Beer Man: Pine eclipses unique ingredients in Mahalo, Apollo

This week: Mahalo, Apollo

Iron Hill Brewery, Wilmington, Del.

This column started out as a simple review of this week’s beer, but with every taste of it, my thoughts on hoppy American beers came to a head, as it were.

Mahalo, Apollo is an example of what frustrates me about the current craft beer industry. It is a well-made beer. It’s crisp and clean tasting, with a good head and lacing, etc. Kudos to Iron Hill.

The label touts such ingredients as wheat malt, grains of paradise, lemongrass and Belgian yeast. Sort of sounds like a Belgian-style witbier, with the lemongrass replacing the traditional coriander. The aroma was enticing — the lemongrass came through, as did the wheat malt and pleasant spicy Belgian yeast.

What it doesn’t tell you is that the flavor of the 6.3% ABV beer is dominated by piney hops. So those great aromas do not transfer to the flavor, which is a shame.

It doesn’t bother me that a brewery decided to make the 30,000th piney ale in the U.S. What bothers me is that, as someone who does not like the flavor of pine, there is no indication that it is the dominant flavor of the beer.

Simply put, pine is not a pleasant flavor. How many meals do you cook where pine is the main flavor? And the main ingredient in beer — malt grain — is a food. Would you like your chocolate malt to taste like pine? Your Malt-O-Meal? Your bread?

American pale ales and American India pale ales — marked by pine, grapefruit and bitterness — are the top style sellers in the national craft beer industry. It is easy to tell which ones excel.

The best are marked by the oily, resinous quality of fresh hops, intensely juicy grapefruit flavors and noticeable malt flavor. My estimate is that only about 5% of the two styles produced have these qualities. The rest just have the simple flavor and aroma, little to no malt character and lots of bitterness.

If a beer label touts ingredients such as lemongrass and grains of paradise in a beer, I want to taste that. Let those special ingredients shine. Burying them under a layer of pine does not make that possible. While this may seem odd to say to a craft brewery, “Dare to be different.”

Iron Hill has 12 brewpub locations in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; their beers are only available at the brewpubs. My sample was in a 16-ounce can.

Many beers are available only regionally. Check the brewer's website, which often contains information on product availability by mail. Contact Todd Haefer at beerman@postcrescent.com. To read previous Beer Man columns, click here

The Post-Crescent


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