Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hop Head Red Ale (Green Flash Brewing Company)

After a couple of turbulent weeks during which I could not post, I am pleased to be back with a new review of a delicious beer.

Hop Head Red Ale took the gold medal in the American-Style Amber/Red Ale category at the 2008 World Beer Cup®. (The silver that year went to Hyokoyashikinomori Brewery, in case you harbored the delusion that Americans had a lock on American-style ales.)

This interests me for a couple of reasons. First, as a beer enthusiast, I'm always eager to learn about worthy breweries, and this high profile international competition is a great way for dedicated craftsmen to emerge from obscurity into the awareness of the beer-loving community.

The second reason the World Beer Cup competition interests me is because it is a chance to know the precise standards by which a beer has been judged. Below is the criteria for the American amber/red ale style from the 2010 WBC Style Descriptions document (downloadable here):

"American amber/red ales range from light copper to light brown in color. They are characterized by American variety hops used to produce medium to medium-high hop bitterness, flavor, and medium to high aroma. Amber ales have medium-high to high maltiness with medium to low caramel character. They should have medium to medium-high body. The style may have low levels of fruity ester flavor and aroma. Diacetyl can be either absent or barely perceived at very low levels. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Slight yeast haze is acceptable for bottle conditioned products."

Although I admit with sadness that I did not taste all 53 entries in the category that year, it's clear to me that Hop Head Red nails the standard yet forges its own character, and I'm not surprised it was able to take top honors.

The beer pours a dark amber. Very hazy. It produces dense, frothy root beer float-like foam that lingers all the way to the bottom of the glass, leaving behind entire curtains of lacing. The aroma is of sharp, sappy citrus, with some spice and some breadiness.

The taste very nicely balances caramel malt sweetness against heavy-hitting hops bitterness, with peppery and even slightly savory notes. The mouthfeel is quite substantial. Maybe I have rye on the brain from that delicious Red's Rye P.A. from Founders I recently consumed, but I could swear that grain's signature tang is in this brew. Just loads of flavor, and an interesting construction. I detect a little of that 7% ABV at the end.

Overall: I was sorry I had just one -- I verily nursed the last ounce to make it last. Would have enjoyed draining a few more of these and relaxing with the complexities of its flavor.

Featured beer:
Hop Head Red Ale

Honorable mentions:
Red's Rye P.A.


  1. Sweet review. I love this beer. I got it at Liquor Warehouse in Elkton.
    They didn't have much but Sonny told me he'd order more if I wanted it.

  2. Thanks for kicking this one in -- a nice find! According to the Green Flash website, this beer can be purchased at Avenue Wine & Spirits in Wilmington. I am guardedly optimistic.