Beer Review 0562: Victory Hop Ranch Imperial IPA
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the two newest releases from Victory Brewing Company — both are Imperial IPAs, and both seem to be taking beer drinkers by storm. I’ve already reviewed one of them, DirtWolf, and scored it a whopping 97 points, classic on my rating scale. DirtWolf is a delicious beer that I described as tasting like hop candy, and it certainly took me by surprise, as it did to most drinkers. Today’s review, Hop Ranch, also seems to also have the same hype.
The story of Victory Brewing Company (Downington, Pennsylvania) goes all the way back to 1973 — granted, the two principal founders were only in fifth grade, meeting for the first time on a school bus that would take them to a new school. Friends like that are hard to find; the two remained bonded as they went to college, on opposite sides of the coast.
Their names are Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, and when Bill finished college, he explored making beer using his father’s home brewing equipment. It just so happened that Ron was into beer, too, and gave Bill a home brewing kit for Christmas in 1985. A friendly rivalry ensued, but the passion for beer caused both men to quit their jobs in the corporate world and seek out brewing.
Bill did his brewing studies at Doemens Institute in Munich, Germany, while Ron also honed his beer making skills in Germany. But before Victory churned out its first drop of beer, Ron returned from Germany and became the brewmaster of Old Dominion Brewing Company, increasing yearly production there from 1,500 barrels to 15,000.
On February 15, 1996, Victory Brewing Company opened up in a former Pepperidge Farm factory. In the first year, they made 1,725 barrels; in 2011, expansion had increased that number to 82,000.
Hop Ranch is an Imperial IPA coming in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is made with a nod to hop ranchers, who cultivate and grow hops. The beer uses just two hops, Mosaic and Azacca.
Pouring brought on an average size, initially creamy head that turns soapy as it diminishes, which is a slow process. The yellow-golden beer is nicely capped by the bright white head; body is clear but contains heavy particles and sediment, reminding me of orange juice with pulp. The brew is translucent despite the heavy sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving behind thin but even sheets of suds as I sip.
On the nose, the hop presence is bold and pungent, offering up notes of grass, oranges, garlic, and onion. It’s almost abrasive; as it warms, undertones of pine and grapefruit begin to come out. There’s virtually no malt backing to be had; perhaps just a touch of graininess. Hop Ranch certainly smells like it will be a hoppy powerhouse.
And it is, but in a very good way — unlike the aroma, these hops are smooth and gentle. The beginning of the sip warms your taste buds up nicely with orange and grapefruit before going in with a blast of exceedingly ripe oranges, lemons, and peaches. It’s like hop candy in liquid form, and it’s delicious. The finish curbs nearly all of the sweetness, delving into moderate bitterness with continued peaches, oranges, and adding some dank pine. Hop Ranch is light-bodied (believe it or not) with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
Two new IPAs from Victory so far in 2014, and two smash hits. Wow! This brew is dangerously — I repeat — DANGEROUSLY drinkable. The 9% alcohol vanishes without so much as a trace, and not only is the beer refreshing, it’s smooth and like drinking hoppy candy. Watch out. Very impressive, Victory. I advise you to pick this up if you see it.
Victory Hop Ranch Imperial IPA, 94 points. Price: $8.99 US for a four-pack.