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Beer Reviews

Hop Sun

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, NY
USA
http://www.southerntierbrewing.com

Style: Wheat
ABV: 4.3%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)


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Inspired by a recent article by my fruity colleague Jill, I thought this was a good time to review a true summer beer. With the dog days of July wearing on Nigel (that’s a lie … it’s been a pleasant season thus far in Nigeland, albeit a bit damp), a light, wussy, watered-down girlie beer seemed appropriate.

Enter Southern Tier’s Hop Sun, which just happens to share its name with Nigel’s Chinese alter ego. This will be only my second non-Imperial line brew from Southern Tier, so I have to lower my expectations a notch (as in just over 4 percent ABV, compared to the typical Imperial line brews that are 8-10 percent). My only other standard release brew from Southern Tier was IPA, a beer that was quite tasty but paled in comparison to the ballsy imperial IPAs Hoppe, Imperial Gemini, and UnEarthly. Throw in the powerful, hoppy Back Burner barley wine and my last Southern Tier brew, the “imperial summer wheat” Über Sun, and there’s no way in hell that Hop Sun is going to compete with those monsters. I’m simply hoping for a nice, light, tasty wheat beer that’s perfect for the beach or floating down the river on a tube, as Nigel and Franz will be doing this weekend at the BeerDorks.com summer camping retreat (Eddie Glick won’t be attending, as his pasty white skin is allergic to sunlight and frightens young children).

Speaking of Über Sun, my guess is that Hop Sun is the wimpy little cousin of that wheat-based bully. While I rated Über Sun three mugs, I stated in the review that I was close to a four mug rating, perhaps unfairly downgrading it because it wasn’t quite as good as its Imperial line brethren. I also stated in that review that part of the reason I’ve been enamored with Southern Tier thus far is their love of hops. Not only were the typically hoppy imperial IPAs loaded with Cascade gold, but the imperial wheat and barley wine were too. Given the fact that “hop” is half of the Hop Sun title, I’m expecting a nice dose of the flower of the gods.

Hop Sun pours a bit lifeless given the style, with a mild fizzy head of less than an inch quickly dissipating, leaving some minor lacing and stickiness on the sides. A pale golden brown with slight sedimentation and carbonation, Hop Sun looks like a classic “lawnmower” beer, though the true test will come when I run it over with my John Deere lawn tractor.

The aroma is decent, but not what I was hoping for. There is a nice, crisp hop aroma, but it’s a secondary player to the initial scent of light citrus in the form of lemon, grapefruit, and orange, and Mr. Clean. An earthy aroma of wheat and pale malt comes through as well, giving Hop Sun a pleasant scent for the summer months, but one that’s a bit weak and stale overall.

The taste is decidedly average. Does it have the potential to be a light, refreshing summertime brew? Sure … no doubt about it. Would this be a summer brew of choice for Nigel? Not by a long shot, and I doubt most people would place it in their top five or 10. It’s too stale, too chemically, and too non-descript to be placed in the upper echelon of summer brews.

Initial flavors of light citrus penetrate the tongue, led by huge amounts of lemon and grapefruit, with a tinge of orange and honey. Pale malt comes through next, giving it a distinct grassy, earthy flavor that drowns out the potential for any hoppy bite. As for those hops, clearly there are some Northwest types utilized, but they don’t really make their presence felt, rendering the moniker Hop Sun a bit deceiving, especially since I’m reviewing this at night. I know that light, citrusy, pale, and refreshing are key words in the summertime; however, in my opinion, Hop Sun falls short of being a good beer despite possessing these characteristics. There is a touch of stale chemically flavor, the dreaded “furniture polish” effect that can plague summer wheats, that is too present here. It’s not bad, but I can’t classify it as anything above average. Light in body and smooth on the palate, the low ABV makes this a prime candidate for a summer session brew should you enjoy the taste, but for Nigel, it’s a one time sample.

While not awful, Hop Sun is a disappointment and a major step down from Über Sun (which is why it makes NO sense that they both get a three mug rating from Nigel). It’s too weak, too stale, and too blah for Nigel; I’d compare it to the watered down lemon drink sold by 10 year-olds at curbside stands or the Capri Suns craved by youngsters and soccer fans everywhere. If you’re looking for a good summer beer, there are far better options than this. However, if you fancy yourself a wheat connoisseur, check it out … perhaps Nigel was lulled to sleep by the weakness of a beer that ultimately failed to inspire.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 29, 2008.
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