Pale ales, IPAs, and Double IPAs comprise more than 60% of Odell’s year-round beers, which I guess is par for the course these days. (Just don’t ever forget 90 Schilling, please.) Though I’m a proponent of stylistic diversity, I’m also a proponent of breweries doing what they do well. And what Odell does well is “fresh-grind” IPAs, as evidenced by the success of one of its IPAs, Rupture. This spring, the brewery doubles down—literally—on that beer’s popularity by introducing a new seasonal DIPA sequel called Hammer Chain.
The premise behind Rupture and Hammer Chain is that “fresh-grind” IPAs capture the volatile aromas and flavors locked inside a whole-cone hop. Hops as brewers refer to them are actually the flower of a hop bine—not vine, because botany—and when those flowers are crushed, they release the oils and lupulin powder where their aroma/flavor compounds live. Hops can be added to beer in the form of pellets, whole cones, even oil.
Anyway, the process only matters insofar as it locks in the freshest, most vibrant hop character possible. And that’s what Odell has done with this brawny but still clean DIPA that makes heavy use of an experimental hop thus far known as HBC 638. (Hops are known by numbers until they’re trademarked/patented.) According to the patent application, HBC 638 is an offspring of Eukuanot hops crossbred with another, unnamed variety.
This beer’s hop profile comes across clear and precise, not overly complicated or fighting with a too-sweet malt base. At a moment when every brewery is competing to make their IPAs taste as much like Jamba Juice as possible, Hammer Chain captures those citrus and stone-fruit elements but complements them with other supporting flavors like chive and mint.
The aroma sets the stage before I even get near the glass, emitting ripe peach, nectarine, and dried mango notes, along with some sweet grapefruit and a touch of onion grass. Doughy malts support the hop tones—as they should in a DIPA—in the form of raw, Pillsbury dough-esque sweetness.
The same stone-fruit and citrus notes dominate the early portion of the sip, alternating between peach and pineapple juice that give a bellini impression. Grapefruit and mint hop flavors arrive toward the close of the sip, which finishes surprisingly softly, balanced evenly between hops and malt. Some DIPAs, especially the super hazy ones, leave my mouth feeling sugary and thick, or else the old-school DIPAs are incredibly resinous and bitter after the swallow. Hammer Chain takes a wonderful middle ground, with soft and smooth but still perceptible bitterness.
Like hops themselves, Hammer Chain is a seasonal commodity, so try it before it phases out in July.
Odell Hammer Chain is available across the brewery’s 19-state distribution territory; use the beer locator tool here.
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