Terrapin Brewing Co. Hop Karma

July 14, 2010

Continuing on the summer vacation day trip for beer has us heading northeast to Athens, GA, home of Terrapin Beer Company. Releasing their first creation in only 2002, Terrapin quickly established their talents by winning the Great American Beer Festival’s gold medal in the American Pale Ale category for their Rye Pale Ale. Since then, they’ve continued to test the boundaries of the craft beer market by releasing innovative brews that eschew tradition while making the most of local ingredients.

For example, Terrapin has a beer, Sunray Wheat, brewed with Georgia honey; their Monster Beer Tour series are volume-turned-up-to-eleven versions of traditional seasonal selections and their Midnight Brewing Project is an annual collaboration with Lefthand Brewing from Colorado to create a one-of-a-kind, one-time only special ale. I’m going to turn my attention to, arguably, one of their more sessionable drinks: Hop Karma Brown IPA.

A “session” beer is one without heavy textures or flavors to weigh down the drinkers’ palate and a moderate alcohol content; usually 5-7%. The combination makes it easy to drink a few without feeling too full or too woozy. But what is a brown IPA? Take a traditional English-style brown ale, redolent with toasty malts, and simply hop the heck out of it. Make no mistake, however… there’s nothing simple about Hop Karma.

It’s cocoa brown with some garnet in color. The head is huge: two fingers deep and the color of vanilla cake fresh out of the oven. Huge aromas of caramel, toasted nuts and biscuits wrestle around the citrus zest of the hops. Sweet but slightly peppery.

The flavor is a sea of big roasted grain and sweet malt with tangy hops popping its head above the surface from time to time. Caramel and orange see-saw around toffee, nuts and grapefruit. Carbonation is surprisingly light and gives it a water-smooth body making it extremely drinkable. Almost like Kostritzer or Newcastle in that it appears dark and menacing yet drinks so light and smooth. A pleasant, mild hop bitterness sticks around long after each sip.