This past Saturday was the official release party of Hoopla Pale Ale (5.7% ABV), a beer conceived and brewed by The String Cheese Incident’s keyboardist, Kyle Hollingsworth, with help from Boulder Beer. Having interviewed Hollingsworth over the phone for my Examiner.com page, I couldn’t resist having a taste of Hoopla. I’ve read and heard so much about it that it seemed crazy not to partake in it. I mean, you can hear about the majesty of the Grand Canyon until your ears bleed and fall off but, to truly “get it,” you have to experience it. Thus, my sisters and I went to the Boulder Beer taproom and became among the first paying customers to enjoy Hoopla.
This was my second visit to Boulder Beer (which has the distinction of being Colorado’s first microbrewery) and the first time I actually had to pay for my beers. You see, if you take the free tour at Boulder Beer, it culminates in several free pitchers of their year-round offerings. Even if you get stuck in a crowd rivaling a Who concert in Cincinnati there’ll still be plenty of beer to put you on the floor. The only downside (or upside, depending on your view) is that you must go through the tour first. Yes, it is endlessly fascinating to learn about beer and its creation. If it wasn’t, this blog would have petered out after about three or four posts. However, I’ve already done the Boulder Beer tour and I’ve done the tour at other breweries, too; the process is pretty much the same no matter where you go. I go to breweries to try the beer because it is the beer that actually varies from place to place, not the process. Nonetheless, I would endure the repetitive information again for the quality and quantity of beer that waits for me at the end of the tour.
When we arrived at Boulder Beer and pushed through a modest crowd to find a seat near the bar. I ordered Hoopla right away, opened my notebook, and started taking notes. In terms of color, Hoopla is a clear, dark yellow. It’s not so dark that you can’t see through it but it is noticeably darker than the average pale ale. The aroma really threw me off at first. It smelled herby and familiar but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I was starting to get frustrated with my lack of appropriate similes and started wildly speculating. I knew that String Cheese is a band that draws fans from the hippie culture and I’ve smelled similar aromas when I’ve ridden behind a group of college kids on a ski lift and
seeing as we were in Colorado where there’s a medical marijuana dispensary on every corner, well, could there be some sort of hemp oil or hemp seed in this beer? No, surely something like that would have come out in my interview. Then what the heck was I smelling? I wrote in my notebook that it “smells like an outdoor concert” and let it be until, finally, I heard that Hoopla had been dry-hopped with Glacier hops. Since dry-hopping (or, aging beer over a pile of dried hop leaves) brings forth the aroma and flavor of hops without conveying a lot of bitterness and since the hop plant and the marijuana plant are “kissin’ cousins” in the world of botany, it’s easy to see how I got confused. There’s a caramel-like quality to the aroma, too. Due to the dry-hopping, Hoopla is an easy drinking beer that still has plenty in terms of hop flavor. Hollingsworth wanted a beer that had a full body but would be refreshing for concertgoers who’re “sitting there watching Grateful Dead at one in the afternoon” and, in my opinion, he hit his mark.
|The author and his Hoopla|
After downing two additional pints (I wanted to get an accurate assessment), watching people contend in the string cheese carving contest, and having my notebook hijacked by my sisters who wrote that Buffalo Gold tasted like a buffalo burger and that the blueberry beer Kinda Blue sounded like Miles Davis with hints of Bob Dylan, it was time to leave. If you’re interested in having Hoopla for yourself, look for Hoopsie Daisy, the silhouetted, hula-hooping girl on the logo.
|Hollingsworth (Left) and a Boulder Beer brewmaster (Right) giving the crowd a rundown of Hoopla|