Pond Hopper describes itself as a "Double Extra Pale Ale" on the label, which is a bit of an oddity in itself. It's a collaboration between the Odell brewery in Colorado and Thornbridge which, according to the label, is situated somewhere near Cherbourg.
Brewing took place at the former, and more than any other American brewery I know, Odell has a very distinctive hop profile across all its beers: a sweet and tangy fresh orange flavour. It's very very apparent in Pond Hopper: not so much in the aroma where I got little beyond carbonic dryness and a worrying funky hit of Brett, but the flavour is all big and punchy tangerines; tangerine skin, even. There's an oiliness and a heat which speaks of a beer much stronger than the mere 8.9% ABV we have here. It finishes on a satisfyingly dank note: a long-lasting herbal and vegetal funkiness providing a pleasant counterpoint to the more innocent tangerines.
I can sort-of see where the style designation came from. The pale and hazy gold colour are the sort one would associate much more with a pale ale, and perhaps influenced their decision to shy away from the more commonplace "IPA" label. What I can't see, however, are the fingerprints of Thornbridge anywhere -- though admittedly with Thornbridge's hugely diverse range of beers it's hard to know which fingers to be looking out for. The label copy says Thornbridge provided the English malt, but there's very little sign of that under Odell's all-conquering orange flavoured hops.
A beer to rank alongside Odell IPA and Myrcenary as among the best of their range. It doesn't need to be special, limited or rare to be enjoyable.
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