The Shape of Hops to Come
Deep within my heart rages a deep battle between love and hatred for the City of Brotherly Love. Despite great contributions to American society and history – such as being the location for the signing of the Declaration of Independence and inspiring the City Wide Special (a shot and a beer) – Philadelphia also exports Flyers and Phillies fans. Overall, a clear net negative.
There are some redeeming aspects of the city, however, mostly when it comes to alcohol, since it features quality bars and tasty local beers. One such tasty brew is crafted about 20 miles north of Philadelphia, brewed at Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company in Croyden, PA.
The Shape of Hops to Come (or SHOPs) is an 8.5% Double IPA which has recently become a year-round release rather than semi-annual. It used to split time on shelves with their other semi-annual offering, the much maltier English Style DIPA Blitzkrieg Hops, but now SHOPs stands on its own.
SHOPs caught my attention for the first time a few years ago when I was at The Blind Tiger, a small but intimate world-class craft beer bar on Bleecker Street in New York City. The bartender recommended it to me and described it as a delightful Heady Topper clone, which I read as high praise. Unfortunately, at that time, I had yet to be lucky enough to actually try Heady Topper, so I had to go on reputation rather than actual flavor at that time.
I finally got to taste my holy grail.”
Bitter and dry, SHOPs beat my palate around in all the right ways like all the great DIPAs do. Make no mistake: this beer is an unapologetic hop bomb, brewed with Apollo, Newport, Simcoe, Topaz, and Citra. With the first pour, the drinker is smacked directly across the face with the dank, citrus pine-y goodness of an overload of the five hops of the apocalypse.
A few months later, another NYC Bar, The Gingerman in Midtown, held an event called “The Bootleggers Ball,” in which they were serving beers that were not currently distributed in the city. Offerings from Bissell Brothers, Treehouse Brewing Company, Modern Times, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and others filled the beer list but there was only one beer on my mind: Heady Topper.
After waiting in line to get into a bar that wasn’t a club for the first time in my life, I finally got to taste my holy grail. It was the greatest beer I had ever had and when I thought about it, I realized that the only beer that I ever had that was close to Heady in flavor was SHOPs.
It’s nearly impossible to drink SHOPs without being reminded of Heady Topper. They pour similar colors with equal carbonation, their flavor profile is incredibly similar – it’s like RC Cola to Coke. Sure, SHOPs is off brand and not quite the same but it’s close enough to smooth out the rougher edges.
Heady Topper is like an ex you believe to be perfect in every single way but you know that the two of you can never be together all the time because of distance or other circumstances. SHOPs is the more reasonable option. Sure, they might not be as wonderful as the original but it’s time to move on and settle down.
SHOPs is a worthwhile attempt at recreating the greatness of an incredibly hard to find white whale of a beer. While it doesn’t necessarily reach the blissful high of the Alchemist’s legendary offering, it should be noted as an excellent beer worthy of drinking.