HopBack beer balances spicy, caramel qualities | The Triangle
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HopBack beer balances spicy, caramel qualities

The beer for this week is the second in a series I’m doing this summer on Troegs Anthology No. 1 variety pack. This case features a six pack each of Dream Weaver unfiltered wheat, Pale Ale, Sunshine American pilsner and HopBack Amber American amber ale. I love all these beers and almost always have one of these variety packs in my fridge because it has something for just about everyone. The HopBack Amber gets its name from a device in the brewing process that is basically a small tank full of hops that the wort passes through after it is drained from the boil kettle to the fermenter. This process, similar to dry hopping, imparts a distinct hop character to the beer with a focus on the aroma rather than the bittering properties.

Troegs was founded by the Trogner brothers in late 1996 and sold its first keg of beer July 18, 1997. The original brewery was located in downtown Harrisburg, Pa., and it did not have an attached pub, which is unusual for a microbrewery in the U.S. The demand for their beer expanded quickly, and Troegs broke ground on a new 90,000-square-foot facility in Hershey, Pa. This facility is constructed in a rather unique manner with a large, window-lined hallway running through the brewhouse. This allows visitors to take self-guided tours during the hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The new facility also boasts a 5,000-square-foot tasting room and sells the brewery’s famous scratch beers.

The HopBack Amber poured a clear, honey copper color with no haze at all. The head formed as one finger of pure white with a medium texture and dissipated very quickly, leaving behind decent lacing. The aroma was somewhat sweet with caramel malt character and hints of spicy citrus hops. The body was very balanced — not too thick and not too thin — although the slightly lower-than-expected carbonation gave it a thicker character than would otherwise be noticed. The taste was fairly bitter up front but balanced quickly due to a malty sweetness. The malt character in this beer is actually fairly significant, although many people may miss it due to the hop profile. The finish was fairly bitter, but it subsided quickly without leaving a funky aftertaste.

Overall, HopBack Amber, while fairly bitter, was very balanced for an American Amber, reminding me more of a classic English IPA than an American IPA. Troegs recommends that you pair this beer with robust flavors such as red meats and strong cheeses, and I definitely agree here; it’s a fantastic beer for an evening of grilling. I personally paired mine with Asiago cheese, which provided a nice, sharp nuttiness, but it can definitely stand up to some stronger blue cheeses, too. I really enjoy this beer, and it serves as one of the staples of my beer fridge. Give it, and the whole case, a try when you get the chance.