Beer On My Shirt: Experimental Hop or Secret Agent?

J.R. Shirt, March 10, 2016

It's Sunday morning, approximately 11 a.m., and everyone in my home has come down with some sort of stomach bug. Everyone, that is, except me.

First, let me say that this is very nice – the family upstairs and asleep, and me downstairs and unencumbered.

Second, let me tell you that I am writing this on a legal pad, rather than on my laptop, because like my family asleep upstairs, this legal pad allows me to focus. I would say that my use of a legal pad makes me a dinosaur, but being immune to the superbug currently ravaging the rest of my tiny ecosystem seems rather un-dinosaur like. Also, I have never seen any photos of dinosaurs using legal pads. Or fossils of legal pads.

Last night, before the virus took hold, I started watching the movie Primal Fear – a film that I had never seen but that was highly recommended by Wife's sister, who was over for a visit. About 20 minutes in, Wife threw up. And about 20 minutes after that, I was asleep.

Later in the evening, now awake and holding back my daughter's hair as her vomiting commenced, I silently came to grips with my disappointment that a movie titled Primal Fear contained no actual primates. Again, I didn't finish the film, so it is possible that monkeys eventually get involved; but as I tried to catch a few moments of rest between the cacophony of bucket echoes that filled my home, I couldn't help but think that Primal Fear would be a title better suited for a suspenseful monkey film.

As I mentally listed all of the primate thrillers I had enjoyed in my lifetime, this after a brief moment in which I contemplated the actual meaning of the word primal, it slowly dawned on me that my current situation had one too many parallels with the movie Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, Renee Russo, and an adorable monkey.

My sister-in-law, who was downstairs on the couch, doing her best to sleep through this nightmare of an overnight visit, would soon be waking up and returning to her home approximately 50 miles away in Philadelphia. Chances are high that she is already infected and would carry the superbug down the turnpike. The entire city would be hunched over in a matter of days. A great bucket shortage would ensue.

Good-bye Philadelphia. Good-bye East Coast.

Even worse, T-Bone (my brother and podcast co-host), had stopped by the house on Friday to pick up a digital recorder. Why did T-Bone need a digital recorder, you ask? Because the next day he was flying to Phoenix to meet up with a friend, who happens to be the brother of an ex-girlfriend of mine, and that ex-girlfriend is probably also visiting Phoenix as well; and on top of that, T-Bone planned to meet up with the Prince of Grips and King of BeerGraphs, Eno Sarris, at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company to record a segment for the Drinking With Shirt podcast. And that, my friends, is what the digital recorder was for.

But now T-Bone is most likely infected and (especially since I've texted him about what's been happening) will spend the rest of his trip waking up wondering if he is hungover or succumbing to the superbug. T-Bone is essentially the monkey from Outbreak, or at least the guy that smuggled the monkey. So good-bye Phoenix. Good-bye ex-girlfriend. Good-bye Eno Sarris. Good-bye West Coast.

At this point, it's clear that I may, as someone that is clearly immune to whatever it is that's going around, be called upon to help re-populate the nation, and perhaps the world. And if this outbreak does in fact reach the epic proportions frequently outlined in the classic films of primate thriller cinema, and I am given the government job of procreator, it would be assumed that such a job would come with not only an adequate compensation package but also tastefully decorated government lodgings.

Perhaps such lodgings would exist in an underground bunker deep inside a mountain.

Perhaps, as I am not so delusional to think that I am the only one immune, I will be just one of many procreators that the government has rounded up, part of a secret government program. A secret government program housed deep inside a mountain tasked with repopulating the world.

And perhaps they will assign each of us a secret agent code name.

Perhaps I will be known as HBC-291. Or Calypso.

Coincidentally, HBC-291 just happens to be the name of the experimental hop featured in the latest installment of Flying Dog's Single Hop Series (and to be clear, this hop has nothing to do with the Calypso hop, at least that I am aware of, but Calypso would make a pretty good secret agent name, as would most hop names). Most people probably think of the Ralph Steadman label art when thinking about Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery. But when I think about Flying Dog, I think about the El Dorado Single Hop Imperial IPA that they made as part of this series a few years back, before all these tropical juice flavors were so common, and how it completely blew me away.

Since then, I've purchased every release in the Single Hop Series that I've seen on the shelf. Have I found one that I enjoyed as much as the El Dorado? No sir, I haven't. Is that going to stop me from trying? It doesn't seem likely.

So this release, the HBC-291, fills the glass with a deep golden orange topped with a decent lid of cream colored head. The aroma is tropically sweet – like ripe mango and pineapple – with hints of apple juice. There is a slightly fruity alcohol in the nose, like fruit salad that has been in the fridge a day too long.

The taste pops with pineapple and more of a resinous and peppery bitterness than expected. The sweet juice aromas don't translate to the flavors as much as I wish they would. The tropical flavors mix with the peppery pine to create a subtle caramel note, or maybe that's just there on its own. Descriptions I've read of HBC-291 mention floral notes, which I didn't pick up on so much, but may have been mistaking the floral as pine because of the pineapple – is that possible?

The beer finishes dry, but leaves the lips sweet and almost sticky. The body is pretty standard for the style, substantial enough to carry enough juicy sweetness to balance the weight of that peppery bitterness.

Single hop beers are always fun. Especially experimental single hop beers. I'd certainly drink more of this one, or other beers with this hop (Duvel is using HBC-291 as their third hop in their Tripel Hop this year). I mean one of the perks of that cushy government procreator job has to be the beer, right? Agent HBC-291 reporting for duty, sir.  

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