NoDa Hop Cakes

Drink Reviews
NoDa Hop Cakes

Three years ago, NoDa Brewing’s head brewer Chad Henderson interrupted a convention of “lumberjacks, timber men and axe wielders” to introduce a beer. As the men waited patiently for their hot cakes, Henderson explained to them that the beer was a double IPA brewed with maple syrup.

“Hop Cakes” was a hit among the burly, bearded men, as you can see in this video.

They no doubt consumed most of it, and what little they didn’t drink was enjoyed when the brewery tapped it as part of its weekly NoDable series in March of 2012. Since they opened in 2011, the brewery has unveiled a unique, small-batch beer brewed on their pilot system every Tuesday (with a video to accompany it).

In addition to keeping things fresh, the NoDable series also serves as a sort of R&D program for the brewery. Some of these pilot-batch beers are so popular that the brewery brings them back as seasonals or more regular offerings.

And so it was that Hop Cakes was brewed on a larger scale in 2013 and 2014, and not just for a small cadre of lumberjacks. Despite the increase in production, though, the beer did not last long at the brewery, and few kegs made it outside of the taproom.

This year was different. In addition to their four year-round cans, the brewery has also started doing limited can runs for other beers. The first, Hoppy Holidays, was released last December; Hop Cakes was the second, with four-packs of 16 oz. cans hitting the market in early February. And yes, they sold like hot cakes.

The can design features the same fun, retro look that has characterized the rest of the brewery’s cans. From this vessel pours a pint of bright, goldish-amber liquid – not unlike maple syrup itself. Hop Cakes is not nearly so viscous, but in the realm of double IPAs, it does land on the more full-bodied side. Usually double IPAs in that category are sweet with a big, malty backbone, but that’s not the case here. Despite its 10.2% ABV, the beer is fairly dry and goes down a bit more easily than a beer of such high-gravity should.

That being said, you can detect a bit of alcohol heat, but it’s hidden behind an onslaught of hops that offer up notes of pine, bitter orange peel, and sweet tropical fruits. And the maple syrup? The brewery used a total of 660 pounds of pure, organic maple syrup in its 90 barrels of Hop Cakes. But if I didn’t know that tidbit, I doubt I could have picked it out. There is something sweet and almost earthy in the finish, and perhaps that’s the kiss that all that syrup imparts.

The hops here are definitely the focus, which should come as no surprise to anyone that has had the brewery’s gold medal-winning Hop Drop ‘n Roll. While Hop Cakes is a bigger, bolder beer, it’s every bit on the same level as its critically-acclaimed cousin.

Brewery: NoDa Brewing Co.
City: Charlotte, NC
Style: Double IPA
ABV: 10.2%
Availability: Limited, four pack cans

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin