What the world needs now is an extra supply of toilet paper, not another West Coast IPA. But we will make an exception for Special Hoperations. In addition to being a fantastic way to pass the hours of a self-imposed quarantine, the 2020 version of Fat Head’s Brewery’s Special Hoperations – brewed in collaboration with the venerable 3 Floyds – is an absolutely phenomenal example of the style. It’s also a pretty neat way to drink for charity, as proceeds go to American war veterans through the Honor Flight Network.
Fat Head’s Brewery already has a stellar track record with IPAs, particularly its core offering Head Hunter IPA. That one is worth seeking out, as well – especially if you favor a danker, more hop-forward, more toothsome IPA style. Special Hoperations is one of the Ohio brewery’s seasonal offerings (January-March), and this is the second in a series of collaborations with likeminded brewers. If you see the 3 Floyd’s logo on any label, it’s an imprimatur of quality, so this turns out to be the perfect pairing.
This year’s version of Special Hoperations pours with a beautiful golden color, a minimum of carbonation, and no lacing around the glass. It’s all about the combination of hops, which features familiar stand-bys Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic, as well as Warrior, the strain that gives Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA its punchiness. What’s novel is that Special Hoperations combines whole-leaf hops with lupulin powder, which is a concentrated and powdered essence of the whole hops. This technique is a way of elevating the flavor of the hops over the bitterness. That’s the kind of experimentation that will help to push this style forward. As the British Special Forces would say: Who dares wins.