One of the great things about small craft breweries is that a beer can actually evolve. An artist often knows when his painting just isn't right, and isn't afraid to even paint over something in a desire for perfection. Perhaps that applies to O'so Brewing owner and brewmaster Marc Buttera, who says his Hopdinger continues to be a work in progress. To be blunt, it's a beer that wasn't too memorable when I first encountered it a couple of years ago. However, Buttera's recent tweaking of the recipe has made it a very pleasurable pale ale.
What is it? Hopdinger from O'so Brewing Company of Plover, Wis.
Style: With a pale ale, you can expect medium-body with medium to high hop bitterness in flavor and aroma. The American pale ale, Hopdinger included, is known for a citrus or resiny hoppiness character, along with some maltiness that is subdued to toasty or biscuity tones. Pale ales commonly range from 4.5% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Hopdinger has been a standard beer for O'so Brewing since it opened in 2007. Brewmaster Marc Buttera says the recent changes to its recipe have included a grain bill that gives more flavor balance from its caramel-base malts. The bitterness has also been refined with five different varieties of hops, the most prominent being Summit and Cascade. Summit hops in particular have increased the beer's grapefruit and citrus tones. Hopdinger finishes at 5.7% ABV. It sells for ~$9.50/six-pack.
Buttera says he's getting close to expanding his brewery. Later this summer, he's hoping to move to a new building in Plover that will triple his square footage and allow him to double production in 2012. Fans of O'so can also expect a few special barrel-aged beers later this summer. One that he's planning to have for the Great Taste of the Midwest and possibly on a few select tap accounts is an Imperial stout named Goldie Locks' Revenge.
- Aroma: Light citrus notes.
- Appearance: Hazy, orange-copper. Thick, bubbly tan head. The color's a little darker than you might expect for a pale ale.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and round mouthfeel.
- Taste: A citrus hoppy start with hints of grapefruit bitterness; then a light, soft, biscuity middle from the malt.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A citrusy bitterness lingers, which accentuates a mild alcoholic warmth by the time you finish a bottle.
Glassware: The Willi Becher type of glass with its inward taper in the upper third near the lip will gently focus the light citrus nose.
Pairs well with: Hopdinger really is quite a versatile beer, because it offers just enough bitterness to blend and complement entrees, ranging from fish to mildly spicy stews and meats. At nearly 6% ABV, it might be slightly strong for a lunchtime brew; however, there's not a cool summer sandwich that wouldn't be improved by a glass of Hopdinger.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Hopdinger isn't the hoppiest pale ale you will find on the shelf, but its character is worthy of the designation. It offers a light yet firm citrus-hoppy nose and a bitterness that comes out strongest in the finish, with a dry grapefruit flavor. It also has a smooth, malty backbone that lends balance and keeps the hops in check. The current rendition deserves better marks than several bloggers have given versions based on former recipes. Hopdinger may not be an aggressive "hop bomb" in the mouth; however, it's a great companion for food -- which, for my palate, is the mark of a well-done pale ale.