Hopback Summer Lightning & Marston India Pale

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Jon Walker
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Postby Jon Walker » Tue Aug 07, 2001 11:18 pm

I was briefly in the Queen's Quay liquor store and a clerk was busy clearing shelf space and putting up product labels for Marston IPA and Hopback summer lightning. He seemed to think the product would be shelved before the official Saturday release, maybe as early as Thursday.

It's speculation at this point but if you happen to go down there prior to Saturday it'd be worth having a look just in case.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Jon Walker on 2001-08-08 00:18 ]</font>
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Postby Cass » Wed Aug 08, 2001 8:10 am

I work near the Manulife Centre, so perhaps I'll wander down there to see if anything's out yet.

Definitely looking forward to the Hopback - should be a good "heat emergency" beer!
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Postby Josh Oakes » Wed Aug 08, 2001 10:47 pm

Speakings of 'heat emergency' beers - I pulled a couple of beauties from my cellar to mark the occasion - a little Schultheiss Berliner Weisse and Rodenbach Alexander. I can't believe they didn't bring the Schultheiss back this year - a world classic for less than two bucks a bottle? I drank more than my fair share last year. But then, I guess this year we get Cooper's Sparkling, which isn't bad.
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Postby esprit » Thu Aug 09, 2001 9:14 am

I urge you all to stock up on the Hop Back Summer Lightning and not just because we sell it. We poured it at the Ottawa fest a few weeks ago and it was a big hit. A truly refreshing bottle-conditioned ale and perfect for this weather. VINTAGES only bought 270 cases of 12 X 500ml bottles so I know that it won't be around long since we've already got orders for about 40 cases from various licensees and individuals who have asked us to round it up for them. It makes me glad that our Cooper's is on General List and will be around permanently (we hope!). So far the response to Cooper's has been fantastic. Both the Toronto Star and Toronto Life will be doing small features on it which will hopefully bring to the attention of thousands of readers.
This weather is also tailor-made for Brussels White and we see it flying off the shelves as well. I only hope it cools down for the weekend like they say it will as I would not be looking forward to spending 3 days at Fort York in this kind of weather. Hope to see you all there. Drop by our booth and say hello (booth is under the name BEERS OF THE WORLD)!

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Postby Cass » Mon Aug 13, 2001 10:16 am

Anyone tried this yet? I picked up some today at Manulife, and I'm looking forward to a sample tonight.
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Postby Josh Oakes » Mon Aug 13, 2001 10:32 am

Yes, I had it and was disappointed. Peter knows I was fired up about this one, so I'm not just ragging on it. It has a pleasant malt note (always love the Maris Otter) and a refreshing effervescence, but not nearly enough flavour overall (and hop in particular) for my tastes. I understand part of its reputation comes from the fact that it was a pioneer of sorts in England, being the original golden summer ale. Well, maybe everyone else will love it, but I prefered the St. Peter's Organic or the Broughton Organic Gold.
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Postby Manul » Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:50 am

Entirely subscribe to Josh's opinion on this particular one. Anyway I bought a whole case since it's a rare occurence on the canadian market.
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Postby Jon Walker » Mon Aug 13, 2001 12:04 pm

I bought a case and with friends we drank most of it this past weekend so this opinion is given after tasting more than just a single bottle.

I too would concur with the other reviews posted above. The beer has almost no hop nose either in the bottle or after pouring. It has a pleasant murky golden hue (from the bottle conditioning yeast) and good head retention. The taste is pleasing enough with nice, subtle malt and sweet hop notes but without much of a lingering hop finish. It simply isn't the high IBU hop flavor I was expecting. Overall it is a pleasant summer beer but as far as English imports I would recommend the Trafalgar IPA over this one.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Jon Walker on 2001-08-13 14:27 ]</font>
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Postby Josh Oakes » Mon Aug 13, 2001 7:15 pm

Well, one thing I did forget to mention is that while I was disappointed with the product I was very happy just to see it. To get beers of such reputation in, even if it is just a few cases for a trial run, that's what I like to see. For every disappointment, I've had two pleasant surprises. So overall it works out pretty good.

