Although I am no stranger to the endless quest for hops, even I have to admit that the beer-bittering industry has gotten out of control. It is now common for hoppy brews to be released at 9%, 10% levels or more, with IBU’s skyrocketing beyond 120. These uber-hopped beers are possibly beyond the point at which they can fairly be deemed “IPA’s”. Not only has the production of these hop bombs shredded the craft nation’s palates, including mine, the demand for them has sent hop prices skyrocketing. Four years ago I could buy a sixer of Stone Ruination for $12, now it is $20 if you can find one. A bomber goes for $9.
Add this hop inflation to the broader market for specialty-release beers and it becomes apparent that the craft beer market is becoming a rich man’s game; the common man needs friends to buy-in for a sixer. But the extreme, quirky, and other limited-production beers keep flying off the shelves. In fairness, some of the entries have indeed been spectacular; Three Floyds’ 10% Permanent Funeral was delicious. But I saw a bomber of it selling on the West Side for $13. Please don’t get me started on the market for Zombie Dust, which is actually sane in terms of its IBU/ABV specs but is more scarce than a newly-released iPhone. While recently discussing beer with Josh, I wondered, what happened to the concept of enjoying a garden-variety beer? Where are the regularly-priced beers that you can actually savor, and not have to think about how you’re going to trade for your next one? Where are the great ones that you can actually find?
Half Acre Beer Co., which makes a strong case for being Illinois’ best brewer these days, gives a nod in the right direction with its Heyoka IPA. This beer hearkens back to the days when I first started drinking IPA’s, and enjoyed such fare as Harpoon, Racer 5, Centennial, and Commodore Perry. It registers a normal 7% ABV (normal for these days anyway) and has a satisfying bite. The sting of the Chinook and Amarillo hops came in handy not too long ago, after I had tried several of Revolution’s rich, barrel-aged “Gene Series” beers. Heyoka’s biting hops cleanse the palate and, along with its mild density and restrained malt investment, refresh your senses. Yes, a 4-pack is $10, but at least they’re 16-oz cans.
With Heyoka, HABC has given hop lovers a nice treat at a reasonable price. It’s not over the top, it’s reasonably priced, and it has a pleasantly sharper bite than Revolution’s milder, ubiquitous Anti-Hero. Plus I find it more flavorful than the balance of the low-ABV, aka “lowercase”, 4% IPAs which are the recent trend.
- M. Sheppard