Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hopfest, pt. deux

So the three of us — L, the kid, and me — stopped by Mekong for a bite of dinner after swimming last night. I expected to enjoy a beer or two, but I didn't expect our beer guru to follow up my last post about hoppy beer comparisons with an even broader array. I shouldn't have been so naive.

Not that I'm complaining. Quite the opposite, in fact.

He starts with pours of four hopfests and then over the course of the meal adds a few more. L meanwhile gets a Dogfish Head Midas — brilliant stuff. Before I go any farther, there should be a quick note about the food. At our last couple of dinner stops, I've let An pick what the menu for the evening. Last time, the result was a delicious spicy pork dish. Last night, he pulled out the stops with flat noodles and seafood with chili for me and sauteed tofu, shrimp and snow peas for L. The kid got Pho Ga and wolfed down a fresh roll before the soup arrived. While I love Richmond's array of Vietnamese noodle shops, Mekong still wins hands-down for quality and freshness of food. As other local food bloggers have noted, it certainly is among the best restaurants in the city.

That's the food. Here's the beer...

Round one: Terrapin Rye Squared, Bell's Hopslam (the control), Stone Ruination IPA

Round two: Full Sail Hop Pursuit, Avery Maharajah (the control)

Round three: Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster Imperial Red (the wild card, aged six months in An's cooler)

And the verdict:
1. Bell's — I put the Hopslam into its own category; with the honey and smooth hop introduction, this is in a class of its own.

2. Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster — I recall not being thrilled about this one when Terrapin hit the Richmond area last year. With some age under its belt, it has settled down and turned into a great hopfest.

3. Terrapin Rye Squared — These guys really are doing some great brewing. This is a hopfest full of malt, rye and other stuff going on in the flavors. Good stuff.

4. Avery Maharajah — This one is working its way back up in my estimation.

5. Stone Ruination — With 100+ IBUs, this packs one of the biggest hop wallops I've tasted. L couldn't even take more than a sip it was so bitter. Good stuff, but I couldn't drink more than one.

6. Full Sail — This was the mildest of the bunch. After the kind of hopfests it was competing against, it barely stood up. It seemed more like a lightly bitter session beer. I'll have to try this one again on its own.

Before all was said and done, An mentioned the Green Flash and a couple of others that had to wait for another round. Stay tuned. The hopfest will continue...