A little background: Lemondrop is a new variety of hops, from the estimable Hopsteiner of Yakima, a lab that hybrids and propagates little miracles like this with the same casual brilliance that Mozart displayed in writing music. Of his musical gift, Wolfgang once said, “I write music as a sow piddles.”
Hopsteiner lights up ales “as a sow piddles“.
Lemondrop started its flamboyant little life as Hopsteiner Experimental Hop #01210. I first encountered it in a leading role in Deschutes’ unforgettable Chasin’ Freshies, back in late October of 2015, and as a supporting actor even earlier, in Stone’s groundbreaking “Delicious” IPA, in January of ’15. It’s a hybrid of the workhorse Cascade and USDA 19058 male…and what that latter hop may lack in poetry, it more than makes up in intense aromas and a very deliberate evocation of every atom of the hops world’s ability to express fresh, vivid lemons. This is very much a designed hop. It’s not at all accidental that this explosive bud makes your beer taste like LemonHeads candy and/or candied lemon rind. Lemon is one of those universally harmonious flavors that flatters and enhances almost anything combined with it. And that bright, fresh lemon character lit up both Chasin’ Freshies and Delicious in an unmistakably new way. Even craft beer newbies tasted those beers and detected something new and different.
And in this new offering from the resurgent Pyramid, the showy Lemondrop takes on a character unlike any its been coaxed into yet and turns a regular seasonal beer release into a mic drop of epic proportions.
Just lately, I’ve tasted some ales in which the hops profiles varied so radically from the usual run of aroma/bittering that they practically have become another style of beer altogether.
I tasted very briefly at Ale Industries of Oakland, week before last, where brewmaster Morgan Cox poured me a gorgeous, near-unforgettable fruited ale called “La Niña Fresa”, a spontaneously fermented beer brewed with pineapples, using the naturally occurring brettanomyces and lactobacillus on the skin. As opposed to most tart ales, La Niña didn’t finish with the same acidic tang and almost wince-inducing sourness. It made this lovely, totally unexpected U-turn back from the initial tartness and delivered a creamy, mouth-filling caramelized-malt finish that balanced perfectly with the slight sour to produce a beer that I find myself dreaming of at night. The same happens here, in Pyramid Lemondrop Citrus Pale Ale, and the total effect is something which, I believe, is going to send both veteran craft fans and total newbies into a full-blown case of Happy Feet.
The lemon character of this ale recalls lemon buttercream frosting, right down to a fine-grained feel that conjures up confectioner sugar melting on the tongue. The lemon flavor is all-encompassing and perfectly fresh. There is a light and beautifully appropriate edge of resiny bitterness to this ale but it’s so subtle and so well-integrated that it wouldn’t even offend a confirmed BudMillerCoors drinker. And the addition of a modest amount of actual fresh lemon peel enhances and amps up the lemon punch and helps it finish clean and crisp. But what lights up the flavors of this splendid stuff is the combination of 2-row malt, Flaked Wheat, Flaked Oats, and toasted Rice Hulls. It gives the beer a bewitching malt character that stays strictly on the lighter end of the spectrum, evoking sugar cookies, vanilla cream soda, and oatcakes. For all that, though, it isn’t sweet at all, finishing just off-dry and remaining almost feather-light on the palate. And at just 5.5% ABV, it’s low enough in alcohol to have more than one…and, trust me, you will.
This is a stunningly bright, fresh, and succulent ale that over-delivers on its front-of-palate promise of citrusy goodness, while avoiding every cliche of over-hopped APAs. It’s damnably smooth and silken and as refreshing as branch water.
In the continuum of ales featuring this brilliant new Bud Buddy, Pyramid Lemondrop Citrus Pale ranks right up there with Chasin’Freshies, Delicious, and the stunning Crux Fermentation Project Lemondrop IPA for best use of this new variety, and it promises to be available in larger quantities and broader distribution than the other three.
Pyramid – one of the first breweries I ever visited when I moved out to Seattle in 1992 – lost its way for a while, through a series of new ownerships and muddled alliances. They have now come back with a vengeance and are making ales that demand another look and another taste. If you think you know Pyramid…well, so did I, for several years, but this is not your Pappy’s Pyramid. This is a whole new attitude, mad skills, and creativity that can come up with a satisfying, elegant, beautifully-made instant classic like this. GO and find Pyramid Lemondrop Citrus Pale Ale. Believe me, this is one of the most compulsively drinkable ales you will taste in all of 2018. 98 Points