ADVENTURES IN BEERLAND
is a two time winner of
the Quill and Tankard
writing award from the
North American Guild of
Vince's column is now
a regular feature of
It's A Mad, Mad,Mad (Hops) World
Doesn't anyone drink tap water anymore? The bottled water industry is thriving with well over 12 million gallons sold
last year with revenues well above 13 billion dollars. But to many imbibers water is simply, well, too watery. They
want flavor with their water. Enter the “liquid water enhancer”, which is not only a fine description of the product but a
fun term that could easily be the name of Marvel’s newest superhero. Tragically "The Enhancer” inadvertently got
stuck in a toxic sludge dump but thanks to hiding behind a dozen brown beer bottles he wasn’t killed. Unfortunately
mixed in were several clear Corona bottles which allowed strange rays to easily pass through and attack his ABV
chromosome. The result is that whenever our hero gets wet, be it from a deluge, monsoon, tsunami, light drizzle, or
spilled beer, he grows into a giant monster with the only cure being the consumption of copious amounts of craft
beer. We could call the tale The Attack of the Fifty Foot Beer Geek.
And no, I haven’t just come from the pub.
Actually the liquid water enhancer concept was conceived to help those consumers who found plain water wet but still
uninteresting. And when water is uninteresting it becomes a chore for some people to achieve a level of hydration
without resorting to the drinking of Bud Ultra Ultra Supreme Light. Solution: use a water enhancer to add a range of
flavors by simply squeezing in a few drops. Think of it as magic out of a small plastic bottle instead of a genie's lamp.
Please note that water is a very substantial ingredient of beer, composing of 90 – 95 percent of it. Indeed, water is
utilized in almost every step of the brewing process. So it stands to reason that perhaps the day will come when there
will be a liquid water enhancer designed just for beer. Well, that day has come thanks to an ingenious idea from Pete
Handley, an entrepreneur from Buffalo, NY.
And no he wasn’t at the pub either.
Consider the fact that there are thousands and thousands of barrels of macro made, adjunct laden, flavor free beers
beings sold every day. The Buds, Coors, and Millers of the world outsell our beloved craft brews by more than an 8
to 1 margin, proving there’s no accounting for taste, or in this case, tastelessness. While it might be hard for
readers of BeerNexus to fathom what value there is in drinking the Big Boys’ watery beers there really is value in it for
you - monetary value. Next time you go to your friendly neighborhood beer store and fork over $14.99 for a four
pack take a look at what a case of nondescript macro light lager costs. In dollars per ounce it’s a steal. And it’s also
a steal in dollars per unit of taste only then it’s a steal for the seller.
Now imagine if, with a few drops of a special liquid, you could instantly transform any inexpensive swill into a
reasonable facsimile of a typical craft beer be it a standard pale or porter or red. It just might be the idea of the
century or the week at the very least. That’s the concept behind Mad Hops Flavored Brew Drops developed by Mr.
Handley. Personally I think he should have tried to develop a formula to turn lead into gold but I guess he prefers a
Well, does it work? To answer that question I conducted three separate taste tastes under varying conditions. Each
test used a separate panel of beer lovers. Just to cover all bases one session was even held outdoors just to see if
humidity, sunlight, and air quality impacted the products performance. Okay, so I also just happened to be at
barbeque that day but let’s not be picky.
Taste Test One
Participants were two professional brewers, one trained at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the other at UC Davis in
California. The third member of the panel was a owner of a home brew supply store who was also an acquaintance
of the great beer hunter, Michael Jackson. We’re not talking Moe, Larry, and Curly here folks, though I might qualify
I explained the premise, showed them the cute squeeze bottles, and then opened a pint can of Budweiser. Just
seeing the Bud caused the two brewers to make the sign of the cross while the home brew shop proprietor seemed to
make some sort of hexing gesture toward it. I squirted the Apple Amber Mad Hops drops into a imperial pint glass
and added the beer. This sequence was repeated for the Pale and then for the Porter drops. Their consensus – it’s
not craft beer but it’s also not Budweiser.
