Bait + Switch = Someone Needs to Be Slapped
A Review of Hoptober by New Belgium Brewing Co.
Posted on 2/22/2012 by Brew's Your Daddy
So here is a question for all of you better beer lovers out there. How would you feel if you were scanning the menu at a bar when you saw a beer whose name caught your eye and you ordered it thinking it was one thing, then when it was placed in front of you and you tasted it, it looked and tasted like a completely different style of beer, and then when you read what it actually claimed to be, it was something totally different again? Would you be confused at a minimum? Well, my original experience with Hoptober from New Belgium Brewing Company left me not only confused, but actually angry.

When I first crossed paths with Hoptober, I was out with fellow BrewChiefer ScottBee and happened to see it on a menu. Seeing the name instantly made me think ''Sweet! An Oktoberfest style beer!'', so I ordered it. Right off the bat, when it was sat in front of me I looked at the bartender and said ''What is this?''. She said ''It's Hoptober'', and kind of shrugged. Well when you are expecting a rich, dark brown Oktoberfest beer to be placed in front of you, something looking like dark apple juice being served instead is cause for a head tilt. Ok, I'll take the blame for the initial disappointment. I assumed, and I was wrong. Going in for a whiff led do the discovery of a seemingly bright pale ale, that might flirt with weak IPA territory. There was a forward hops aroma that was very grassy and earthy, and there seemed to be a bit of a tropical fruit layer in there, but nothing overly distinct. Other than that, some bland toasted malts seemed to be laying way down under everything else, but in the end were really not worth the digging.

After getting past the Hoptober/Oktoberfest confusion and letdown, the first taste was rather enjoyable. Again, the characteristics of a decent pale ale greet you from start to finish. The hops flavors were right up front, with some biting piney notes mixed in with the earthy and grassy hops noted in the nose, and all were rather tasty. The malts were a little more noticeable in the flavor department, but still dabbled in the basic zone. At the end, there was a decent peppery spice bite on the tongue, and then things finished up surprisingly crisp and clean. I guess when all was said and done, Hoptober turned out to be a decent pale ale. The only problem? According to their website, New Belgium Brewing Company claims that Hoptober is a golden ale, and not a pale ale.

So now you can see the confusion, and at least understand my initial anger. I know for a fact that just in my circle of beer drinking friends, I am not the only one to order Hoptober with the expectation of getting some kind of Oktoberfest style beer. This angers me. The fact that they seem to have designated it as an incorrect style of beer doesn't even anger me as much as their blatant attempt to take advantage of those who love Oktoberfest beers. If I didn't have immediate examples of people other than me making this mistake, I might say it's just me, but its not. If I could fail Hoptober across the board simply based on its name and the confusion it has caused, I would. New Belgium Brewing Company should at least own up to the fact that this beers name is a complete marketing scam. They should, and do know better. Bank on that.

Now as far as grading Hoptober goes, I get to take out some of my overall frustrations based on the fact that New Belgium Brewing Company calls it a golden ale. I know the area between golden ales and pale ales can be somewhat murky, but the fact that this beer should be called a pale ale is crystal clear. Had they simply called it a pale ale, I might have been a little forgiving and able to grade it fairly high. Unfortunately for them, they did not. As far as recommending it goes, I would say that everyone with an educated palate should drink just one so that they can see why Hoptober makes me want to kick the people responsible for it several times over. This is a perfect example of a beer that could potentially turn off a lot people new to the better beer game. The name makes them think its one kind of beer, and it ends up being an opposite end of the spectrum beer. Shame on New Belgium Brewing Company. They used to have some highly desired products back in the day, but in the past few years their product line has seemed to fall off significantly in the taste department, and resorting to marketing tricks such as this may be the last straw for them as far as I am concerned.

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Hoptober by New Belgium Brewing Co.
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