Since Deschutes “Hopzeit” Autumn IPA was debuted, last September, it has changed that clunky transitional period between light-weight summer ales and the meatier ales of winter into a virtual slip ‘n’ slide of beery satisfaction. It is literally changing the zeitgeist of late-summer/early-autumn beer thinking. This has been a time of year in which the weather just might (especially with climate change becoming a reality that even the Far Right is having trouble denying) get hotter than blazes again. Or it might snow. Or you could have a hurricane (Harvey, for example) or straddle both, as is the usual run of things here in the Pacific Northwest.
That whiplash between your fave summer IPA or, even moreso, your default lager, to beers like Sierra Nevada “Celebration”, Deschutes’ own “Jubelale”, or Ninkasi “Sleigh’r” is a real Thang, and it used to be that very few breweries acknowledged a gap between summer and winter, except for the reflex Octoberfest. And with Hops Freaks all over the map clamoring for their lupulin fix year-round, Something had to be Done.
Leave it to Deschutes to do it.
Hopzeit is a wise, crafty, and endlessly intelligent Achievement. It takes the malty substance of a big Octoberfest and arranges a sort of shotgun marriage with buoyant NW-style hops that are Germany’s answer to our NW hops mania.
Hüll Melon, from the Hops Research Center in Hüll, Germany, (“Hopfenforschungszentrum Hüll”, is the proper name. Isn’t this one of those rare times when you’re glad you speak English?) is the wild card in this troika of Euro-inspired buds, with its strawberry and melon flavors, amply buoyed by firm doses of Sterling and Herkules, another German variety, also bred in Hüll. The Deschutes website proclaims of Hopzeit “If you’re looking for a traditional Oktoberfest, head to Munich. This modern ale inspired by the time-honored flavors of a Märzenbier combines classic malts with the latest hop varietals from Germany to deliver an herbal and balanced Autumn IPA”. And a Marzen is very much the closest style to this staunchly medium-bodied ale…but not exactly. It should go without saying, for anyone who has tasted widely in American and Euro beer styles, that a traditional German Marzen would not really fly in PNW bars. Like its cousins in the British ale culture, the German idea of “hoppy” translates to “impossibly mild” on the West Coast palate. Need proof? Buy a German Marzen and Hopzeit and taste ’em side by side. Do the same with a Brit IPA and any NW IPA. It’ll take you :02 to get that difference. Hopzeit IS, very much, in the spirit of a traditional Marzen but it is an adamantly Northwest beer. There will be enough resiny goodness here, enough bitter edginess, to satisfy even the most flannel-tongued HopHead,while keeping the malty lightness of the German original.
The flavors run to the same continuum as the first edition: melon, subtle strawberry, baking spices, fruit leathers, candied nuts, pink grapefruit, sweet herbs, and pine/spruce resins. They’re distinct and emphatic. You won’t have to hunt for any of ’em. And that resiny, bitter, crisp backbone announces itself with the first sip and evolves, on the finish, to a pretty suggestion of nutmeg and baked apples.
Hopzeit is the Perfect transitional ale from the feather-weight beers of summer to the wool blanket of the uber-popular winter warmers. It’s available from August to October, so it’s on shelves right flippin’ NOW and it’s calling your name…actually, I don’t know that for certain but it is, for damned sure, yodeling at me, even as I write this, and I plan to get up from this desk and answer that call, soon and repeatedly. This is a truly GREAT, emerging-classic autumn ale. 98 points