Feb 21, 2018

Surly Hop Shifter IPA

Hop Shifter has been in the works at Surly Brewing for quite some time now. The company started the series in an effort to play around with experimental hop varieties as well as partake in the goal of presenting as reduced-gluten (through the use of Brewer’s Clarex, an enzyme to reduce protein haze) IPA. This first batch to be released into the wild uses three hop varieties Citra, Chinook and an experimental one called Bru-1.

The result of Surly’s efforts is a 6% ABV IPA that is approachable but still packs in a good amount of tropical hop aromas and flavor — oh, and tastes far better than any other reduced- or non-gluten product I’ve encountered thus far. Upon cracking open a can of Hop Shifter, the nose is greeted with swirling pineapple, grapefruit, mango, citrus and a hint of apricot while soft pine and cereal notes linger in the background. The enzyme they used to reduce haze certainly hasn’t made the beer any more clarified as there’s still a slight murkiness to its dark amber depths.

Once the IPA hits the tastebuds, we’re presented with more pine and grapefruit than tropical notes, thought that fruity presence is still in the mix (just to a lesser degree). The hop bite is of a moderate level, providing a welcome bite to balance out the fruit and soft grain notes of the malt bill. A gentle sweetness joins the bitterness as the beer fades into the lasting and lightly drying finish. With other gluten-free beers I’ve sampled, there’s always been an after-taste that I haven’t particularly been fond of. That trait doesn’t appear to be here or it’s masked well behind the hop profile.

Hop Shifter is a lively and refreshing IPA that, had the reduced-gluten aspect not been presented, I would have been hard pressed to notice much of a difference between this and any other IPA — well, aside from the juicy fruits and hop flavors. You can feel the effort that Surly has put into this refreshing and surprisingly easy drinking IPA. The two cans that arrived together as part of the package from the brewery did not last long once that first sip was taken.

This is a review of a promotional sample.