It's too bad we're done with Vintages now, but that September release looks pretty solid.
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Postby Cass » Tue Aug 14, 2001 10:09 am

I tried the Hopback last night. Although I did find it to be a pleasant brew, it unfortunately did not live up to the hype. However, as Josh mentioned it was great to see it released, and I will enjoy the bottles I have remaining.
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Postby esprit » Tue Aug 14, 2001 7:12 pm

I'm really sorry to hear that all of you are disappointed with the Hop Back. I think it's great...it does exactly what it sets out to do and that is provide a flavourful and refreshing summer ale. Comparisons to English ales in general are not fair as the brewery is trying to create a specific style. As previously posted, CAMRA's Great British Beer Fest recognizes this product as one of England's finest based upon the awards they won just a week ago or so...tells me that they're doing something right and that people do appreciate it. I believe that this product will have broad appeal in Ontario and perhaps turn a few novices on to British bottle-conditioned ales and we hope to see the Summer Lightning or perhaps their Thunderstorm (wheat beer) in the LCBO for next summer.
To those of you who dropped by our booth at the beer fest, thanks and sorry we couldn't talk. Saturday was an absolute zoo as you could probably tell from the sweat pouring down my face. We had a great reaction to the Cooper's and Brussels White and many people were happy to hear about the return of the Samuel Smith Nut Brown and Pale Ale in a couple of weeks. As always, the Mort Subite fruit lambics were an overwhelming success, especially with the ladies....this is always the case at these festivals yet it never seems to translate into retail sales for us...oh well.
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Postby Josh Oakes » Tue Aug 14, 2001 8:27 pm

I think with the Hopback the British are bigger on it because light, golden ales are pretty new to them (Summer Lightning being the first if my info is correct). Up here, we obviously drown in the stuff, even if most of it is utter crap. I've had four or five of the British golden ales and they really brew the style better than many North American micros do (even the good ones). Rogue's Honey Cream Ale fits right in with what the British are doing.

CAMRA in particular has every right to be fired up about a beer that could convert the more civilized lager drinkers over to real ale.

But the reaction here (at least on the forum) reminds me of the 1996 Oregon Brewers Festival. A lot of hype going in was about the Australian micro Redback Cloudy, a German wheat. A highly-regarded pioneer in its homeland, it had everybody's eye when the festival opened. It's a pretty good example of the style, but nothing mind-blowing. People were pretty disappointed with the beer, but the reality is that German-style wheats were not the novely there that they were in Oz. (And unfortunately for the Aussies, Tabernash also brought their Weisse to the fest, and it happens to be IMO the best in the world).

That's my theory on why the British are much bigger on it than us here. It may, however, go over well with the general populace, who already drink a lot of cream ales and premium lagers. And Hopback is better than most of those beers (like I said, love that Maris Otter).

The other thing is about the Sam Smith's Pale and Nut Brown. Didn't your guy just drop some off at a certain bar I've been known to frequent just tonight?
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Postby Lyle » Tue Aug 14, 2001 9:51 pm

not to bust anyone's chops, but...

Summer Lighting is a damn fine beer.

Don't get me wrong - I love a big glass of cascades, with the aromatic linalool and geraniol compounds exploding in my face, and the unmistakeable citric punch of N. American C-hops. In fact, I have rabid vines of centennials overgrowing my second story balcony as we speak - they're like 25 feet tall!!!

As I read your anticipatory emails prior to the release of Summer Lighting, I was worried that you guys were going to have the reaction that you did - that you were expecting something else.

However, all you hop-feinds need to practice a little more "hop appreciation." Get excited about the subtle nuances between varietals. Work at it a little. Train your tongue to pick out the subtle complexities that hops add to a beer, without needing to be hit over the head with the next huge alpha-acid IPA on the market!

Here's the story on Summer Lighting. The brewery has been producing the beer since 1987 or '88 (I don't remember which). It was originally brewed for a Summer beer festival. At that time, it was true that it was considerably lighter in color than most British pale ales. However, that is really no longer the case. On my trip to the U.K. last year, I tasted dozens of similarly pale straw brews.

