Simple Is the New Complex
A Review of Singleton by Top of the Hill Brewery
Posted on 2/27/2013 by Chops
                   
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To fully appreciate craft beer culture, you have to understand what complexity brings to the table. Vibrant beer styles like Belgians and Barleywines are very well known for their smorgasbord of flavors. Once beer fans hone their palates for these beastly brews, it's not uncommon for other beers to seem bland by comparison. This is a very important crossroads for beer enthusiasts because they need to make one very important distinction: bland and simple are not the same thing. A beer can be simple and great. But, a beer cannot be bland and great.

The Top of the Hill brewpub out of Chapel Hill, NC knows this distinction very well. This is why they crafted the Singleton Ale, a 9.2% American Strong Ale brewed with only Liberty hops and pale English malt. One hop, one malt. Liberty hops are known for their spicy sweetness, so the thought of a big single-hop ASA was quite enticing. I was fortunate to sample this beer with co-head brewers Aaron Caracci and Chris Atkins, who were kind enough to give me the back story on this beer. Their mission was simple: show the craft beer world that simple is the new complex.

In the glass, Singleton has a clear honey amber coloration. It comes with a thin frothy white head that dissipates quickly, which isn't uncommon for stronger ales. On the nose, I found a light citrusy aroma resting on top of a sweet caramel. Rounding out the aroma was a hint of fruit, a dusting of a nondescript spices, and a faint alcohol burn. It was a very clean and welcoming intro for such a big beer, so I wasted no time diving right in.

One word popped into mind on that first sip: dangerous. This beer is a smooth easy drinker to start and exits with only a mildly bitter aftertaste. It drinks as easy as a base amber and is much tastier, so I repeat: very, very dangerous. The malty caramel note takes the form of a syrupy sweetness that sets up shop as a solid foundation. Much of the aroma translated into the flavor, so I found some sweet citrus, tropical fruitiness, cinnamon-like spiciness, and a twinge of alcohol warmth. The flavors are nicely balanced and play very well together. The beer finishes clean with a pleasant aftertaste of malty sweet and lightly bitter that lingers for a while.

Overall, Top of the Hill's Singleton American Strong Ale is a delicious brew with a well hidden bite. It's one of the very few American Strong Ales that I can recommend to any and all beer fans. Seasoned drinkers will greatly enjoy this simplified and direct approach to big and bold brews. Novices, on the other hand, must be warned for a third and final time: this is a very dangerous beer. Proceed with caution and take your time with the experience. This beer will ambush and punish any carefree attitudes. At this point I can definitely say that Singleton is my current favorite Top of the Hill beer. They set out to prove and point and prove it they did.

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Singleton by Top of the Hill Brewery
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