Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Whole Hog Six Hop IPA

Stevens Point Brewery
Stevens Point, WI

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 8.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Pair With:
Every time I drink anything from Stevens Point Brewery (which is rarely), I always think of an old friend of the Tanner family. A man for whom I had great respect (he was a good friend of my father and one of my high school English teachers) loved him some beer, and his beer of choice was Point. And not the “craft” Point selections being brewed now in Stevens Point, but the old-school Point Special lager that has been a staple of local Wisconsin beer drinkers for over 150 years.

I recall many evenings where he and his wife would come over after having dinner with my parents, and I’d sit there watching college basketball, baseball, or whatever was on ESPN as we talked sports. And he’d drink Point. LOTS of Point. He wasn’t an alcoholic by any means  … he just really liked beer. He never overindulged (he did occasionally overindulge on his beer partner, which was those gummy cherry slices), but he’d often polish off his fair share in the course of a couple of hours. And this, my friends, is my only good beer story as a youth (neither of my parents drink beer). Unfortunately he passed away a decade ago, an all-too young victim of lung cancer, but I can’t help but chuckle every time I think of him and his Point.

Point is one of the few surviving members of Wisconsin’s beer legacy, and in the past few years they’ve tried to latch on to the craft beer trend. Thus far, Nigel is not impressed. From Cascade Pale Ale to Amber to Oktoberfest to Bock, none came even close to anything above average. Even the more “specialized” Einbock and St. Benedict’s Winter Ale did little to impress Nigel. Point may try to pass themselves off as “craft” but the fact remains that they are a relic of years gone by, and the only ales they craft tend to be the stale, chemically, watered-down versions of the post-Prohibition generations.

If anything has the potential to change my negative opinion of Point, it’d be Whole Hog, a selection from the “Brewmasters Series” that’s crafted with six different hop additions, and checks in at a whopping 8.5 percent ABV (a HUGE number for Point). Sold in four packs, this is clearly a new attempt by Point to be taken more seriously by craft beer connoisseurs.

But  … how seriously can we take a brewery that seems to think they’ve crafted an exemplary IPA simply by adding a sixth hop? Honestly  … Point even crosses out the “5” on the bottle and scribbles in “Six,” as if this somehow makes the slightest bit of difference. They claim it gives it a “more pronounced nose and massive flavor,” but right off the bat it seems like a ridiculous marketing gimmick, much like Miller Lite’s new “triple hopped” ad campaign. Brewed with pale, Munich, and roasted malt, Cluster, Sterling, Willamette, Cascade, Tettnanger, and Perle hops, and supposedly checking in at 87 IBUs, Whole Hog does have all the ingredients to be good.

Whole Hog Six Hop IPA (released simultaneously with Whole Hog Imperial Pilsner) pours well, with a creamy white head of about an inch that quickly dissipates, leaving a nice, faint lace throughout the drink. A beautiful deep amber/copper color, Whole Hog lacks any sedimentation or cloudiness, but instead is clear as can be and has a constant bubbly dance from top to bottom, a sure sign of over-filtration. Despite that, it’s still a very picturesque brew.

The aroma is where the train starts to fall off the tracks with this one. Six hops? 87 IBUs? Explain to me why this smells so rotten. Aromas aren’t of Cascade, Cluster, Willamette, etc  … instead they are of a slight bit of grainy malt and generic staleness. Some caramel malt and whole grain comes through, but little in the way of hops, which makes no sense to me. In terms of aromas when compared to other double IPAs I’ve had, this is very near, if not at, the bottom.

The taste does nothing to redeem the dreadful aroma. Once again I ask  … where are these six hops? WHERE THE HELL ARE MY IBUS? Nothing, and I mean NOTHING about the flavor indicates that this is a double IPA. Hell, even the 8.5 percent ABV doesn’t stick out. It’s more earthy and malty than it is hoppy, and those flavors are still weaker than they should be in a “special edition” brew. The biggest flavor is roasted barley and other grains, with the slightest tinge of bitter hops. There’s zero character, zero personality, and virtually zero hops. The only positive is that it’s smooth and drinkable for an imperial IPA, as it really seems like just another pale ale during the session. It’s drinkable, but an imperial IPA this is not.

I really was optomistic about this one. While I’m not a big Point fan, I didn’t have such a negative opinion of them that I expected failure from the outset. But a failure this was, and a massive one at that. While it’s by no means the worst beer you’ll ever drink, it’s a joke of an excuse for an imperial IPA. Try it if you’re desperate (the only plus: expect to pay $7 or less), but I can think of hundreds of other double IPAs I’d prefer over this one.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 15, 2009.
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