On Friday, September 23, D and I were joined by our friend Mark to make a trip into the countryside where we would help crown the King of Hop Beers at Union Jack’s Inn. What a beautiful building – an old brick house with a patio – the perfect country setting and two of my favorite people accompanying me. The beer didn’t even need to be good, but thank goodness it was!
The tap list at Union Jack’s was pretty amazing, and the bottle list was equally impressive. Picking our pre-contest beer was a chore (and, unfortunately, after I ordered a Sly Fox Simcoe, there was no more to be had!) D started with a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Mark had the Rodenbach. Inspired by the despised podcast title, I decided on a Lindeman’s Peche, which was really quite refreshing on that early fall evening.
Shortly after our dinner, the taps were switched over, and the King of Hops contest began! We each ordered one of every contestant, and they were served in perfect glassware for tasting – 6 oz glasses with a wide rim. The hops were pretty overwhelming – I’m not suggesting that is a bad thing – and I was finished after those five samples.
D went on to order the additional Russian River selections (Deification and Damnation – obviously not part of the contest) so we could enjoy those together. It seems a limited number of these Russian River kegs were released in PA, and we had already missed out on two opportunities to enjoy them, so we were going to take in one of each while we had the chance!
The King of Hop Beers contest ballot asked us to rate each beer from 1 to 5; 1 being not so hoppy; 5 being hoppiest (now THAT answer would have been obvious.) Upon further questioning, we learned that we were really to rate them according to our preferences; 5 being our favorite.
Now for the contestants:
Russian River Pliney the Elder - 8% (which they would serve in 6oz or 18oz)
This one made us all say WOW! What an easy drinking beer! It was full of flavor, yet light (in comparison to the others.) Very tasty! On the final table rating scale, this averaged a 4 (I rated it 3, D rated it a 4 and Mark rated it a 5.)
Russian River Pliney the Younger - 11% (also available in 6oz or 18oz)
On first tasting, this one just made us all exclaim WHOA! It blew us all away with the high alcohol and the strong citrusy hops flavor. As it warmed up to room temperature, I became more and more impressed, and in the end, I rated this one a fabulous 5. The final table rating was a 3.33 (D waffled on his #3, so we allowed him to rate two beers in that level; Mark rated it a 2.)
Union Jack’s Hoptimus Prime – 9.4% (6oz or 18oz)
This particular beer was brewed for Union Jack’s by Legacy Brewing Co. in Reading, and the brewer was just around the corner at the bar. What a moment that could have been – an opportunity to meet the brewer and congratulate him on a job well done – except it just wasn’t. The flavor was so very harsh, and no one enjoyed it (Mark and I didn’t even finish our 6oz glass!) This got a final table rating of 1, with ones all around.
Weyerbacher Eleven – 11% (6oz or 10oz)
Brewed for the 11th anniversary of Weyerbacher, this was a superb glass of beer. D commented that it was the “Cognac of IPA”, and he was pretty good in that assessment. It was SO smooth, and it was hard to tell this was such a high-alcohol beer. I rated it a 2 only because something had to be a 2…in my mind, however, a this 2 was so much closer to 5 (and the 1 was much closer to -5.) The final table rating was a 3.33 as D rated it a 5 and Mark rated it a 3.
Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA – 11% (6oz or 10oz)
It had only been two weeks since D and I enjoyed Unearthly onsite and by the growler, so it was fun to taste it side-by-side with other big IPAs. This is such an excellent example of this style. We gave it a collective table rating of 3.66 (Mark and I agreed on a placement of 4, and this was D’s other 3.)As I said before, for a Friday night with a drive ahead, that was plenty of beer for the moment, but D did order the other two Russian River beers for us to try. Deification had a very nice candy sugar sort of flavor to it, and Damnation was very unique, reminiscent of a cider. We liked them both very much!
Thoroughly enjoying our time with Mark, and feeling entirely sober from our limited intake, we had no qualms about stopping at the Speckled Hen Cottage Pub and Ale House in Reading, simply because I’d never been there. It was an oasis in the middle of this urban area. The log cabin bar is the oldest building in
Reading; the low ceiling, fireplacesaged walls created such a cozy environment for enjoying a beer. The tap list was pretty nice, and included things like Bell‘s Two Hearted and Old Dominion Imperial Stout. I don’t think we drank too much (one pint per person), but it was getting late, and I was glad Mark had a bed to offer us (I brought my toothbrush and traveled home in my PJs…)
Mark, if you’re reading this, thanks for a really fun time!
Now if I could only find out who was crowned the King of Hops…