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. 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. 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.
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