Summer Lighting is a pint of "pure English." The beautifully delicate floral and slightly herbal/piney character of EKG's is unmistakeable and fantastic. This is the PERFECT hop for balancing the Maris Otter Pale Malt and the brewer exercised expert restraint with his palette of ingredients.

As most brewers will tell you, Maris Otter is one of the most delicate of the pale base malts. It takes a very light touch with the specialty grains and hops to allow the faint toasty-biscuity character to shine through.

Summer Lightning was obviously brewed by a true master brewer. The delicate balance is absolutely perfect. I'm sure that the CAMRA judges appreciated it for exactly what it was, and I PROMISE - they have a lot of similar style brews to compare it to.

Certainly, some of my favorite beers are crazy hopped N.American IPA's - but I'll tell you - they're really not that hard to brew. I've judges the American IPA category at several homebrew competitions and - aside from a few exceptions - they are usually all pretty great - but often all remarkably similar (and many have enough alpha to strip paint).

Sometimes, the FUN beers are the ones you have to sit and think about. Really TEST your tastebuds and especially your nose. Learn something from your beer.

Incidentally, the Thunderstorm - which it sounds like Esprit is considering importing into Canada, is single-hopped with Progress. Who can tell me what this hop tastes like?

Two suggestions for you incurable IPA-addicts:
1. Buy a little bottle of hop-oil to carry around in your back pocket. No joke - they sell them at most homebrew supply stores and I know a few people who do this. When you need a quick fix, a few drops in a Labatt's will actually do the trick.
2. There are going to be plenty of crazy-hopped IPAs at the Buffalo Brewfest. I MEAN CRAZY. Hope to see you there...



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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Lyle on 2001-08-15 08:43 ]</font>
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Postby esprit » Wed Aug 15, 2001 8:43 am

Lyle, thanks for saying so eloquently whati was trying to convey to the forum participants and I concur totally that sometimes it seems that "beer" people expect to be hit over the head with a hammer in order to consider a brew to be great. It is in fact the subtlety of Hop Back which I appreciated when I first tasted it.
As for any bar having Sam Smith prior to release, I wouldn't know anything about that...nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Peter
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Postby Jon Walker » Wed Aug 15, 2001 9:34 am

Lyle,

I think your assertion that those of us who expressed dissappointment with Summer Lightning have uneducated palettes is unfair. Granted I am a "hophead" and IPA is my preference but I am sophisticated enough to be able to appreciate the complexities and subtleties of other types of beer. To imply that I'm not and this is the reason I couldn't recognize the quality of Summer Lightning is naive and a little insulting. This beer while good (reread my post, I didn't say the beer was bad)wasn't what I was hoping for, or more to the point PRAYING for.

You must remember Lyle, while you have Premier Gourmet importing dozens of quality "huge" IPA's into your region the LCBO imports...are you ready...NONE. The closest we come to IPA is the Trafalgar I mentioned and now the Marston's. Domestically not a single micro-brewery that distributes in this province produces anything that even comes close to an IPA (St.Ambroise Pale Ale coming about the closest). I think you'll agree none of these are particularly good examples of the IPA style. So your quote;

"Train your tongue to pick out the subtle complexities that hops add to a beer, without needing to be hit over the head with the next huge alpha-acid IPA on the market!"

...just doesn't seem valid in a "market" that doesn't have a "next huge" IPA coming out because it hasn't had a "first" yet. I don't think it's wrong to crave what we don't have. I also don't think it's wrong to have expected a beer from a brewery called "Hopback" and one that Peter informed us had won a Strong Bitters-Gold Medal to be a little more assertive in its hop flavor.

At the end of the day I know a fair amount about beer and more importantly I know what I like. I may not have the refined palette that you do Lyle but that shouldn't invalidate my opinion as being uneducated. Beer appreciation needn't adopt the elitism and snobbery of wine or scotch appreciation.

And to answer your question, Progress is an aroma hop bred from a Whitbread Goldings variety. It has a flavor similar to Fuggles but slightly sweeter. Did I pass the test?

Regards,
Jonathan Walker

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