Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Question: Is the Hoperation merely a Surly Blonde in hop's clothing?

This is a post I've been looking forward to. There have been too many questions regarding the nature of recipe and name changes of Phillips Brewery's beers that I have never been able to satisfy. When I heard Phillips' old Belgian triple Surly Blonde was being replaced with the Belgian IPA Hoperation, I knew I had to act. I quickly purchased a bottle of Surly Blonde as well as a Hoperation (I had to ask specially for this, it was being withheld until Surly Blonde sold out) and promptly set up a taste test. I would discover in my highly unscientific test whether all Hoperation was was a Surly with some hops thrown on top. I couldn't allow another unanswered Phillips question to pass me by. This time when the subject came up in gentlemanly discussion over a few pints at the local, I would be ready.

 Surly Blonde Big Belgian Triple
Poured into the glass the Surly is a golden colour with very light aroma of spice and banana. It has a flavour dominated by banana with hints of apple. The flavour lacks complexity but is inundated with the nearly bubblegum-like banana taste that permeates so many North American made Belgian beers. Its finish is quite sweet with more lingering banana. Its sweetness is perhaps somewhat inappropriate for the style, and could be greatly improved by more bitterness and a dryer finish. I frankly didn't enjoy this beer.

Rating: Drinkable

Hoperation Tripel Cross Belgian IPA
This beer is a mouthful to say but in the glass seems indistinguishable from the Surly Blonde. Its aroma however immediately hits with pleasant citrusy hops that dominate the bouquet. The entry starts with a mix of Belgian fruit and spice but before you can pin it down is mixed with a wonderful flavour of floral, citrusy hops. It finishes well with a great mix of hop bitterness and Belgian character that mingles so well that the two are hard to seperate. This beer has a great well-rounded flavour and complexity that is so lacking in the Surly Blonde.

Rating: Very Good

Judgement: Is the Hoperation merely a Surly Blonde with extra hops? Its appearance was eerily similar but the Hoperation's flavour and aroma wasn't riddled with the banana and sweetness of the Surly. Perhaps this is only because the hops cover up this character and it is just the same beer with hops added and rebranded an IPA. But really, who cares? The Hoperation is a big improvement over the Surly and a beer I will definitely be buying again. It makes a new and interesting addition to the Victoria beer scene and it has cemented plans in my mind to brew my own Belgian IPA. I suppose I didn't answer the question I set out to solve, but now at least I've got some verbal ammo for the next time this topic comes up in civil dialogue with the boys.

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