Jack’s Abby’s Hoponius Union – A Hoppy Revelation
Here is an article from our Boston intern Jordan. He shares with us his experience at Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham, MA. If you are interested in writing for The Full Pint, please follow this link. Cheers!
I must admit I’ve always felt drawn to the mystique of hoppy beers. Something about the variety of descriptors one can associate with the flavor of these bitter brews feels exotic and mystical. Perfumey, fruity, flowery, citrusy, piney, spicey… In my head, the complex flavors vortexing their way around my tongue, the foreign origins of the India Pale Ale, and the sedative effects of Humulus Lupulus threaten to transports me in spirit to an ethereal lounge while I sip on this elixir.
And yet all of my idle romanticizing is often for naught. I find many hoppy brews to be too pucker-inducing and too bitter as I am overwhelmed with a tsunami of indistinguishable ‘hoppiness’. Sure a lot of these beers taste a little different, but where is the character, I ask you? I need a subtle tickling of the tongue not a brutal punch. Oftentimes I even wonder why I insist on straining my taste buds in an effort to tease out the different flavors I thought these beers were made of.
Well, luckily for me, some fine people in Framingham, MA – just outside of Boston – seem to be on the same page. Jack’s Abby produces beer made in the Germanic tradition – that is they produce only lagers (notice I shy from using IPA in these descriptions because technically this would be an IPL – India Pale Lager). Perhaps most impressively, they have a family farm in Vermont in which they grow the bulk of their hops. They claim to strive to use as many local ingredients as possible. I heard through the beer freak wire, note that I couldn’t find anything solid to back this up though, that Jack’s Abby brews Hoponius Union until they run out of this Vermont stock of hops for the year. Quite the noble endeavor indeed, regardless of the truth in this hearsay. Anyway, that was enough motive for me to run out and grab a four pack of this brew, which is notably bottled in odd 0.5 L bottles.
You must be saying by now, “Enough of this all this frilly beating around the bush! What about the beer?” Well, remember all those descriptive adjectives that I said I yearned for and never really taste in hoppy beers? Finally, I taste them. As soon as I pop the cap off a bottle of Hoponius Union, a waft of citrus floats through the room. Promising, but not enough for me to relieve the skepticism I approach hoppy beers with. The pour is a light, hazy copperish orange. The nose is really where I started to find myself flipping to the hoppy side. Oh man, for one of the first times I can exclaim something other than just ‘really hoppy’. Orange, lime, grapefruit, oh my! Ripe juicy fruit galore. I’m starting to feel taken by this beer. And that’s just the first whiff. Upon further sniffing, fresh, sharp piney notes appear. I hesitate to take that first sip. Are my hopes about to be dashed by another muddled ‘hop bomb’? And then, before I know it, the first sip is done and I’m going in for a second and then a third and then another bottle. Jack’s Abby what beauty you have created. As it hits the tongue, the beer keeps up with the west coast hop profile of the citrus in the nose, but to me, the sharper pine predominates the taste. And when I say sharp, I mean it. Like a knife it cuts into the palate and goes clean and smooth. That lingering bitterness I’ve expressed my distaste for is not here in the slightest. After each sip, the tongue feels refreshed, begging for another sip. The lager yeast, fermented at a lower temperature as to suppress any significant ester formation, provides a clean framework for the hops to float upon. There is a slight bready note from the malt that is just enough to hold the weight of the lushness of the hops.
I know that the center of this discussion has been the merits of the hoppiness of this beer, but don’t go thinking this is some 9%, million-IBU destroyer. Weighing in at 6.7% alcohol and 65 IBUs, Hoponius Union falls in the middle of the pack stat-wise for hoppy beers. Let me emphasize stat-wise in that last sentence because the taste, for me and I’m sure many others, cements this one as alpha dog. Jack’s Abby proves that while some breweries distinguish themselves with outlandish beers, a refined, carefully constructed beer will best these any day. Truly a revelation.