Sweetwater is all in on this hop hash thing. Hash is basically super concentrated hop scraps that are collected after the pelletizing process. Think of hash as your favorite hop strain jacked up to 11, contributing incredibly fruity, bitter and resinous notes to the beer. If you’re looking for a single word to describe hop hash, it would have to be “dank.” And Sweetwater uses it in all kinds of beers, from year-round staples (Hash Session IPA) to big-bottle one-offs (Johnny Hash). Hash Brown, an “India Pale Brown” that lives up to hop hash’s dank reputation, is the newest in the lineup.
Crack the can and you’re hit hard with a pungent bouquet of flowery hops. There’s not a hint of brown ale in the nose, so it’s surprising when you pour the can into a glass and it comes out the color of mud. Why so dark? Because of the robust malt bill that’s in play in this beer, which is loaded with 2 Row, wheat, Pale Chocolate, Cara-Brown and Midnight Wheat. It’s a mix that contributes plenty of biscuit notes, along with some milk chocolate and a little caramel. It’s more bready than sweet, though, and it’s all dominated by that hop hash, which delivers some citrus sweetness, a bit of zest and truckloads of fruit rind bitterness. Mandarina Bavaria and Bravo hops are added to the kettle too, and they certainly play their part in the profile, but the hash is the star, giving the beer a sticky mouthfeel and a strong, hop bite.
Black IPAs have found their niche in the beer landscape, even though I find them underwhelming for the most part, but IPA/Browns are a less common hybrid. Dogfish Head probably has the most recognizable, and maybe the first, with their Indian Brown Ale. I think Sweetwater has something special with this Brown/IPA Frankenstein of a beer. In my opinion, it’s a welcome addition to the hybrid landscape. Hash Brown is part of their Limited Catch and Release series, hitting the shelves in September and carrying throughout fall. It’s an odd addition to the fall beer landscape, but that’s part of the charm of an off-center brew like this.
City: Atlanta, Ga.
Style: India Pale Brown
Availability: Limited, 12 ounce cans and bottles starting in September