Pouring from a 12 oz. bottle with a best-by date lingering at the end of December, the Hop Trip presents itself as a clear, deep amber elixir. A robust yellowish foam adorns the top, exhibiting softer carbonation and commendable head retention. While slightly darker than anticipated for the style, this brew sets the stage for our critical exploration.


The olfactory journey commences with notes of red apple, rose, and a hint of sharper lemon soap. However, some volatile compounds make a transient appearance, giving way to a more promising bouquet as the beer warms. Cinnamon, ruby red grapefruit, and a touch of brown sugar emerge, salvaging the aromatic experience from its initial shortcomings.


In terms of taste, Hop Trip unfolds as a richer and oilier libation, reminiscent of Sierra Nevada’s gritty, cracked whole grain profile. Evoking associations with Southern sweet tea, it features autumn leaf tannins and a delicate balance of bright lemon and orange peel. Occasional intrusions of red apple skins make a subtle appearance, fortunately without overpowering the palate. Despite its darker hue, the beer surprises with a lighter body, rendering it surprisingly crushable. The finish introduces honey bread rolls and maintains a commendable level of sweetness, firmly establishing this as a malt-focused creation.


The mouthfeel of Hop Trip mirrors its visual depth, showcasing a Sierra Nevada-inspired grittiness and cracked whole grain character. Southern sweet tea influences, complemented by autumn leaf tannins and citrus zest, contribute to a unique and enjoyable texture. The beer’s lighter body defies expectations associated with its color and style, making it a pleasantly quaffable experience. Yet, the richness in the finish, featuring honey bread rolls and lingering sweetness, anchors this brew firmly in the realm of malt-centric indulgence.


While the base malt character earns accolades for its phenomenal quality, the anticipation for a fresh hop pale ale experience falls short. Despite being billed as such, the Hop Trip leans more towards an autumn IPA or even an amber ale. The inclusion of Cara-Munich and Munich malts contributes a substantial melanoidin character, enriching the mouthfeel but overshadowing the hop character. Regrettably, the promised potency of fresh Crystal hop aromas remains elusive, leaving the overall experience somewhat unbalanced. In essence, a commendable beer for those appreciating malt-forward profiles, yet it falls shy of delivering the anticipated fresh hop intensity.