoppiness. Most the bitterness is toward the end of the flavor profile with a dryness that builds.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A lingering dryness that continues to build over the course of a bottle.
Glassware: This is a beautiful clear copper beer. Its floral nose is not overly assertive, just solid, and it will hold up well in the wide mouth of a schooner or mug.
Pairs well with: The sharp bitterness and lingering dryness make Six-Hop IPA a great beer with something moderately spicy such as blackened fish, grilled vegetables or even a char-grilled pork chop. Kidding aside, its hoppy bitterness will cut through the gristly and burnt edges of a chop rather nicely.
Rating: Two bottle openers (out of four).
The Verdict: I like the spicy, lingering dryness of Whole Hog Six-Hop IPA. This is a good beer arriving in time for summer cookouts and relaxing in the backyard with friends. However, hop heads who just want to feel the pain of stinging bitterness with the intensity of jalapeño pepper juice may be a little disappointed and choose to hold out for a "Seven-Hop" version.