Beer Wednesday: Hoptopia by Hermitage Brewing Co

Back with another review for Wet Wednesday. This is another tag team gchat review by Aaron and myself, just like the Le Freak review. I should warn that we are serious windbags who talk about extraneous subjects in this particular review. If the format does or doesn't do it for you I'd like to hear about it.

This week we tried Hoptopia by Hermitage Brewing Co. It is labeled as a double IPA, but as you will see below we questioned that style name. It is 8% ABV and costs $3.49 for a 22oz bottle at BevMo!, which is a pretty good price.

(photo courtesy of Aaron)

Royce: Good eventide, sir.
Aaron: Good morrow, good morrow!
See, if you want to be weird, I can be weird right back
Royce: Verily, that was weird.
Aaron: And only one of us has an English degree
Royce: So last time I was criticized for not being present enough in terms of my responses, and for not being funny enough. So I'm fully present now, baby. I'm here in mind body and spirit.
Aaron: no, no, I want to clarify
Royce: Also I just ate so I'm feeling good.
Aaron: Neither of us were funny enough...just you weren't present enough
Royce: How dare you. And I'm typing with full punctuation (which I never do on Gchat) to see if that will make me easier to read.
Ok I've decided I'm eschewing periods unless they're really necessary. They are kinda annoying
Aaron: I've already made at least a dozen grammatical mistakes, typos and/or spelling errors
Royce: Yeah you have
Aaron: correction: they're all typos because I never misspell a word
Royce: right, that's my go-to response also
damn there go the capital letters
Aaron: so we're doing this on Friday night (we'll let the readers make their own jokes about that) and the Padres-Giants game is currently tied 2-2
Royce: Oh thanks for reminding me, let me bring up the ESPN gametracker
Aaron: so the two Padres fans may have their emotions depend on an external event, rather than the beer we are about to taste
Royce: It's not televised nationally is it? Or you're in SF so you wouldn't know
Aaron: well, if it was televised nationally I would know, seeing as I live in this nation
Royce: Look pal, not all the comments can be winners
Aaron: but I don't think it is
Royce: Well gametracker is not bad
Although the commercial ESPN forces me to watch before opening it can suck a fatty
Aaron: I believe it is on locally, but my wife has the TV while I drink beer
Royce: We definitely aren't using all this right? We're going to have do some edits
No one cares if we know if the game is televised or not
I barely care, and I'm asking the question
Aaron: yes, we're using it all, with typo corrections and links inserted
good point, but it did give me a chance to take a jab at you
get the mood light
so let's bring on the beer
Royce: Gee thanks, I sure do feel great now
Aaron: Would you like to make the introduction?
Royce: We're drinking the Hoptopia double IPA by Hermitage Brewing Co
Hermitage also brewed the Ale of the Hermit that I did a mini-reaction to last week
Which the VP of Marketing for the brewery found and commented on, which was pretty cool
This brewery is based in San Jose, CA, so not far from you
Aaron: in Mountain View, actually closer to where I live than San Jose
Royce: Oh interesting, the bottle just says San Jose
Aaron: so, this beer will determine if I ever take up the VPs offer and tour the brewery
Royce: also they abbreviate Limited Partnership as L-PSHIP, which I kind of enjoyed (I'm dumb)
Anyway I just poured the beer into my trusty Sam Adams glass
There is no head on this beer
This beer is more headless than Ichabod Crane
(yes I know Ichabod Crane is not the actual headless horseman, I know you're going to correct me... it just sounded better as a one-liner)
Aaron: 1) I think that's a much stupider way to abbreviate Limited Partnership than the fairly standrad LP
2) Completely agree about no head, I had to try extra hard to create a very frothy pour and still could only get 1/4-1/2 inch
Royce: ditto
Aaron: and you were right to use Ichabod Crane
because saying this has less head than the headless horseman would just sound stupid
Royce: Thank you thank you, that joke played much better than my feeble attempts on the PGA Championship post today.
One last thing to fully set the mood – as we drink this I am listening to the most recent 4 songs posted to FIWK for Music Tuesdays: the Miike Snow song, the two !!! songs, and the i am jen song
So how does this beer smell to you?
Aaron: great hop smell
Royce: yeah
Aaron: and considering the color is a little darker than I expected, the great hop smell was a pleasant surprise
Royce: That's a good point. It actually smells exactly like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to me. A little fruitier, like orange blossoms were added in
Aaron: it reminds me of the Sam Adams Boston Lager in terms of color, but maybe a little lighter
Royce: It is kind of like a less-strong (at least half strength or less) smelling version of the Ruination IPA
Good color comparison
Aaron: now that the head has dissipated, I feel like all the smell is gone
seriously, I get nothing now
Royce: Ya it's fairly weak compared to any other double IPA I've smelled
I'm very curious what you think
Aaron: ok...have you ever had a three-flavored tin of popcorn? (give me some leeway, I'll get to a point)
Royce: Yes, every Christmas season basically
Aaron: If the Ruination was the super salty and buttery and absolutely perfect popcorn
and Le Freak is the cheesy popcorn...kind of weird, doesn't really make sense, but still tastes good
then Hoptopia is the caramel popcorn
I feel like this is kind of malty for a Double IPA, caramel color
Royce: Wait so do you like the caramel popcorn?
Or you neither like nor dislike, that's just the comparison?
Aaron: I like all the popcorns...who doesn't?
Royce: Okay phew
I almost shat a brick
Aaron: but it's not normal popcorn
Royce: Anyway I'll take this analogy; it is very malty for a double IPA. This isn't quite as "double" as most DIPAs, at least not in the standard way
Aaron: and malty isn't really a word that would be normally associated with an IPA
Royce: But you know how my palate rolls... I like malty and this beer blends the two well. The caramel maltiness gives it a really smooth flavor backbone, and then the hoppy IPA part just rides along that, and comes through in the back end of the tasting especially.
With a little bitter kick, which isn’t too much for me. I really dig that
Aaron: I almost feel like Le Freak is a higher quality beer, but this suits my personal tastes better
Royce: Oh interesting, I could see that
