Victory Brewing Hop Wallop

August 31, 2011

Wallop. Verb. To beat soundly or thrash. To strike with a vigorous blow. I remember my dad threatening to “wallop” me once when I was a kid. Probably had something to do with the placement of Hot Wheels into an operating garbage disposal. My memory’s a little fuzzy on that one. Let’s move along.

I was asked recently what I thought was an overrated trend in beer. Without hesitation I answered over-loaded IPA that only showcases hops and nothing else. As American palates tend to seek out the newest and biggest, I feel as if they’re missing something along the way. As far as I’m concerned, mountains of hops for hops’ sake in beer are a marketing gimmick that encourages people to approach beer the wrong way.

I’ll put it this way: it’s like eating a chocolate bar that is pure cocoa nib. No sugar, no butter, no cream. When a brewer showcases only one aspect of a beer, especially an ingredient so powerful and overwhelming, everything else is lost; it might as well not even be there.

Brewers know that there are easily cajoled buyers out there who will go nuts over ale brewed with Summit and Simcoe hops, international bitterness unit rating of 100+ and alcohol content somewhere slightly south of moonshine. The consumers need to ask themselves why they turn into drooling Hoover vacuums at the thought of it. Why? Three words: there’s no balance.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m as much of a hop-head as they come. A great and memorable beer is always going to exhibit balance, however. Give me that massive pine and grapefruit, sure, but I want some malt sweetness to even it out. Conversely, if it’s a malt monster then I expect a twinge of bitterness towards the finish. It’s all about keeping the mouth, and your taste buds, interested. The more there is to consider in the flavor profile the better.

One ale that’ll deliver the goods in a nicely balanced package is Hop Wallop from Victory Brewing. Going by the definition above, there are plenty of vigorous blows this beer delivers to your senses. With pretty yellow-orange color and heaps of fluffy foam head, Hop Wallop smacks you in the nose with a combination of pine and citrus and a tiny undercurrent of sweet candy sugar and dried herbs. Loads of pineapple, mint, pine and floral hops are evened out by mellow caramel malt sweetness. Even the texture is two things at once providing both stickiness and crisp carbonation. Finally, the alcohol is a not-very-ridiculous 8.5% and the brewers kept the IBUs in check at a session-able 70.