Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Island Hoppin' in the San Juans

  Hop--the noun--means a quick springy leap, a trip by conveyance of any sort, and the tall green plant, humulus lupulus, that underpins civilization as we know it.  To hop, the verb, I always took to mean the actions associated with the first two meanings.  My dictionary tells me, however, that "to hop" also means "to add hops to beer," a usage dating back to at least 1572.
   All this is to say, Island Hoppin' is a cute name for a craft brewery in an archipelago.  For you do have to hop around in our San Juan Islands to get stuff done.  County gov't business?  Hop a ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  Big-box electronics?  Hop on a boat over to Anacortes on Fidalgo Island.  Taste a good white wine?  Hop on over to Lopez Island and its eponymous winery,  Brewer-owners Nate Schons and Becca Gray have to hop around the other islands from their Orcas Island base to get stuff done.
   They moved into present quarters in the picturesque village of Eastsound last September and have evidently tapped into a powerful thirst among their fellow islanders.  They were in the process of grading a parking lot up the hill from their brewpub and signs, many signs, cautioned their customers not to park elsewhere.   One can sit out on the patio on a sunny day and look in on the brew works.
The half-dozen fermenters in the back enable Nate and Becca to create that many beers at any one time, out of the ten or eleven styles they list on their website.  Stopping by on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was not tempted by Rip Tide Porter or Oaty Stout--give me a cloudy or rainy typical Irish day for them. I ordered up a four-taster tray and sampled there three to start: K Pod Kolsch, Lime Kiln Lager, and White Cap Wit. Stepping up the int. bitterness units bit by bit, from the Kolsch (18) to the Lager (25) to the Wit (49).  Then I laid a taste of Becca's Copper Hull Ale on my tongue and I was fascinated.  It's single-hopped (Centennial) to 60 IBUs and finishes nice and tart. But the first taste--I hate to use a cliche like malt-forward but it's apt sometimes--the first tast is rich and peaty. She uses a combo of Vienna, Special Roast 50, Crystal 60 and Gambrinius 2 row malts to achieve this effect. Four stars!
   I like the logo for the brewery: a sort of polar projection of the islands with little Shaw Is. at the pole.
 Orcas, the shape of a couple of saddlebags at the top, has the highest point in the islands, Mt. Constitution at 2409 feet, several miles west of the brewpub.  The summit can be seen from my front porch, rising over Lummi Island.  A landmark for some fine beers.
(Visited 7/20/13)

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