Brew Review – Hop City’s Barking Squirrel Lager, and Living Large Like G-LO

On Oct 10th I received the following email from Allen Cooper Enterprises,

“Writing to make sure you saw the news about the launch of Hop City’s Barking Squirrel in Delaware. Let us know if you would be interested in receiving samples and hearing more information about the award winning lager.

This was interesting timing since on Oct 8th I commented on a post about Absinthe by G-LO over at It’s Just The Booze Dancing.  He had received free samples of the Absinthe from the producer, and at the end of my comment I wrote,

“Also, I obviously need to expand my subject base. I’m not getting any companies in foreign countries offering to ship me samples of their beer, LOL.  Perhaps I should start doing rum reviews.”

To which he replied,

“…..As of today, we’ve only gotten beer in the mail once, but since we didn’t exactly have much nice to say, that was our first and last beer shipment. Such is life!”

But there it was, someone was offering to send me samples.

Exactly.  I’ve been doing this long enough to know that not everything that presents itself comes to fruition, but I shrugged, wrote them back a nice email telling them I’d love to hear about their product, included my shipping address and with a “let’s see what happens” attitude, clicked “SEND”.

I’m not going to lie, every few days when I drove around the corner on the way home I looked on my door step wondering if this was going to be the day that I’d get a nice little package.  After a few weeks, I stopped looking.  Then on Sunday, a nice man knocked on my front door (since when has the side door not been good enough!), introduced himself, asked me if I was the Ed Morgan that wrote The Dogs of Beer, and promptly handed me three cans of Hop City’s Barking Squirrel Lager.

Yeah, you read that right.  Knocked on my door.  Personal service.  Who da man?  Actually, turns out he lives in the next town over and thought he’d save his company the cost of shipping.  We talked a while about the brewery and their products; a conversation I have to admit I stumbled through because all my brain could process at the time was, “This gentleman just gave me beer!!”  This must be what G-LO feels like all the time.

Let’s taste,

THEM: Hop City Brewing became a reality after brewmasters Kevin Gray and John Gagliardi  created the recipe for Barking Squirrel back in 2009.  According to the information I received:

Hop City Brewing Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada’s Moosehead Breweries Limited. Independently operated as a craft brewer, Hop City’s focus is to create and sell world-class quality beer while having as much fun doing so. Today, Hop City brews four beers: Barking Squirrel Lager, Lawn Chair ‘Classic’ Weisse, Happy Hour Pale Ale, and Mr. Huff Persuasion Pilsner.”

The recipe pretty much screams lager, the grain bill consists of Canadian two row, Crystal, Dark Crystal, and Munich malts.  And the hop aroma, flavor and bitterness (24IBUs) is achieved with a combination of  Hallertau Mittelfueh and Saaz.  The beer is fermented to  5.0% ABV.

In 2011, Barking Squirrel won”Best Standard Lager” at the World Beer Awards, as well as two Grand Gold medals at the Monde Selection in Brussels, Belgium.

ME:  The first thing that struck me about this beer is the color.  Have you seen those Yuengling commercials where the camera pans down a row of sad looking yellow beer, and then the last one has a nice rich amber color?  Well that’s what we get here, except in this case the beer is a touch darker than orange.

On the right, Hop City’s Barking Squirrel. On the left, some American “lager” that I couldn’t even be bothered to finish pouring.

The second thing that struck me was the slight whiff of hop that hits the air as I’m pouring.

The beer is clear and pours with a deep rich white head.  But that seems to be the beer’s only hurrah as the head fades to a light lace and beyond that there seems to be very little carbonation here.  The nose contains notes of  light malt and cracker, intermixed with a touch of noble hops.  The beer tastes clean, with malt and hops coming together in that textbook “lager” flavor, and then ending with a very, very light bitterness.  There is the slightest bit of a metallic after taste on the back end after a while, but it’s not so much as to be off putting.

To judge Barking Squirrel as anything more than what it is would be to do it a total disservice.  This beer isn’t going to blow any of you “big beer” drinkers away, but it is a  very serviceable craft lager, and certainly a good step up from the macro lagers you find on the market.

For me, this beer was good enough to get me interested in what else Hop City is doing.  I was told that the next beer of theirs to make its way into Delaware will be their Happy Hour Ale.  So keep an eye out.  I’d like to thank Allen Cooper Enterprises for arranging the samples, and Trevor for the personal service.

Oh, and DO squirrels bark?  Well, having pissed a few off in my life time, I can tell you that indeed, yes they do.  But that’s a story for another post.

Time for another beer.