I prefer the Le Freak because it's more unique and kind of weird - flavor wise they are both good but in different ways
Aaron: yeah
Royce: But compared to most IPAs, which generally I am not a huge fan of, the Hoptopia I find really delicious and super drinkable
Aaron: I feel like the double IPA label is misleading
Royce: Totally agree with that
Also the name "Hoptopia" is kind of misleading on top of that, cause when I think of what Hoptopia would be like, it would be like the Utopia of Hops
Aaron: yeah, at least Hop Juice was REALLY hoppy (maybe too hoppy)
I almost feel like this should be a lager, or non-pale ale that simply has a lot of hops added
Royce: Hm... I would be fine just calling this a Pale, or even IPA, but emphasizing the malt blend
Aaron: I would rather call this beer a super hoppy ale, and get rid of the "pale" and "IPA" label
Royce: That's fine: A super hoppy ale that blends caramel malt flavors and pine needle-y hops.
I actually think the naming does this beer a disservice, because blending malt and hops flavors in a balanced way, like Hoptopia does, is very hard. It's uncommon to find it done well. So I think they should take pride in it.
Aaron: you get pine needles?
Royce: You don't?
Aaron: I see the orange blossoms you mentioned early
Royce: No pine?
Aaron: how different is caramel from maple and pine?
Royce: Well if you were to do a flow chart, it goes caramel => maple => pine
maple is closer to caramel than pine I'd say
Aaron: I guess I'd say that when I think pine I think "fresh", but this feels very processed to me
Royce: (btw, pouring my second glass… should mention we're drinking this out of a 22oz)
Ohhh interesting
Aaron: I feel like a tasting from a 22 is the default - we should mention when we aren’t drinking from a 22, like your 750ml bottle the other day
Royce: Well their Ale of the Hermit was in a 17oz bottle, for reasons unknown
750mL is fairly common... it's a wine bottle size
Aaron: true, but not beer
and that was one question the VP of Marketing chose to avoid
Royce: Ha good point, she ducked it. Like Scott ducking a Tech Thursday post
Speaking of pine needles let me know when you try the Stone Emperial IPA. I felt like I was eating a pine tree
Aaron: I starting to worry that I will never try it unless I drive down to Stone Brewery for my birthday next year (always a possibility...I've gone there for my birthday before) then I can try all the anniversary beers
Royce: Man, talk about some POWERFUL HOPS, that Emperial was pine needle all up in there. I actually thought pine needles were stabbing my mouth at one point. And pine tar would be stuck between my teeth
Have I banged this point home enough?
We're going to Stone for their 14th Anniversary Celebration next week; very excited.
Aaron: See that's the difference between an English degree and a Math/Philosophy degree
Royce: semicolons?
Aaron: pine tar stuck in the teeth
Even kind of brings around to our ongoing baseball drops
Wait, you used semi colons back there?
Royce: Yeah: " week; very excited."
I didn't actually think you meant semicolons, but that was the first quasi-joke either of us have said in at least 10 minutes. And 10 minutes = about 47,000 words of text, so I had to go for it
Aaron: oh...I went back and saw that you did you an ellipsis
Royce: Nice drop of ellipsis
Aaron: nice use of the ellipsis
Royce: Much more cultured than "dotdotdot", or "the dots"
Aaron: and now, whenever I heard the word ellipsis, I think back to the poker scene in West Wing
Royce: Haha… too bad West Wing doesn't exist on YouTube, so we can't link that up (to quote Gary V)
Aaron: it does...occasionally
Royce: Yeah very rarely. Zero chance the poker scene exists on YouTube
Aaron: like here
Royce: Oh that's awesome
Aaron: This is the scene that got Jessica and I to marathon it for the first time
Royce: Oh amazing, yes. That is one of the top 3 tour de force moments from the West Wing. Or as they are otherwise known, the "got me into the West Wing for the first time" moments.
My moment was the ".22 caliber mind in a .357 magnum world" episode
Aaron: accidentally poured way too much head on my second pour, and it's almost gone already
Royce: Oh interesting I did exactly the same. Yeah it went away in about 6 seconds
Hey real quick on the West Wing - is there a story behind the Jackal?
Did it turn out Allison Janney was amazing at that or something? And that's why they used it?
Aaron: yes, Allison Janney was doing that on set off camera
and Aaron Sorking wrote that scene in for her. Sorkin talked about it in an interview...somewhere
Royce: I see
I can't find the 22 caliber mind scene on YouTube
but here's a conceptually similar scene, the "Crime, boy I dunno" scene
Aaron: See...that's why West Wing is so great
the great part isn't the line Bartlett uses (although the 22 caliber mind is slightly better), it's later in the episode when CJ figures out that he said that intentionally
Royce: Yes, exactly. It's the end of the episode. CJ realizing it (and, therefore, the viewer realizing it) was the moment that made me say "oh shit! what a cool show!"
… and yes, this was during a Bravo West Wing marathon
Aaron: so final thoughts on the beer?
Royce: Okay! So! Beer...
Haha nice transition
Yeah my final thought is I recommend it to people who are attracted to a beer that combines pale ale hops and a malt backbone
It probably isn't for all palates but it makes for an interesting drink, and I personally enjoy it
Aaron: I'm going to say that I will look up the VP of Marketing and see if I can tour the brewery and try their other beers, but I probably won't be buying this 22 again
I'm glad I tried it once
Royce: I would have no problem trying this again and sharing it with a beer aficionado.
For instance our mutual friend who’s a beer fan
Aaron: I feel like this is for people that want to pretend to be hopheads
Royce: Haha woah - I feel the opposite
Aaron: they can say they are drinking a Double IPA, but really it's not
Royce: I feel like this is for people like me. Who KNOW they aren't hop heads but still enjoy a nice hop balance in some beers.
Is that fair?
Or am I overstating how cool I am?
Aaron: actually I think we are saying the same thing
Royce: Haha maybe. Are you calling me a double IPA faker?
Aaron: it's for people who aren't as big fans of hops as I am...but still a good hoppy beer that is closer to beers they normally like
Royce: Very well said.
I think the record will indicate that not only was I fully present for this review, but I was much funnier than you.
Aaron: probably so
I tried making jokes at your expense and they just didn't work as well


