Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Alpha King is good for what ails hopheads

Sips: Beer

By Ed Westemeier
Enquirer contributor

American Beer Month, celebrated every July, comes to a close Thursday, so let's end it with a blast. Of course, a blast of hops is what I have in mind.

Quite a few beers designed for hopheads have debuted in the last couple of years, but my favorite is Alpha King Pale Ale, made by Three Floyds Brewing Co. in Munster, Ind.

While it's certainly one of the most recognizable of these highly hopped beers, Alpha King is a celebration of American malt as much as hops. Blended from 10 different kinds of malt, it has a complexity missing from most of its competitors. The hops are added not only during the brewing, but also afterward, during a technique known as "dry hopping." By exposing the beer to additional hops in the fermenting tank, the brewers add flavor from the hops without increasing bitterness. The fermentation process is capped by use of two different yeasts, adding complexity.

It's easy to talk about the complexity and the various techniques used in crafting a high-quality beer, but Alpha King stays on the shelves because of how it tastes. I tried a test not long ago, giving blind samples of several different American ales to a group of eight people who had never tried anything this powerful. To my surprise and delight, all but one pronounced the Alpha King their favorite.

What you should expect from a beer like this is an intense, quenching rush of hop flavor. It's easily recognizable as coming from American hop varieties, due to the dryish, almost grapefruit-like character. As with other beers with higher than normal bitterness, pour it straight down the middle of your glass to produce a large head. You'll be rewarded by a more pronounced aroma, and the reduced carbonation will improve its drinkability.

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