Two events unrelated events have gotten me thinking about the same subject. The first was my reading of The Dome by Stephen King . The second was buying a six-pack of Sam Adam’s Noble Pils. I really like a good number of Stephen King’s books, they’re not great works of literature, but they’re generally decent enough stories and fairly entertaining reads. I especially look forward to the inevitable Deus Ex Machina, which are nothing if not creative and generally of an unexpected nature. I also, like many craft brew drinkers, have a soft spot for Sam Adams. It was my introduction to the spectrum of beer beyond the usual cheap beer that dominates fridges everywhere, and most of their products are good, well made beers.
Both the Pils and the book were disappointments, and both seemed gimicky. In the book’s case, the god’s exit from his machine seems forced and lackluster. In Sam Adam’s case it seemed like what is a good idea (using all of the noble hops varieties for a Bohemian Pilsner), was just so badly executed that the drinker was left with the impression that more effort went into thinking of the name than went into testing the recipe. In fact, it seemed like the brew master was thinking that a pilsner is just the German version of an IPA. The beer was remarkably similar Left Hand’s Oxymoron (which I enjoyed, there’s a lesson about the power of expectations in there somewhere), not exactly what you’d want from something billing itself as a “traditional Bohemian Pilsner.”
Which brings me to the topic of my rumination, the difference between a gimmick and a hook. I was forced to bring in consultation. After a great dinner of roasted chicken, and several beers (including some of what was left of the offending Sam Adams), my brother and I hit on the answer, execution. A hook grabs your interest, which is kept by everything else about the beer. A gimmick may grab your attention, but once it has it is at a loss for the next step.
Rather than dwell on the unsatisfying experiences of a gimmicky beer, let’s take a look at some notable beers with a good hook. For the fruit lovers, there is Breckenridge’s Agave Wheat. Which adds a sweet, bright touch to an American Wheat beer, make sure to vigorously rouse the yeast when pouring, or you’ll be missing a good part of the spiced notes Wheat beers are known for. Which brings us to something with some real spices, Route des espices. This is a unique rye ale, with a combination of black and green peppercorns added. Finally, for the hop-heads, Lagunita’s Hop Stupid Ale. While flirting with the line between “very hoppy” and “hop tea,” it’s got more than enough malt backing to give your tongue something to keep it’s interest once it recovers from the initial blast. The hook? The proud use of hop extract.
So, the question is, what’s your favorite hook?