IT’S NOT WHAT one would expect from the palate wreckers at Green Flash, but until 2011 their Hop Head Red ale sported only about 6% ABV and sub-50 IBUs. Downright modest by their contemporary standards. But tastes change with the times and so today Hop Head’s profile is more aligned with its synonymous tribe: 7% ABV, 70 IBUs, and copious Amarillo dry-hopping for a pithy grapefruit bloom as soon as it hits the glass.
Equally liberal additions of Columbus and Nugget hops in the boil anchor that citric bouquet with a dense herbal dankness in both aroma and flavor. With its sticky head and medium-plus copper body, Hop Head then counters its hop punch with caramel, faint edge of roast, a spiciness that hints at rye (but probably comes rather from the hops), and slightly warming alcohol. The grain bill reportedly includes a touch of Carafa to underscore its deep red color and hone the edges of the malt center. The beer’s pungent first impression subsides near the midsection where pine and caramel run neck-and-neck before a spike of grapefruit comes through for a zesty punctuation and refreshing twist. Carbonation is rather elevated throughout, as is appropriate; much less and the hop resins, persistent pine, and size of the body would start running together. Yet the finish is unexpectedly clear—still bitter, but not harshly so and with a hint of dryness implied by that small addition of dark grains (whatever they may be). Thus Hop Head may take its foot off the gas towards the end, but it’s a welcome downshift after setting a breakneck pace from the get-go. While remaining a highly assertive beer entirely consistent with the brewery’s MO, it’s also the smoothest point of entry for those not yet accustomed to Green Flash’s need for speed.
Served: 12 oz bottle