  1. I once again forgot to mention that our gchat review style mirrors closely the format often employed by Lost in the Beer Aisle when he tag teams guest reviews. So thank you for inspiration. We do not do this as well as you.

  2. I think the ratebeer score for Hoptopia tells an interesting tale... it received an 83 (out of 100) overall but a 24 for the style.

    Considering the discussion Aaron and I had about how this isn't really a double IPA, but more of a fusion of processed pine hops, maple, and malty caramel flavors from different styles. Which is not a bad thing - just not reminiscent of a double IPA style.

  3. I would completely agree with the ratebeer distinction. Good beer, bad name.

  4. Lost in the Beer Aisle just posted another review in this format of the Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout. Aaron, I think they are better than us. We should just be honest about it.

  5. No way! Other than the very impressive use of the word 'lacing' we can totally take them. Maybe their beer review is a little better, but we have tangents and asides and allegories. And we at least attempt to make jokes. If they were trying to be funny, it came off as a British sense of humor...and no one likes that.

  6. Holy poop this is long.

    I take offense to the Scott ditching Tech Thursday part. Other than that - good show!

  7. Hi Guys,
    It's me the marketing gal again. This. Is. Hilarious. While this is a DIPA, we are thinking of switching it to just say it's an IPA, since there are so many super duper hoppy IPAs out now. As for the name, I had nothing to do with it! :)
    Offer to tour the brewery still stands. We have a new brewer, Greg, who has done a ton to increase the quality of our beer. I'd love to set up a tasting. Hit me up!

  8. It was fun to read this a year after we wrote it. I still think our asides and allegories hold up well. We should do it again with a different beer. You know, if I can ever find time between having a kid and fantasy football.

  9. Carolyn, I agree it's wise to switch the name away from a DIPA. Or if you really want to be creative with naming, call it something weird. Make a virtue of its unique flavoring, similar to how the above-mentioned Le Freak by Green Flash Brewing does.

    Aaron are you going to take up Carolyn's offer to tour the brewery? Hermitage is one of my favorite 'under the radar' breweries. I find them to be hit or miss, but I very much appreciate that they go for interesting styles (kind of like a milder Dogfish Head or something).

    Take a look at their Beer List... pretty interesting. Did you know they are the ones behind the Coastal Fog beers you see at BevMo?

    I personally have enjoyed their Ale of the Hermit and Maltopia quite a bit. I've had all the other beers as well, and I can say that Ale of the 2 Tun and Maltopia are worth trying if you like the styles.

    Correction - I have not had Menage a Singe. Sounds interesting. Aaron that might be a good one for a combo review sometime. Those were a LOT of fun (although I wonder if there's a more efficient way to do it).