Beer: Hop Ride
Brewery: Tenaya Creek Brewery
ABV: 7.2 percent
"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is clever marketing, but it's far from true. Arizona benefits from several Sin City exports -- a liberal approach to strippers and gambling is one; yours truly is another (I grew up in the Vegas suburbs, about 15 minutes from the Strip). As if that wasn't enough, Arizonans can now enjoy my hometown in liquid form.
Tenaya Creek Brewery originally opened in northwest Las Vegas as a brewpub in November 1999, but the owners closed the kitchen down to focus on beer in June 2008. They added a bottling line in 2010 to quench the thirst of Vegas drinkers, but only recently began sending beers to Utah, Ohio, Vancouver and Arizona. The brewery's already gaining notoriety, however -- Hop Ride, Tenaya Creek's year-round IPA, made it to the Elite Eight of the 2012 brewingnews.com National IPA Championship, a March Madness-style tasting tournament.
Vegas is known for its neon, but outside the glow of the city lie some picturesque desert landscapes. Hop Ride is named for one of these spots, Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park, where rattlesnakes can turn a bike outing into a "hop ride." Find all the earthy tones of the dry wilderness in Hop Ride's color -- dusty sandstone, the soft tangerine of a sunset. Above the perfectly clear liquid, an inch of cream-colored froth rests like craggy mountains.
In the nose, Hop Ride's grainy, like handfuls of barley at the brewhouse. A combination of Magnum, Summit and Cascade hops and dry-hopping lend additional aromas of sugared orange slices, soft floral notes and just a little citrus peel. On the tongue, hop flavor takes a backseat to hop bitterness as acerbic resins settle into the tongue and don't let go. It exhibits the same grainy mustiness -- like very old, dry crackers -- in tandem with some grapefruit and a little bit of dankness. Tiny cactus barbs of carbonation prickle the tongue inside a body with the viscosity of simple syrup. After a suggestion of alcohol spice peppers the tongue and in throat, the brew finishes clean.
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Overall, Hop Ride could use a little more balance. It's more hop bitter than hop flavorful, and the malt is both weird and unable to withstand the hop assault. But it's still tasty, and worth a try if you want a little taste of Vegas.
Food Pairing Suggestions:
Because Hop Ride is so bitter and lacking in sweetness, a sugary dessert would make an interesting partner. Try it with a bold carrot cake, allowing the beer to tone down the sweet treat while the cake take the edge off the beer's sharp grains.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.