Last Thursday was declared IPA Day by whichever marketing monkey’s turn it was to throw that particular dart, which means the Beer Internet got to pick one of two storylines: We could either complain (“Jesus, man, every day is IPA Day, why not promote some lesser-known styles?”) or exult (“Every day is IPA Day at my house!”). For my part, I had to skip the whole damn thing while I battled with my landlord and my laziness (and, fine, my rum), but I caught up on Saturday. An outfit called Craft Brew Races sponsors a series of 5Ks and beer festivals around the country, and they let my wife and I hop the fence for free at the most recent one. So after shuffling my pre-corpse through five lovely kilometers of Worcester, Mass., I tried several dozen beers from a couple dozen breweries. It was a blast. There were free sausage samples and everything.
I’m generally lukewarm on beer fests, because things can get a bit sweaty and shove-y when you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of beerheads waddling around trying to get our $50 worth of 2-ounce samples, but this was a very pleasant affair. I assume the introduction of a long pre-fest jog changes the demographic a bit, or maybe it was just another example of Worcester’s famous amiability. Either way, it was maybe the least-gross beer fest I’ve attended. You should go to the Craft Brew Race in your town, particularly if you are a lapsed beer blogger they let in for free, but also otherwise.
Part of the reason I sometimes struggle at beer fests is my own lack of planning. I usually just kinda wander around throwing back this or that oversized thimble of beer, with my primary focus being to avoid collision with hairy stumble-drunks more concerned with jabbing their ham fingers into their beer-tracking apps than with walking in anything approaching a predictable human adult pattern. But like I said, this fest featured a healthy population of decent folk, so I was able to put some thought into a plan more nuanced that simple survival.
So after I “ran” my few miles, I hit the beer park with a purpose: to try lighter-style beers from new-to-me breweries before I messed around with the tongue-burning hop monsters I know and love. My first sample was a very good kölsch from Down the Road Brewery; I followed that up with Brewmaster Jack’s outstanding pilsner, Jan. And after that thoughtful and restrained bit of research, I mostly just stumbled around getting lit on big IPAs and whatnot. I had a bunch of good stuff, but none that toppled Wormtown’s Be Hoppy as my favorite readily available Massachusetts IPA.
Be Hoppy won gold at the 2014 Denver International Beer Competition, but I still consider it underrated by New England IPA-rankers. Around here we all love Trillium and Treehouse and Night Shift and a few others (and justifiably so), but Wormtown belongs in that top tier, too.
The 6.5-percent alcohol-by-volume Be Hoppy opens with a medium-large blast of fresh citrus— mostly grapefruit with some orange. There’s also a nice floral edge, and it turns sharper and more resinous toward the end of the glug. It’s smooth and balanced, with some honest-to-goodness barley character daring to peek out from underneath the hops.
If you live in Massachusetts (or if you’re a beer trader), track down some Be Hoppy. It comes in 16-ounce cans, so it’s ideal for shipping, and while it’s not as prominent as it should be, it’s not so rare as to command a huge price or a protracted trade negotiation. IPA is the best-selling craft-beer style for a reason, and Wormtown’s Be Hoppy is an excellent one.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.