Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


O'so Brewing Co.
Plover, WI

Style: American Pale Ale

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

It’s time to get down to business with Plover, Wisconsin’s O’so Brewing Co. This will mark my third experience with them, and I really enjoyed the first two trips on the O’so train. However, those brews weren’t from the standard catalog. The first, Dank Imperial Red, was a special edition ale marking their first anniversary. The second, Spike’s Ale, was another special edition, bomber-only release, and, like Dank, checked in with a monstrous ABV. In short, both reviews thus far have been of limited edition, BIG beers.

While limited edition brews packing a punch are certainly an indication of the level of brewing skill at work, ultimately the true test of a brewer is how they do with the standard stuff. The less experimental, year-round releases define a brewery; if the only brews worth drinking from a brewery are the pricier, hard to find, special edition ones, then that brewery is going to have a hard time finding a core audience. Case in point would be New Glarus, which still makes its name largely on the tame Spotted Cow, as well as Hop Hearty IPA, Fat Squirrel, and others. The Unplugged series may be phenomenal and big, but without the staples, New Glarus wouldn’t be anywhere near the success story they are.

This leads me to Hopdinger, O’so’s year-round American pale ale offering. I’ve once again passed on Night Train Porter, the first brew I ever bought from O’so. It continues to wait patiently in storage, hopefully finally getting its due this fall when the weather turns cooler and porters are best enjoyed. I tried Hopdinger at the Food and Froth event this past February at the Milwaukee Public Museum, though I don’t recall my exact impression (drunkenness, perhaps?). As has long been established on this site, Nigel loves hops and clever names, so Hopdinger on the surface appears to be right up my alley. We shall see.

Hopdinger pours well, with a pillowy white head of just over an inch that slowly dissipates, leaving a creamy lace at the top throughout and some stickiness on the sides. A deep golden brown hue, Hopdinger has some murkiness to it, indicating an unfiltered brew with decent carbonation. All in all, this looks like a top-shelf American pale. We’re off to a great start.

As for the aroma … uh-oh. O’so claims Hopdinger has “obnoxious strains of American hops, subdued by a rich malty backbone … continues to tickle the senses into the next decadent sip.” Perhaps these words are prophetic, as whatever the strain of American hops it is that my nostrils are sensing, they are in fact quite obnoxious. The aroma is sweet, stale, and pungent, though I can’t quite figure out why I find it so offensive. Perhaps it’s the simple fact that this smells nothing like what I was expecting. It’s overwhelmingly sweet, without any of the floral or piney bitterness that you’d expect in an APA. In a way it smells like a tea-infused beer, something along the lines of Blu Creek’s Zen IPA (anyone who read that review would know that’s not a good thing). Citrus aromas of orange, grapefruit, and lemon are present, with a secondary note of light sugars, but again … not what I was hoping for and not something I find overly pleasing.

The taste falls somewhere in between the beautiful appearance and awful aroma. There’s nothing unique or overly pleasing about it, but alas there’s nothing wrong with it. The “malty backbone” described by O’so actually takes the fore, in my opinion, and I don’t sense any indication that the hops are willing to take control. A grainy, earthy malt flavor hits you at the outset, soon aided by a mild sugary sensation of caramel and light brown sugar. Hops come through at various stages, but I can’t pinpoint the exact type and, while very noticeable at times, they never take over as they should given the style. It’s sort of a generic bitterness, at times earthy, at times piney, but never light and floral as you’d hope from an APA, a style that is often characterized by a light, tangy hop profile. Hints of citrus permeate throughout, though they don’t dominate as they do in the aroma. Orange peel, grapefruit, and lemon zest zing the taste buds to various degrees, giving Hopdinger a bigger break from the earthy maltiness than the hops ever do. Overall a decent flavor, but at best a three mugger. Light to medium bodied and smooth on the palate, Hopdinger could be a candidate for a session brew (no official listing, but I’m guessing an ABV of between 5-6 percent), but it won’t find a place in the Nigel hop rotation.

While I wouldn’t classify my first standard release from O’so a complete failure, I can’t say I’m terribly impressed. I give Hopdinger three mugs only because I can’t find a justifiable reason to give it the two I was initially leaning towards, other than a pungent aroma. Honestly, this leaves me much more intrigued about my Night Train Porter, as I now have some questions about O’so that I’d like to have answered. For any dork wandering around Wisconsin, I’d suggest picking up a sixer should you find it. It’s one of those borderline brews that can spark some debate, and it never hurts to try something new from a rather obscure brewery.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on September 8, 2009.
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