You Just Got Punk’D by Mad Hops!

A new product developed in New York wants to transform your cheap macro beers into hoppier, fruited, or spiced craft with a full flavor profile. Taking a page from the so-called ‘Water Enhancers,’ squeeze bottles of flavor concentrate drops that are all over grocery stores these days. Mad Hops are tiny 2 oz squeeze bottles in six different flavors (with 10 more in the works) and purport to be “the next big thing in beer.” The idea is you squirt some of the flavoring you choose into a glass and then top it with cheap beer for a much more flavorful end product. Mad Hops even shipped me three sample flavors in promotion of its Kickstarter campaign. Clearly the team has some capital funding, because the product is already done and professionally packaged. They sent me a handful of promo cards and coasters, have a professional design, website and video, and yet the company is still looking to raise $25K on Kickstarter. Concentrated beer extracts are not new. You might remember the powdered camping ready mix that was launched a few years ago that allowed you to mix and then carbonate a beer from plain water and syrup in a portable vessel. Entrepreneurs have been obsessed with this sort of stuff ever since those home soda makers came about where you buy a fruit flavoring, mix with water and then carbonate with a countertop little appliance. That may be great for juice and soda lovers–especially those with kids–but I don’t think it translates well to beer.It is fascinating, though, to be able to transform an existing beer into an entirely different style, like with the Irish Porter flavor. 12993638_10207390046242127_6448579044067989655_n   Have you ever been drinking a Rainier and wished it was a Cherry Wheat? There’s a flavor for that, which is actually kind of fascinating; not the cherry part, but making a beer that’s not made with wheat taste like a wheat beer or a lager taste like a porter. But I am guessing you have never actually been in the situation outlined above. Because the only reason someone is drinking cheap swill is because they won’t spend money on better stuff, enjoy the watery lack of flavor, want to just get drunk, or want to experiment in an ironic hipster way. At no point are they wondering how to make their lightstruck Rolling Rock taste more like hops or cherries. If they were, they would buy a better beer, not spend money for a subpar flavoring extract. 12967465_1084483524946460_5302377947925819405_o The Mad Hops guys know that this has been done before unsuccessfully, but think that because their product uses better ingredients like real hops, it will succeed. They may have good intentions and like good beer (founder Peter Hanley has his own small hop farm in New York that sells to small brewers), but I can’t see this product as more than a gimmick or fun joke to play on your brewer friend. Imagine this scenario: a brewer hands you a beer and asks your opinion of it. While they are not looking, you shoot a little green apple beer flavoring into it and try to pretend hide your disgust. You say “don’t take this the wrong way, but I think this beer has some acetaldehyde in it.” The brewer looks surprised, possibly incredulous, and tries some himself, is taken aback, concerned and embarrassed. Pause for a moment to let it sink in, and then you reveal to them they were just Punk’d Mad Hops style! April Fool’s bitches. Oh man, why did I not go do this for an April Fool’s videoblog? I need to stay more hip to these things.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact:


  • David
    Thu Apr 14, 2016 3:00 PM

    That is pretty funny.

    But you know, back in the day when all I could afford was swill, I did WISH that it tasted better. Of course, if this product existed then, I would be rather buy the actual craft beer than spend more money on these. I would also think establishments would frown upon a gentleman caringly squeezing a couple drops of something into his girlfriend’s drink at the bar….

    • ElGordo
      Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:01 PM

      I could see this being an option in a beer desert. If you spend an extended amount of time in a place where there is little to no craft beer available, just island or industrial lagers, squeezing some flavoring in to get a taste of home might come in handy. That is, assuming this stuff actually makes the beer taste like the desired flavor.

      • Paul
        Thu Apr 14, 2016 7:49 PM

        How is this a review?
        Yes, the idea of adding flavor to swill is odd and probably won’t catch on but what about the actual product? Did it actually make cheap lagers taste like a cherry wheat ale or porter?