Dogfish Head's Aprihop: A Portmanteau for a Waste(Land)ed T.S. Eliot
I don't really get T.S. Eliot's beef with April. "Winter's over, stuff is growing again, woe is me." I think maybe he was just vitamin D-deficient as a child, the resulting rickets keeping him from playing with the other kids. It must have been a vicious cycle:
Stay inside writing impenetrable verse all day-->Synthesize insufficient vitamin D from lack of exposure to sunlight-->Bones soften too much to play "stick and hoop" with the other kids-->Grow to hate the springtime and all its gay frivolities-->Stay inside writing impenetrable verse all day.
Perhaps if Eliot had been able to enjoy a nice, spring-themed tipple along with his writing, he would have come out a happier guy. A less accomplished poet, perhaps, but what's Little Gidding compared to one guy's fleeting, inebriated happiness? Dogfish Head's Aprihop (a portmanteau from a portmanteau!) might have been just the ticket. Just imagine a reimagined first line: "April's not so bad a month, afterall, (hiccup) ..."
I've had it suggested, based on previous fruit-beer reviews, that I just don't dig the style. I'm going to put this forward as a refutation of that belief. Aprihop is solid, regardless of category, and I would drink it year-round, were it available.
Aprihop pours a hazy ocher, with the barest wisp of creamy, just off-white head. It fades quickly to a sudsy, pixelated cap. Piney hops, slightly caramelized malt and just a whiff of stone fruit greet you in the nose.
The flavor opens with a malty sweetness, complemented by a surprisingly upfront apricot flavor. Tasting halfway between fresh and dried fruit, it's clear but, somehow, not overwhelming. It's also a very "true" flavor, with no hint of concentrate or that cloying artificiality that comes along for the ride with so many fruit beers.
The hops come back in as a whiz-bang array of citrus and a slight grassiness, reinforcing the apricot flavor like a spritz of acid. For all those hops, though, it's a surprisingly approachable beer. "Luscious" comes to mind as a descriptor. It's barely bitter at the end, just enough to balance out fruit and sweetness, leaving an extra trace so you know it was there.
In case there was any doubt, despite the gimmicky name, this is not gimmicky stuff. It's actually very judicious, with just enough apricot to make it clear that this is an apricot beer, but not so much as to render it beery apricot juice. The fruit is there, but all of the "beer" elements are fully developed, too. I think that's one of the biggest problems with many beers in the style: a too overt focus on fruit, at the expense of beer. Perhaps there are lots of drinkers who want alcoholic Juicy Juice, but I'm not one of them, and Aprihop isn't that. Shantih shantih shantih
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