Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
I'm sure that many of you reading this will have already had a bottle of Brüpond Tip Top Hop IPA as it's readily available from outlets such as Oddbins and it's been on the shelves of my local branch in Crouch End, North London for a couple of months now. I'm also sure that many of you will have had mixed experiences with this beer, I've tried it on several occasions now and I had decided that this simply isn't a beer for me. My opinion was given a reprieve when I met Brüpond owner and head brewer Dave Brassfield at London's Brewing last weekend. My good friend and fellow beer blogger Justin Mason had contacted Dave regarding a dodgy bottle of Tip Top Hop he had come across and so Dave had agreed to meet with us at the festival to put things right. There I was presented with a glass of this beer, baring in mind that I had quite a few jars beforehand I really liked it, it was full of rich citrus fruit bitterness and a plum jam sweetness so I had high hopes for the latest batch of this beer. This bottle was gifted to me by Dave who obviously has massive enthusiasm and love for his brewery, thanks Dave.
Dave grew up in that most righteous of beery States, Colorado but eventually left the mountains behind to go to college in Chicago and it was here that he discovered beer from the likes of Sam Adams through to Dogfish Head. He states on the Brüpond website that his early beer purchases were often driven by price and he was always looking for the most affordable beer that still had some flavour, hence his big love for Sam Adams. Eventually his love of beer brought Dave to the UK and it was here he met with Evin from The Kernel, this meeting spurred Dave on to founding his own brewery which was established in the London Borough of Waltham Forest in 2012. His idea was to create, interesting, unique and flavourful beers that everyone could afford and so Brüpond was born.
Brüpond Tip Top Hop describes itself as a 'continually hopped IPA' which is a process used by many distinguished brewers such as Dogfish Head when brewing their IPAs. Most beers are hopped at timed intervals throughout the boiling process where the boiling wort has hops added at the beginning of the boil for bitterness and later on for flavour. Tip Top Hop is hopped continuously throughout its boil which in essence should develop a very rounded and complex hop character, I'm not quite sure how long this particular beer is boiled for but I imagine it's around the 60 to 90 minute mark. Another interesting twist is that this brew uses the new Kazbek hop variety from the Czech Republic which is apparently similar to Saaz in flavour but with a much higher alpha acid content and it is those alpha acids that infuse the beer with the flavour of the particular hops being used. Like most modern American style IPAs this beer is also dry-hopped during fermentation to add more aroma to the beer, but is an earthy, herbal hop more suited to pilsners going to cut the mustard in an IPA? There's only one way to find out...
It has to be said that this beer pours an absolutely gorgeous shade of marmalade orange and has a nice, sticky, oh-so slightly off white head that clings to the glass as if it's very existence depended on it. It's bottle conditioned and despite my utmost care a little bit of loose sediment escapes into my glass giving the beer a misty haze but this doesn't put me off, in fact it's as pretty as a picture to look at. The nose is a different story however, I do get a little plum jam and some candied citrus fruit but there's also an underlying scent of vinegar, my first thought is that this beer has taken a turn for the worse but unusually none of that acidic scent transferred onto my palate. The overwhelming flavour this beer produces is that of wet cigarette ash, there is a slight hint of white pepper spiciness and those sweet, jammy flavours are there but they've been bullied right to the back of the playground when they really should be shining at the centre of the stage. I want a big, sweet, freshly baked malt profile to counteract the herbal bitterness but Tip Top Hop doesn't give me one. I'm loathe to pour any beer away and I persevere with this right to the very end and as it warms that fruity sweetness does come to the fore but not ever in the amount that I desire.
So is this a bad beer? Well it's unlikely I'll be buying it again as it's not to my taste and there is so much available that I do like that I'd rather spend my hard earned notes on but Simon from CAMRGB thought it was rather excellent so what gives? It could be that the earthy spiciness produced by the Kazbek hops aren't to my liking as this seems to be the overwhelming difference between this beer and the IPAs which I love that are packed with juicy American hops. It's early days for Brüpond but I still think that they'll manage to carve a niche on to rapidly growing family tree of London brewers. There will be plenty of people out there that like me didn't enjoy this particular beer but as Simon has proven there will probably be plenty of people out there that do and that's a good thing.