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Brew drops and Banquet: Have we gone mad?

If you listened to our radio show last week, you know what this article is all about. If you haven’t, get on it!

Mad Hops, a startup aiming to appeal to craft beer drinkers who are on a shoestring budget, is launching their Kickstarter Thursday, April 7. We got some advance samples and put them to the test. Honestly, we were surprised at the results.

How do they work? Well it’s pretty simple:

  • Take an empty glass or cup
  • Add one “squirt” of Mad Hops Brew Drops. (We were confused at how much a squirt was and totally over spiked our beverages the first time around)
  • Pour in the bland macro beer your college-aged neighbor handed you. (You’re a good sport!)
  • Watch the color change and smell your new concoction
  • Try to enjoy. (We had trouble with only one of the flavors…)

Apple Amber

Based on the marketing materials, this flavor is aimed at the Redd’s Apple Ale fans. Being that we have never actually tried a Redd’s, we had nothing to compare it against. It smells like bitterness and apples—not a combination we were ready for.

Control sample of Coors Banquet (left) and Apple Amber Brew Drop altered sample (right)

Control sample of Coors Banquet (left) and Apple Amber Brew Drop altered sample (right)

Appearance: The Brew Drops turned our Coors Banquet a nice red hue. Of the three, it had the least impact on the head retention.

Aroma: HOW DO YOU LIKE DEM APPLES? It’s apple for sure, and maybe a bit too much. Only if The Presidents of the United States of America re-recorded Peaches substituting apples would there be more. (…Millions of apples, apples for me…) It’s that much apple. That said, we haven’t ever had the inspiration, so we’re not one to judge.

Taste: Again, more apples. We expected, based on the aroma, for the beer to have a cloying sweetness, but surprisingly the Brew Drops added zero sweetness. The result was more dry and bitter, closer to a dry cider than we expected.

Overall: Not our favorite. If you’ve got a Redd’s Apple ale fan at home, you might be able to get them to try it, but considering the real thing is made by Budweiser, it can’t be that expensive.

Pale Ale

Mad Hops’ backstory describes starting a small one-acre hopyard in hopes of supplying the budding New York brewing scene. We can’t tell if this is Small Town Brewery-style folklore or the real deal, but we definitely were excited for the hop drops. This flavor is supposed to turn a standard macro beer into a pale ale reminiscent of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Color us skeptical, but we had to give it a try.

Control sample of Coors Banquet (left) and Pale Ale Brew Drop altered sample (right)

Control sample of Coors Banquet (left) and Pale Ale Brew Drop altered sample (right)

Appearance: Color is pretty good, head retention is increased significantly. If you poured this and a pale ale in a blind test, we would have a pretty hard time deciphering the imposter.

Aroma: Ok, if it’s supposed to be a pale ale, it needs to have aroma. It adds a ton of hop-style aroma to the beer, but the varieties seem to be muddled. If you’ve ever tasted the malt extract that comes in the little tuna-esque cans, you know what this smells like. While it’s not incredible, it’s not bad either.

Taste: Yep, you’ve turned Coors Banquet into a pale ale. Pat yourselves on the back. It adds hop bitterness, but also a malty balance as well. We’d like to see some of this sweetness brought to the apple flavor though. Just to be fair.

Overall: We’ve only had the apple one to compare to, but this one is miles higher on the tasty scale. We finished the whole glass and went back for more.

Irish Porter

This was the one we saved for last, mainly based on its incredibly strong aroma. It smells like coffee and chocolate. We hope the beer tastes as good as it smells. It’s black like a cold brew coffee, seemingly staining the glass as we add the “totally unscientific” squirt.

Control sample of Coors Banquet (left) and Irish Porter Brew Drop altered sample (right)

Control sample of Coors Banquet (left) and Irish Porter Brew Drop altered sample (right)

Appearance: This one changed the look of Banquet the most. It turned the beer instantly opaque black, and even made the head a chocolatey brown.

Aroma: All the coffee and chocolate is in there, but it also has a little of that Coors aroma lurking in the background.

Taste: None of the Coors shows in the flavor. This one successfully changed the flavor completely. Although the flavors feel a little too over the top, this one hits the mark the most.

Overall: While Irish Porter is the most drastic of the Brew Drops, it’s also the most enjoyable. Talk about a great way to survive your neighbor’s kegger, or to spice up some of the “crafty” beer your uncle left last time he visited.

So, all taste testing aside, the real question is if there’s a place in the beer market for Mad Hops.

Considering it adds zero alcohol and can be sold on grocery and convenience store shelves, they’ve got themselves pioneering a new niche product. If MiO can survive alongside the Gatorades and Powerades of the world, then we’re pretty sure MadHops will do just fine. Perhaps it won’t be your first choice, but in a pinch, you can alter your beer.

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