Uncomplicated hoppy beers from the people who know how to make them. This is the tagline of The Hop Concept, a new, third brand for the multifaceted Pizza Port production brewing arm that is Port Brewing Co. / The Lost Abbey. It’s a bold statement, but director of brewery operations Tomme Arthur and company have earned the right to be so self-assured. Fact is, they’ve won many prestigious awards for their intensely hoppy India pale ales. Even the lone IPA of The Lost Abbey’s portfolio, the winter-release Merry Taj, is a fantastical exploration of San Diego’s most ubiquitous beer style. Hence, there is much excitement surrounding the upcoming debut of The Hop Concept.
Nearly every conversation I’ve had with Arthur over the past year or so has come back to a simple challenge — how to fit the brewing of any beers supplementary to the widely varied year-round stock of Port and Lost Abbey into the brew schedule. That they produce as many barrel-aged novelties, one-offs, and seasonal releases as they do is nothing short of a miracle. So, adding a new line of specialty IPAs is no easy task, but one Arthur and company are eager to take on. They, like their consumers, are hopheads at heart. The name of the game with The Hop Concept will be small-batch.
Each quarter, The Hop Concept will release a limited run of a new IPA in a set of four called The Hop Freshener Series. These beers will explore new hop combinations, using both traditional and experimental hops. The latter are all the rage these days, with growers providing samples to brewers in hopes of garnering enough interest to plant crops and make them full-time offerings. This is especially important as the more popular and coveted hops become unavailable from the unprecedented demand of the thriving American brewing industry. As proven by many beers released over the past few years, there are tremendous new flavors and aromas to be had from these trial hops, but with unfamiliarity comes skepticism, wonder, and logical questions, the most prominent of which is What’s it taste like?
To give consumers an idea of what to expect right off the bat, rather than come up with cheeky or alliterative names for beers in The Hop Freshener Series, the monikers will consist of two descriptors of the beer's bouquet and flavor profile. Take the name of the first offering, which will come out via limited bottles and draft in February: Dank and Sticky IPA. While the less-informed may wonder exactly what “dank” means, the hoppy beer fan will for sure get it, and that’s the demographic that will seek out the minute supply of these lupulin-rich numbers. The rest of The Hop Freshner Series includes Citrus and Piney IPA (May), Lemon and Grassy IPA (August), and Tropical and Juicy IPA (November). The Hop Concept will not be limited to The Hop Freshener Series, but for now, the quartet represents the entire 2015 portfolio for the new brand.