Beer review – hops in a name?

With 10,000 craft breweries around the world, and an infinite variety of beers to try, you’d think by now we’d have an infinite variety of beer names. Perhaps that would be the case, if not for brewers’ insistence on fitting the word “hops” into the name so often.

There were two such beers on offer on a recent pub trip, so naturally we had no choice but to compare the two: Hopadelic, by By the Horns, and Hop Academy by Greene King’s incubator Craft Academy.

Obviously we had to try each one more than once just to be sure. This was our line-up of the Hop Academy.

Appearance

Hopadelic is pale gold in colour with a scant, white head that swiftly dissipates, while Hop Academy is more amber with a head that lingers longer. Both very attractive beers, but purely from personal preference, I find the amber more appetising. Hop Academy takes an early lead.

Hop Academy 1
Hopadelic 0

Aroma

This is where things start to get interesting. The hop character really shines through for Hopadelic – it’s a dry, floral aroma; orange blossom and hay.

The Hop Academy, by contrast, has very little going on. It’s a little malty, but it’s a real struggle to smell anything at all.

Hop Academy 1
Hopadelic 1

Palate

Hop Academy performs somewhat better on flavour, despite lacking a nose. There’s more of that malt we just about detected earlier, but it’s joined by spice – I’m struggling to place it, when a friend comes to the rescue identifying it as white pepper. There’s a little fruity spice too, perhaps star anise. A bready, malty sweetness lies under all these other flavours.

Hopadelic is less subtle. It’s very bitter on first tasting, not quite the level of the American hop-bombs but not far off. More lemon than orange on the tongue, which comes through more as the initial bitterness gives way to a light, toasty maltiness. It’s like drinking fancy marmalade on white toast.

A few years ago I’d definitely have prefered the Hop Academy, but my recent efforts to educate myself on IPAs have clearly had an impact. Hopadelic wins this round.

Hop Academy 1
Hopadelic 2

Finish

Hopadelic leaves with a bitter astringency, drying the mouth and leaving you thirsty for another sip. If there hadn’t been more beers to try, I’d have stuck around for another.

The Hop Academy had a strong finish too, in a different way: coating the tongue in a malty sweetness. Would I have another? Probably, but if I had to choose between the two I’d rather go back to the Hopadelic.

Hop Academy 1
Hopadelic 3

Final verdict

If we’re going by my standard beer ratings, Hop Academy and Hopadelic would be rubbing shoulders at 3/5. They’re both decent, and not a bad choice if you spot them at the bar, but not the sort of beer you’d go out of your way for.

As a head to head, however, the Hopadelic edges the Academy out on aroma and flavour profile. In spite of the name, Hop Academy sorely lacks the fruity, floral hop flavours that Hopadelic can offer. We can walk away from the Academy today having learned you need to put hops into your beer’s recipe, and not just its name.

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