There’s been much ado about Stone Brewing’s recent iterations of their Enjoy By IPA, and the American Homebrewers Association magazine Zymurgy just named Russian River’s Pliny the Elder as the Best Beer in America for the 5th year running. Both of these are Double IPAs, and while some worry that American brewers’ predilection for hop bombs may alienate those curious drinkers timidly dipping their toes in the craft beer waters, when done well they can be quite palatable, even enlightening, as one emerges from the Big Beer cave.
For about a month now, Houston’s own Karbach Brewery has had a new seasonal Double IPA on the shelves called Hop Delusion. Karbach’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric, and I was already impressed with their core Double IPA, Rodeo Clown, not least because it debuted as the first DIPA on the Bayou City beer scene, well before Saint Arnold came out with Endeavour (though after it had originally been released as Divine Reserve 11). Rodeo Clown has a pleasant grapefruit aroma over a balanced, 85 IBU hop profile, and remains a quaffable DIPA. Hop Delusion, however, is up there in the 100 IBU neighborhood with the likes of Pliny or Arctic Panzer Wolf from 3 Floyds. Heavily hopped with both aromatic strains and bittering, the nose can range from resinous pine to straight-up dank hydro. Where Pliny relies on Simcoe and Rodeo Clown on Citra for the high alpha acids, Hop Delusion goes with the new hop du jour, Mosaic, a descendant of Simcoe sometimes thought of as Citra on steroids. The Mosaic lends a unique profile to the beer, floral and earthy, while still delivering that aromatic resin and bitter hop bite that beer nerds crave, dripping from the pour like the Salvador Dalí inspired label promises. These days when Best DIPA votes get tossed around, the usual suspects emerge at the top of the list, including Pliny, Enjoy By, Bell’s Hopslam, etc., and I’d put Hop Delusion right up there with the best of them, along with Saint Arnold’s Endeavour, which uses Simcoe among others. At least this latter appeared on the Full Pint’s poll for Best Craft Beer of 2012.
With Hop Delusion, Karbach has again raised the profile of Houston beer and is already appearing on local best-of lists. The national stage is only a matter of time.