Hoppy New Year

Now that the holidays have thankfully passed, we beer drinkers can focus on the year ahead. American beers are often extreme versions of their European counterparts, particularly our strong ales. American craft brewers continue to push the envelope for beers that are bigger, fuller in flavor, and have more bitter and aromatic hops and a higher alcohol content. East Bay brewers like Triple Rock and Drakes, and pubs like The Bistro in Hayward celebrate the full flavors of our evolving domestic beer palate.
Last Friday, Drakes held its monthly open house with some of its deliciously hoppy strong ales, including Hop Salad and Jolly Rodger, by former Drakes and current Triple Rock head brewer Rodger Davis. Hopocalypse, alas, was nowhere in evidence. Triple Rock bought Drakes last year and the company has big plans for the year ahead.
Hop Salad (pictured) is a delicious Imperial/double IPA, with two-row malted barley and Simcoe and German Magnum hops. The hop aroma is somewhat restrained. It’s plenty hoppy on the mouthfeel, but nicely balanced with a firm malt backbone. Drakes’ blog points out: “Simcoe hops are mostly for bittering, but have a clean, light pine-like aroma, and a slight citrusy flavor. Alpha acids 12-14%. German Magnum hops don't have much of a distinct aroma character, and are therefore often used as bittering hops. Alpha acids 12-14%.”
Jolly Rodger (nee “Roger”) is also a very tasty, hop-forward beer, very much reminiscent of Rodger Davis’ brewing style while he was at Drakes. The brewery describes Jolly Rodger as an Imperial Red. “We brew a different style for Jolly Rodger every year. For the 21st edition of our winter seasonal, we made it an Imperial Red Ale. Be prepared for a big, malty beer with a huge hop aroma. We mashed in with plenty of two-row barley, carared and chocolate malt for body and flavor. Then we hopped it up with Columbus for bittering, then for flavor and aroma– lots of Chinook and Cascade. Finally, we dry hopped in the fermenter with loads more Chinook and Cascade.”
Good news for beer drinkers: Drakes is bottling Jolly Rodger this year, so look for it at your favorite quality beer store.
When the beer in your glass gets colder as you drink it, it just might be a sign that it’s time to go indoors. The Bistro in Hayward is cozy, warm and serves great beer under the careful scrutiny of beer master Vic Kralj. On weekends, the Bistro is hopping with live music and an even livelier beer list. Last Friday, Bistro celebrated the release of Sierra Nevada’s popular Hoptimum double IPA.
Sierra Nevada describes Hoptimum as a community effort:
“A group of hop-heads and publicans challenged our Beer Camp brewers to push the extremes of whole-cone hop brewing. The result is this: a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Simply put- Hoptimum: the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced. Aggressively hopped, dry-hopped and torpedoed with our exclusive new hop varieties for ultra-intense flavors and aromas.
“Hops, hops and more hops are the stars of this big, whole-cone Imperial IPA. Resinous ‘new-school’ and exclusive hop varieties carry the bold and aromatic nose. The flavor follows the aroma with layers of aggressive hoppiness, featuring notes of grapefruit rind, rose, lilac, cedar and tropical fruit – all culminating in a dry and lasting finish.”
Beer specs:
ABV: 10.4%
Original Gravity: 22.8 Plato
Final Gravity: 4.5 Plato
Bitterness Units: 100 IBU
Color: Orange Amber
Bittering Hops: German Magnum
Aroma Hops: Simcoe & New Proprietary Variety
Dry Hops: Simcoe & New Proprietary Variety
Topedo Hops: Citra & Chinook
Malts: Two-row Pale, Golden Promise, Munich & Wheat
Yeast: Ale

Hoptimum pushes beer to its extreme hoppy limits, but its statistics belie its drinkability. Every hop head needs to give it a try. Hoptimum also is scheduled to be bottled.

After all those hoppy ales, it was time to shift gears a bit, and The Bistro had the perfect night cap beer: the sublime Abyss from Deschuttes Brewery in Oregon. Abyss is an Imperial Stout with a ridiculous profile of flavors that evolve as the beer warms in the glass. Anise, chocolate, espresso and bourbon are just a few of the flavors drinkers ascribe to this incredible beer.

Drakes Brewing Co.
1933 Davis St Ste 177
Beecher St & Phillips Ln)
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 568-2739

The Bistro
1001 B St
(between Foothill Blvd & Main St)
Hayward, CA 94541
(510) 886-8525


  1. How late did you stay at Drakes' First Friday event? I got there around 7:00 and I thought they had tapped the Hopocalypse (over in the smaller of the two serving areas.) Least-wise, it tasted more like that than the Salad. (I was actually most impressed with the Chinookian - one of the netter interpretations of a "Cascadian" ale I've had.)

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