I was recently sent a bottle of the latest ‘Bit on the side‘ offering from Burleigh Brewing Company – the Hassle Hop Strong Pale Ale. This is the bottled version of the beer that Burleigh produced for the Great Australian Beer Spectapular (GABS) in Melbourne earlier this year. It was met with praise from the lucky few who were able to try it then, so now the rest of us have our chance.
What’s on the bottle?
The Hassle Hop logo is a Rubik’s Cube, which represents the puzzling nature of this brew (which also inspired me to do some puzzles while sampling it). Why is it puzzling? Long story short (just get a bottle if you want the long version) each of the Burleigh brewers had a hop that they thought was the best (Galaxy, El Dorado, Citra, Mosaic, and Belma). Instead of arguing over which to use, they’ve tried to slot all of these hops into the brew in a way that shows off their unique characters without dominating any of the others. That’s a tasty puzzle to solve…
I guess the name itself represents the ‘Hassle‘ that it was to make all five ‘Hops‘ fit nicely into the beer. Coincidently (or not) this also makes the name very similar to a certain celebrities surname – you know the guy who ran around in red board shorts saving lives, drove a talking car and sang on the Berlin Wall. I’ve got no doubt that many bottles of this beer will be sold based on this connection alone.
What’s in the bottle?
It’s immediately noticeable that they’ve done something right with the hops here. The first aroma I get is the tropical Galaxy, but that’s probably because I’m pretty familiar with what Galaxy brings to a beer. This is quickly joined by some spicy hop notes and even a little earthy smoke. In fact every time I smell it, it seems that a new hop has taken over; tropical, savoury, spicy, and even a little sweet perfume towards the end.
The flavour follows this pattern, except that all of the hop flavours are apparent in each sip. Again it starts with some tropical notes, then there’s a little citrus tang, some spice at the back of the tongue, and then a savoury quality which leads into the bitterness. At least it leads into where you expect the bitterness to kick in, except that it’s nowhere near as bitter as you’d expect. I don’t get much from the malt; it’s obviously in there somewhere but it gets lost in the maelstrom of hop flavours. The flavour lasts as well, like the beer drops the hops off on your tongue so that they can play politely while giving your senses a tickle.
It’s definitely complex. It’s definitely puzzling. It’s definitely tasty.
I wish I understood hops better! I know that there are five different varieties in this brew – the bottle even tells me what they are! But the only one I can pick with any certainty is the Galaxy. As for the others; I’m assuming the Citra added the citrus notes, the El Dorado gave the sweet perfume, and the Mosaic lent the spice. I’ve never even heard of Belma, so that on is a complete mystery to me…
With all of these hops flavours playing around, it’s amazing how mellow this beer is. Usually a beer that’s been packed with five different hops is likely to melt your tongue with an epic bitterness. But this beer…this is a lesson in restraint. Tasty restraint. It allows you to appreciate the subtleties of the hops (even if you may not understand them fully) without blowing your head off with a bitter explosion.
Now, it’s time for me to go back to hop school…