Trying to write an article that doesn’t mention the fact that Hop City is owned by Moosehead is probably impossible, so let’s get over with it right at the beginning. At their 2nd anniversary party last Thursday, this was plainly evident in the amount of money used to throw a free event. Free beer, free food (in generous quantities, might I add), DJ, cover band, hip Distillery District venue… not the type of shindig that independent breweries can usually afford. The evidence of people in suits, presumably talking business/golf/high priced call girls, was further proof and a little scary to those familiar with more low-key affairs.
Of course, a lot of money doesn’t make for inherently good or bad beer. So while the surroundings were a little abnormal, that was no reason to pass any preconceived notions on the beers being served. The Hop City lineup has slowly expanded to include four beers, beginning with their Barking Squirrel Lager. The lager, now in the LCBO in cans, is fine but rather unexceptional, the sort of beer that might the best option at a sports bar. The Mr. Huff Persuasion Pilsner, the glass on the right in the photo above, is more to my liking – grassy and mildly hoppy, though a little sweet.
Their Lawn Chair Classic Weisse was a nice surprise to me. It didn’t pour with a big, dense weisse head, but had the classic hallmarks (banana, clove, some lemon, cloudy body, esters) that made it a nice pint and probably the beer I would order given the choice. I talked to some people who really enjoyed the Happy Hour Ale, but it didn’t do much for me. There was a clear aroma of peach and citrus fruits that showed a clear use of actual hops. This was definitely more of a British-style ale rather than American as the taste featured a lot of caramel malts and almost no bitterness. After a couple of sips the beer became too sweet and had showed all it had to offer – there were no more flavours left to explore, no more pleasure to be gained.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the Hop City beers. They aren’t something I would seek out, but they would do in a pinch. The only curious thing is their obsession with serving every beer in an American shaker pint glass (and an individually branded glass). Wouldn’t it be more interesting to have unique glass shapes rather than the boring old pint glass?