North Park Beer Company: Hop Fu
Pair with: blue cheese or carnitas tacos
This big, juicy IPA offers a tropical, hop-filled nose with a citrus taste that lingers. The beer has a nice bite, but is filled with a variety of complex flavors that somehow mesh perfectly together to maintain a surprisingly drinkable, balanced quality.
The bold creation comes to us from Kelsey McNair, a seasoned home brewer and now founder of North Park Beer Co. McNair has been in the brewing circuit for years and is well-known for this beer in particular, which is heavily decorated, highly sought-after and very hard to get... until now.
"This is a beer that I've been refining since 2006. In 2010, it took the gold at the National Homebrew Competition in the final round and there were like 384 entries in that category," McNair said. "A few years later, it won silver in the same competition with even more entries. The following year and the year after that, it took the gold medal with over 600 entries," he said.
This beer is definitely McNair's baby, if you will, and has only gotten better over the years with experience. He wanted this beer to be everything he loves in an IPA.
"I was trying to create an IPA that hit all the criteria: citrus-y, resiny, tangy and tropical, but in a way that's not overdone in any one direction," he said. "I've gone to home brew shops now, and I run into someone that says they're going to brew Hop Fu. It's crazy because it has not yet been widely available in any sense."
The beer is brewed with both classic and newer variety hops, seven in total, including: Chinook, Warrior, Simcoe, Amarillo, Columbus, Centennial and Citra.
"Centennial was a point of change that happened because a blind judge suggested adding a hint of lemon taste to the beer which I knew I could get out of Centennial hops," he said.
McNair admitted that he doesn't particularly like to add in additional fruits or flavors from anything other than hops if he can avoid it. Instead, he focuses on the basics. Any taste he wants to achieve can be created with the right mixture of hops, malt and yeast, he said.
"That blind judge gave a great hint of advice that enhanced the beer. The judge actually ended up being Paul Sangster from Rip Current Brewing, and he has a great palate that I trust," McNair said. "Also, it wasn't him just telling me that, that was him blind tasting a beer and really giving his honest feedback."
The drinkability of this beer is of course attributed to some malt to help balance it out. Its finish is clear and crisp, which isn't always the case with such a hop-forward brew. Kelsey used American malts to help maintain an easy drinking aspect to the heavy hop-profile, with just a dash of English malt. The goal was not to make it a malty beer, but simply to have just enough to help the hops shine through. He also uses a clean fermentation yeast from Sierra Nevada Brewing.
The name of this brew was based on a reaction to one of Kelsey's early Double IPAs who he had let a friend try. The two of them had both brewed a Double IPA, except his friend decided to forgo the usual addition of dry hops that you would typically see in the style.
"He took one whiff of my heady and aromatic dry hopped version and proclaimed "Whoa! Your hop-fu is way better than mine!" I immediately thought about how great "hop-fu" would be as the name of a beer and kept it in my back pocket for later use," McNair said.
For Kelsey, the best part of brewing Hop Fu is the end result: A great beer that his family, friends, beer-lovers and customers can enjoy a few of without having their palates wrecked.
"I love all of the different hops in this beer and the way they play together. I like the balance, and I like that people tell me that it is a very drinkable beer. They could drink multiple of these without getting bored or feeling overwhelmed by the flavor, and I like that," McNair said.
This beer is currently available on tap to try at North Park Beer Co. Get it while it's cold!
3038 University Ave., North Park. northparkbeerco.com