Worcester’s Wormtown Brewery has grown from only producing beer in kegs for bars to distributing bottles to stores since they were last covered in this column (consider the time elapsed negligence on the part of the author). Since 2010, they’ve more than doubled their overall production from 1,000 barrels of beer per year to 2,500 barrels per year, according to the Massachusetts Brewers Guild.
Womtown is getting to be fairly well known for their Be Hoppy India Pale Ale, but they’ve also been producing a Double IPA called Hopulence. For Hopulence they’ve pulled out all the stops, using whole cone hops, hop pellets and hop extract, adding hops in every step of the brewing process, and using techniques like hopbacking (discussed previously in this column).
The resulting beer pours a hazy straw color with a big white head. The head lasts throughout the drinking and leaves a lot of lacing down the glass. The beer’s label claims it has 120+ International Bitterness Units. This makes Stone’s Ruination, labeled at "100+ IBU," the obvious point of comparison. Where Ruination goes all in on puckering fruity flavors, Hopulence has a distinctly more plant-like taste. Pine is strong here, especially on the finish. The beer even seems to leave an hop oil coating on the tongue which makes the finish last forever. On the nose there’s a strong aroma of spicy, earthy tobacco. There is a little mix of that fruit flavor too, with some grapefruit, pineapple, and lemon rind. As the beer warms a black-pepper spiciness comes out. The malt is not very powerful, being kept out of the way of the hops. It provides a little bit of cakey sweetness and a husky graininess. Although the beer is around 8% alcohol by volume it doesn't have a strong taste of alcohol.
This is certainly different from a lot of hop-bombs, that verge on a grapefruit juice taste. Here there’s a lot of complexity on display. The strength of the hops’ plant-like flavors can make this beer border on the herbal-bitter and the astringent. If you’re already a big fan of piney IPAs and want to see that flavor taken to its extreme or if you already like very bitter beers and want to try a different take on the Double IPA, then this may be the beer for you. If nothing else, Wormtown should be applauded for pushing this boundary even as one of the smaller breweries around.