The porter was the least liked which is a nice way to summarize their contention that it tasted like an overpowering
house brand version of Nestle’s Quik mixed with coffee in water pretending to be a beer. I think I’m to blame for part
of that reaction –my squirt might have been a bit much. It’s the strong hands I get from all this typing.
The apple amber fared a tad better with comments like “not bad aroma” and “definite apple flavor”. The pale even
got a few grudging up and down shakes of the head which I interpreted as a ringing accolade from this leathered and
antagonistic group. However the panel’s most veteran analyst said “if I was a low cash student back in college I might
use it to jazz up my case of Red, White and Blue beer.”
When he then started humming the Star Spangled Banner I realized he was the one who just came from the pub.
Taste Test Two
The panel consisted of one professional brewer at a national brewpub chain, one savvy beer drinker, the manager of
the bar hosting the test, and a very knowledgeable wine aficionado. If you’re wondering why I would invite a non-beer
guy to a beer taste test my answer (albeit stolen from George Mallory) is simple - because he was there. At first he
politely declined my offer to join the panel. That changed however I said: “I’d like to thank you with a glass of the best
– Johnnie Walker Blue Scotch; it’s the top of the line or nothing!” Don’t worry, I checked the bar earlier; they don’t
carry Johnnie Blue.
This time the entire panel only knew they were to evaluate a beer in a blind tasting. Yes, I did learn from Test One –
knowing beforehand what you’re drinking will likely skew a person’s judgment, even if they’re beer professionals.
The wine guy lauded the nose on the Pale and Porter while saying the Apple’s aroma reminded him of some sort of
candy that would cause instant tooth decay. He found the flavors in all three “acceptable” but added it didn’t come
close to a vintage Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune. For the record I agreed (to what I’
m not sure).
Our beer savvy drinker found the Pale to be fruity and drinkable; the Porter to have notes of marshmallow and a hint
of maple syrup. She likened the Apple to a lightly sweet and sour lambic. The brewer had the minority opinion – he
didn’t like any of the three. He rambled on as to why but I stopped listening when he admitted to seeing me squeeze
“some sort of flavoring” into the glass which obviously ruined the blind tasting principle.
Taste Test Three
Finally - a panel of only beer drinkers, not a brewer, banker, or candlestick maker in the bunch. There was one
female and two males. While all three were outside the target demographic of the product (21-34) they were clearly
young at heart and spirit. I could tell since they all wore Justin Bieber t-shirts adorned with “We Love Selena Gomez”
buttons. Okay, just kidding, there were no buttons.
This group took their tasting task to heart writing their reactions on the beer mats I had, ah, borrowed from the bar.
In no particular order and not in reference to any specific beer here are representative samplings of their comments.
Please, no complaints about the format. If they can take a truly blind taste test you can at least do the same in
reading. So, try matching each comment with the correct beer and person who said it. If you get them all correct I’ll
buy you a shot of Johnnie Blue at any bar of your choosing…… as long as they don’t have it.
“I get hazelnut and mocha”
“Inviting light chocolate taste with dark coffee beans but no body in the beer.”
“Decent apple nose but very thin mouthfeel”
“Hints of expresso, toasty in the finish”
“Reminds me of a Riesling in the aroma. Taste is fruity.”
“I could drink this.”
The bottom line as I see it is that Mad Hops is fun to use and effective in what it purports to do – make cheap beer
taste better. It definitely worked in my blind taste test with serious and open minded beer fans. I’m guessing it will do
than and more for their targeted customers and likely a few of we older people.
As I see it – it can’t make a good beer better but it can make a tasteless beer a bit more flavorful!
What more do you want?
You could do worse - you could be drinking a Bud.
Check it all out at GoMadHops.com.
Thanks to all the people on the panels especially – Karen, Sandy, Kevin, Jay, Kathy, Mike, Ann, Bruce, Dan(s), Jeff, and the wine guy who
demanded to be anonymous since he didn’t get that free Scotch. Sorry Leo.
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